Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Golden Rule Should Rule

I am pretty sure I am getting old and grumpy, a fact often confirmed by my family. I admit that lately it doesn’t take much to make me growl and that is very concerning to me. I like to think of myself as a positive, patient person who sees the good in almost any situation, although again, my family may beg to disagree on this. However, the weight of what lately seems to be a negative society is taking a toll on me.
More than once recently I have asked, often out loud, “What is wrong with people these days?” It seems that increasingly we have become a needy, “me-first” society. We all seem to want everything our way and our opinion is the only one that matters. All we worry about is how something will affect us. If we don’t get our way, we take it personally and those whom we disagree with are unreasonable and wrong.  To get our point across we often seem to feel it necessary to yell down and squash any opposing opinions. As a society we seem to have lost all sense of civility and compassion.
Have you ever wondered why this is? Maybe it is because we have all been told if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. It all seems to stem back to the idea that you should get what is “rightfully” yours first without worrying about anyone else. Then there is the mindset of “I was treated that way, so everyone else should be too, whether it is right or not.” All of this leads to a very self-centered way of thinking with very little regard for those around us. Please, don’t think I am setting myself apart from this; I am just as guilty as anyone.
Wow, I know what you are thinking, thanks for the uplifting message. What are we going to do about it? Well, I think the answer is really pretty simple; it is the application of the answer that gets tricky. In fact we were given the answer a couple of thousand years ago and reminded of it last week during Easter. The wisest man to ever walk this earth told us to love our God first and then our neighbor before ourselves. If we all adhered to this one rule think about how different our current world would be.
We would have compassion and understanding for those we come in contact with everyday. Would we have to agree with them, would we have to walk away from our own opinions, ideas and beliefs? Absolutely not. It would, however, mean that we would try to put ourselves in their shoes and see how we would want to be treated in that situation. We would be much more caring and much less confrontational.
If we took care of those around us first, it would heal many of society’s ills. Does that mean to not do anything for yourself, no, but it does mean that often you will put aside what you are doing for yourself and help someone else first. Maybe it is because I grew up in a tight knit farming community that I have seen this first hand. No matter what you have to do, you always have time to help a neighbor. This help is given, not because you expect anything in return, but because it is what neighbors do.
Like I said, the solution is simple but the application is difficult. Maybe it is because we have too much information about what we don’t have. My Dad often says that the internet is the root of a lot of what is wrong and increasingly I think he is right. We see what others have and more importantly we see what we do not have. We live in a great nation where our most basic needs are taken care of without much effort and we are rich beyond the comprehension of most of the rest of the world. All of this leads us to focus on ourselves and not others.
Back to the solution, as I often tell my kids, there is only one attitude you control and that is your own. You cannot make anyone else act a certain way but the way you act is up to you and often it spreads to those around you. Good advice for anyone, but especially for a grumpy old man weighed down by the flaws of society.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Winter is Gone!!!......I Hope.

