Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Cow Tax or Bessie's New Sticker

Ah, the Environmental Protection Agency. I do enjoy those guys. They make me smile...a little like "No Child Left Behind" makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

There's been much discussion as of late regarding the proposed "Cow Tax," a proposed tax on entities with the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year of a regulated pollutant. Said emitters, if you will, would be required to obtain a permit in order to continue to operate. For about 90 percent of beef producers and 99 percent of dairy producers, this would add up to about $90 per head of beef or $175 per dairy cow.

Now, growing up in Colorado, I have come to appreciate clean air as much as the next guy and I do believe the EPA to have its place. However, emission stickers for cows are not only impractical but a real sore subject for any self-respecting bovine.

Greenhouse gas regulation would not only affect cattle producers but also farmers as crop production emits nitrous oxide, methane and carbon. Farms with as little as 35 acres of rice, 250 acres of soybeans and 500 acres of corn would be slapped with the requirement to obtain Clean Air Act permits. Now, crop production is more Coach's specialty than mine but this is going to hit farmers and ranchers in the pocketbook and send them reaching for their Excedrin.

Farming and ranching are tough enough without added headache and increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs due to increased regulatory actions. Besides, where exactly would one place a sticker on a cow, anyway?

Monday, November 24, 2008


Writing has opened a number of doors for me and it is right at the top of the list of things I do daily (right next to wearing sparkles and using hairspray). In the course of a day I write this blog, assignments, detentions (not as much fun as one might hope and anticipate), short stories, grocery lists, text messages (OMG, BFF!!), and 4-H livestock judging team updates.
As I earlier mentioned, Coach and I spent the weekend at the Colorado Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. We attended the policy meetings and heard discussions about all issues pertinent to Colorado producers from border to border.
One issue came to the table for discussion regarding government regulation of potentially unhealthy foods, more specifically the government banning of McDonald’s Restaurants in poor, inner city neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
As producers, we appreciate the benefits of a healthy diet that includes beef. We certainly don’t want regulation regarding what foods people have access to and potentially damaging advertising campaigns. Now, I realize that if one were to eat at such an eating joint with abandon it would make for an unhealthy diet. However, I don’t want to see this regulation become a bigger, uglier blanket ban or regulatory action on foods raised on U.S. soil.
Long story short, Colorado Farm Bureau does not support regulation on foods and a sub committee was formed to write the policy for the review of the members. While I wasn’t directly on the committee, I did have opportunity to scribble down some ideas to take to the committee. In the end, the wording was defeated but I was gifted with one more opportunity to see just how powerful words are.
As young people in agriculture, we are blessed with new and exciting ways to give power to our stories and to get them to the people who need to hear them. There’s power in these stories, there’s power in these words. We’re outstanding in our fields and the power is ours.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My hot date

So, I've been on a hot date or two here recently. You read that correctly, h-o-t-d-a-t-e.

I'm currently still on that date with the dated, we'll call him Coach. Coach, a Lincoln County Farm Bureau member, and I have been in Denver since Friday morning at the Colorado Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. I know this may not seem like a hot date but any time two people can get together and discuss agriculture passionately...it's a date in my book. Plus, my son isn't with us, making it a date.

We were able to hear photographer Paul Mobley speak about his book American Farmer, a coffee table book containing photos and stories about the farmers and ranchers who feed us everyday. We have also spent hours listening to Delegate Sessions about Farm Bureau's stance on everything from the railroad that threatens to invade my fellow Lincoln County members' worlds to the omnipresent water debate, running especially hot right now in Weld County.

Chris Chinn, a stellar individual and hog farmer from Missouri, spoke to the Women's Luncheon attendees about educating folks about the realities of farming and ranching and the treatment of both beast and our planet.

We also sat in the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meets about the array of topics that are on the tips of the tongues of Farm Bureau members in Colorado and nationally. As a young member of Farm Bureau, I find myself in elite company with a group of young, dynamic, dedicated and bright producers from around the state.

