Monday, April 10, 2006

Rancher-Farmer and His Dog

The Rancher/Farmer's Dog

According to Rick, real farmers go south for the winter…while ranchers “give it a go” twelve months out of the year. Another way to tell the difference is the age and general condition of the tractor they are driving. A rancher’s tractor is not as nice and darn lucky just to have a cab. Rick ought to know…for the last few days he has been turning the ground black. A new way to plow snow he reports laughingly from his vantage point. He is playing rancher-farmer today on his March birthday as he edges further in to the second half of his century, celebrating by making furrows in the light sprinkle of snow.

Annually on a six or seven year rotation, farmers rest a portion of their alfalfa fields, till up the seed bed for a nurse crop of hay barley, control the weeds and then plant it back to a high yield mix of grass and alfalfa. It is a challenge to find time for farming in Montana because Springtime is fickle and sometimes Winter seems to melt into Summer with only a small window for tilling. Calving comes first and then lambing. Irrigating comes on the heels of lambing. Temperatures have been in the 40’s and 50’s these past few spring days and there is a forecast for the weather to turn nasty by the weekend. Rick fired up the John Deere. It is pulling hard and sucking fuel.

Our Border Collie Rascal is dashing to and fro along the edges of the field. The hawks are flying so high it is hard at first to make the connection between their soaring and his behavior. Rascal needs psychotherapy or a set of wings! But he is not so intent on bird watching that he does not notice when Rick powers down and pulls over to check the cows or makes his way to the barn to assist a heifer giving birth.

Last night when Rick pulled the tractor to the edge of the field and shut her down, Rascal knew it was time to put the sheep in the barn. Some times working and playing are the same thing on the ranch. And when it comes to putting the sheep in the barn, with Rascal on hand, it is playing. He covers all the bases. He does not “wrassle” or hassle them…he just puts them in the shed. He is such an interesting mutt. Whether he is trying to fly like a bird or playing hide and seek, he is an entertainer.