As I prepare to leave the metro for the plains, I'm doing so with a readiness to serve agriculture, that which has served me so well. I'm leaving with a renewed passion. A blessed group are we.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Hometown- Installment 7

Travis had never liked to fly and he was thinking about this dislike when he and three other steer wrestlers boarded a small, private plane in Oklahoma. After sitting on the runway for an hour, the pilot decided that the weather over the western part of the U.S. wasn’t conducive to flying and he told the boys they could try it again the next day, if they wanted to wait. Travis left the airport in a hurry, calling his girlfriend who was at the house loading the horses, preparing to leave before the roads got too slick. She was sitting in the truck when he pulled in. He threw his bag into the trailer and jumped in the passenger door of the truck.
“Things just couldn’t be easy for me, could they,” he growled and she put the truck in gear and pulled onto the highway.
Grady and Drew were chopping water out of tanks in the east pasture by 7 a.m. Grady had plowed the driveway and I headed north to town to the office of the adoption attorney. The truck slid a little on the dirt road that led to the highway.
I was stomping snow off my boots when I walked into the office and the girl at the desk was a former student of mine. I remembered that she hadn’t left the little town where she had grown up and graduated from high school. She had married her high school sweetheart and when she stood to give me a hug, I saw she was pregnant. I need to send her a gift, I thought to myself, I had sent baby gifts to a number of former students and thought that I could get her something the next time I went to Denver.
The attorney was a heavy, friendly woman who sat behind stacks of important-looking documents. She slid the papers to me to examine. Grady and I would pay for the girl’s pre-natal care and the delivery and the private adoption wouldn’t require a home visit. The adoption would be final when the baby was less than three months old. I signed the papers, signed a check and stood to leave. The baby was due at the end of March.
The roads in Oklahoma were slick and Travis had driven through the night into New Mexico and toward Nevada. They stopped to eat and walk the horses around 3 a.m. and he was tired when he crawled behind the steering wheel once again. His girlfriend lay asleep in the back seat when he pulled the truck and trailer back onto the interstate. Sometimes nothing seems to go like it should and that was Travis’ thought when the truck’s dual rear tires began to slide on a bridge. He could feel the trailer skidding toward the truck but he didn’t hear the squealing of tires or the sound as the steel and aluminum crumpled. He didn’t hear the metal guardrails crumple and he didn’t see the fear in the eyes of the horses or his girlfriend, though he thought she probably screamed. She jumped to the floorboard of the back seat of the truck as the gooseneck slammed through the back window, spraying glass and snow over her neck and back. It seemed like hours before she was able to crawl out of the truck and find her cell phone. When the State Patrol pulled up, she was sitting shivering in her jeans and a sweatshirt on the shoulder of the highway smoking a cigarette with the hand that wasn’t bloodied, the hand that wore a diamond that no longer meant anything. Behind her, there was no movement in the tangled truck and trailer. At our ranch, the phone rang but no one answered.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prolapsed Ewe

Prolapsed Ewe
Sheep are not known to be philosophers. When they are referred to as outstanding in their field, that’s really all they are. Standing, munching and ruminating.
When I showed market lambs as a socially awkward youth, it was cool to squat as close to the ground as possible in the showring while holding the lamb’s chin in the air. He looked regal and the showman looked like they were channeling a confused ostrich, hiding behind the lamb.
I raised breeding ewes and market lambs and I had a ewe lamb that I planned to keep as a breeding ewe. In the showring, it was necessary to brace the market lambs with one’s knee, slightly lifting their front legs off the ground to give the judge an impressive handful of lamb muscle. When I did this, it became immediately apparent to all that this lamb’s tail had been docked too short. She prolapsed and volumes of bloody, slick organs spilled from her only to be hurriedly replaced by another 4-Her’s father as I stood red with embarrassment enough for both of us.
The lamb wasn’t hurt, we gave her antibiotics to fight any bacteria that she may have fallen prey to and we returned her to her pen. I could place only one of my market lambs in the Livestock Sale that evening and I had planned to sell my wether, a castrated male that I couldn’t utilize to produce next year’s club lambs.
I felt guilty that my beautiful, long loined, feminine headed ewe lamb could not be used for breeding as the prolapse would recur again and again. I had to sell her as a slaughter lamb and I did.
Years later, I find myself thinking about the prolapsed ewe and feeling a bizarre sisterhood with her. I am, in sheep years, getting longer in the tooth and am not being utilized for the purposes I had originally envisioned for myself. While not long loined, I am a mother to my two person flock.
It seems that when one’s purpose is challenged, even the strongest can prolapse. I opened my eyes and found myself lying in a pile with my guts all around me with no one around to protect, inoculate or treat me. Who knew there could be so much spill out of one body? I’m months after my 31st birthday trying to stuff my guts and heart back in to a hollow shell and hoping that someone has a shot that can treat my affliction. Hoping that somewhere there is a flock and a purpose for me rather than just a cold, concrete killing floor.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Hometown- Installment 6

In the winter months, the rodeos are inside huge coliseums and the associations host their finals rodeos and the lucky few make the trip to Las Vegas for the National Finals. This had looked like it would be Travis’ year and a week shy of leaving for Las Vegas he sat in a parking lot listening to the phone ring in his ear.
I saw his cell phone number flash on the caller i.d. and I hollered to the barn for Drew to come up before I answered.
“Drew’s coming up from the barn, he’ll be here in a minute,” I hadn’t said hello.
“I’m leaving for Vegas in a few days and I thought my son would like to go with,” he said. Your son, I thought. I had stopped really thinking of Travis as Drew’s father several years ago.
“That’s what you were thinking,” I stammered. “That you want to take a little boy to Las Vegas?”
“Yeah, my girlfriend is going and she can watch him when I can’t,” he said. “I want him to see his dad at the big show.” Drew burst through the back door, kicking off his boots and reaching for the phone. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and listened to his father on the other end of the line.
“I’ll have to talk to mom and Grady, Dad,” he said and I exhaled. “All right…yep…that’s pretty cool, Dad… I’ll ask…okay…bye.”
I stood at the sink scrubbing an already clean crockpot, listening to Grady’s low voice reading a story to Drew. When the light in the bedroom turned off and Grady returned to the kitchen I was standing with my hands in the cooling water.
“What did Travis know?,” Grady was peeling his socks off and throwing them into the hamper.
“Drew didn’t say anything to you?”
“Nope, he’s worn out,” he said.
“Well,” I dried my hands on a towel. “He made it to Vegas and he and his girlfriend want to take Drew.” Grady chuckled.
“They do, huh,” he rubbed his eyes and skinned out of his shirt, throwing it into the laundry room with his socks. “What does Drew want to do?”

“He told Travis he would have to ask us but he didn’t say what he wanted,”
In his room, Drew lay awake listening to his parents’ voices, unable to make out the words and unable to decide what he wanted to do about Vegas.
“Vegas is 10 rounds plus they will have to go out a few days early,” I said. “That’s a long time for anyone to be out there much less a little boy who hasn’t seen his dad in a few years.”

Driving back from the ranch, Taylor felt relief and found herself dreaming about when she and her boyfriend would register at Northern Junior College. She would watch all of his football games, she thought to herself, and they could grow up.
That Monday morning, an attorney in a matronly gray suit began drawing up an adoption agreement.
By the time Drew and I reached the ranch after school, darkness had begun to cover the pastures. Drew ran into the house to change his shoes and grab his ball cap and chore jacket and he jogged to the barn, his boots throwing up little puffs of snow and dirt.
Grady had the show cattle in the barn and Drew began his chores, measuring feed according to Grady’s directions printed in all caps on a dry erase board. When they had fed and watered the cattle, they shut the light off in the barn and walked toward the house.
“Grady,” Drew said and they slowed their pace a bit, their breath clouding before them. “I think I would like to see one or two performances but I don’t want to be with them the whole time. I don’t even know his girlfriend. She might not even be nice.” Grady chuckled at the boy’s reasoning.
“I haven’t talked to mom about it much,” Grady said. “We were waiting to see what you wanted to do.”
“Maybe I can call him tonight and see when he’s leaving,” the pair came in the door, shaking the cold from their shoulders and Drew picked up the phone and listened to a cell phone somewhere ring in his ear.
At dinner, Drew reported that his dad was sending his truck and trailer and horses to Vegas with a driver and he would be flying into Vegas from Oklahoma with a few other steer wrestlers on a private plane. He didn’t say anything about how the girlfriend would be getting there. I assumed she would be the one making the drive.
“He said he would get me a ticket out of the Denver airport and I could be there for the ninth and tenth rounds and then fly back to Denver,” Drew looked at us.
“I suppose that would be fine,” I said, hoping the tickets would actually be purchased and that I wouldn’t be left comforting a disappointed little boy, again.

The days leading up to Christmas vacation are a crazy time at a school and this year was no different. My email inbox held a flight itinerary for Drew and I printed it out. Travis was due to fly early the next morning and arrive in Vegas a few days before the first performance. Drew would fly out of Denver several days later. Drew and I drove down to the ranch that afternoon and I was making mental list of the jeans and shirts to iron for him.
“Is the weather supposed to get nasty tonight, Mom?” Drew was looking out the window to the west and the sky was darkening. Snowflakes clicked a little when they hit the windshield.

Devil in the Small Town

Sometimes in the course of all of my photo snapping, I get one like this. It's not something you see everyday, it's pretty interesting and like O'Brien says of a good war story, it makes you say, "Oh,"