Spring has sprung!!! I am not sure how you feel about it, but I couldn’t be happier. I really like all kinds of weather, I guess that is why I live in Kansas, but this winter really had gotten to me. There is something to be said about the first snowfall of the year, but this year there was even more to be said about the last snowfall of the year. Good riddance! I am so glad that warmer weather, greener landscapes and spring are here and the many advantage spring brings.
First off, it is absolutely amazing how much quicker chores go when it is warmer. I am much quicker to get out the door when I don’t have to put on two or three layers of clothes. No more searching for two dry gloves or zipping up those coveralls. Not to mention the fact that I am much more eager to go out the door.  No more staring out the window, wondering just how cold that first slap of wind will be. Nothing beats the warmth of a spring breeze.
Then there are the chores themselves. I am not sure why chopping ice takes so long, but it does.  Then there is the actual filling of the tanks. Making sure the hose doesn’t freeze and draining it after you are done. As an added bonus, there is no more worrying about whether the hydrant has frozen during the night either.
Another aspect of spring chores that saves a great deal of time is not needing to wear gloves. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I am always taking my gloves off to take care of something. It is almost impossible to open a feed sack, take a hose off the hydrant, fill a syringe with medicine, get anything out of a pocket…… well, you get the idea. Gloves seem to occupy a great deal of my time during the winter between finding a correct pair (notice I didn’t say matched, I am happy with just a left and a right handed glove), taking them off and putting them on. I do not miss wearing gloves in the spring.
Warming the pick-up and/or tractor up each morning is another step in the winter ritual I will not miss. It all begins with that sense of worry and dread we all have as we walk out to start them. Will they or won’t they start, will I have a good day or not. Then after much coaxing, pleading and persuading they do start and you either wait for the defroster to melt the frost or scrape it. Usually I scrape, mainly because I have not planned far enough ahead to allow the defroster to work. Then there are those extra special mornings you throw snow and ice into the mix. Yes, I am not going to miss that.
Driving with the windows down is one of my favorite parts of spring. I am not much of an air conditioner person. I prefer to drive with my windows down, radio up loud, wind in my face and take in all the great freshness of spring. Sure the first time you do that, it can be rough. A winters worth of dust, hay, feed and other “stuff” must blow around the cab and settle into its warm weather hiding place. However, it is a small price to pay to get rid of the funky winter smells that have lingered in the cab all calving season.
Those are just a small sampling of the great things I enjoy as winter transitions to spring. Other bonuses of spring include baseball on the radio, longer evenings and less rush to get everything done before dark, grilling on the deck, opening the windows in the house and spring rain showers. Yes, right now it doesn’t get much better than spring.
A couple of weeks of mud and a few trips to the basement because of storm warnings will temper my excitement about the spring season. The constant howling wind will wear me down. Couple this with mounting frustration and growing anxiety about keeping cows behind their winter pasture fence as they are enticed by the quickly growing, green grass and it will make me anxious to get them to summer pasture and out of my hair. Yes, I admit I am fickle about the weather and often my favorite season is the next one. Change is always good especially when it comes to weather, I like variety. I guess that is why I live in Kansas.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Life's Little Reminders

It was one of those weeks when I seem to have scheduled too much. I am not sure why I do this, I know that each week has seven days, each day has twenty-four hours and each hour has sixty minutes. Even with this knowledge and a firm grasp of math, I seem to over schedule myself almost every day. In fact, I feel like I run from one thing to the next without, life is too busy.
Tuesday was no exception. We are still getting a few calves and Tuesday we added two to this year’s count. At this point Dad and I have the calf working down pretty good, but it still takes a little while to work each calf. Time was of the essence too, the horse shoer was going to be at my house at 9:00 that morning to trim the horse’s hooves. Then I needed to travel to Wamego for a noon board meeting. I had set myself up for a tight morning time-wise.
Trimming the horse’s hooves involves a lot more than meets the eye. It involves Wayne trimming and filing the hooves to perfection while he and I solve the world’s problems. The topics of our conversations usually range anywhere from tractors, hay and livestock to social media and world problems. I am not sure if the horses enjoy their pedicures but I sure enjoy the discussion. Tuesday was no different, but it did involve a deadline for me.
Shortly after we got started and during the discussion of how hard this past winter had been, we both heard the rumble of an approaching helicopter. I live fairly close to Fort Riley and passing helicopters are not uncommon but I am still fascinated by them and often stop what I am doing to look up at them. This day was no exception; however, as it approached I could tell something was different. It was coming in much faster and much lower than normal.
Then just over the trees I saw the red and white of a Lifestar helicopter. It was low enough I could make out the identification numbers and letters. As it passed over, I made the comment that we needed to check our pulses, make sure we were upright and breathing because if we were, we were having a better day than the person that needed Lifestar. We both chuckled at my off hand statement and went about our work (OK Wayne went about his work and I kept watching). Soon the horses were trimmed and I was off to my meeting.
Early that afternoon I heard about the accident. I am not sure if Dad told me about it, if I heard about it on the radio or if I read it on my phone. The Lifestar helicopter had been sent to a tower collapse just two miles north of my house. Unfortunately two of the workers involved in the accident had died. The news really changed my outlook on the day.
I would guess that the men killed in the accident had started their day off much like mine. Probably a long list of things to do and not nearly enough time to do them. I can only guess how many other concerns they might have had when they arrived at work. It was probably just like most days on the job and they would have had no way to know what was going to happen in just a few moments. Working on towers is a dangerous job, so the idea of an accident is probably not far out of their minds. In many ways farming and ranching is a lot like that.
The news of the accident sure made me take stock in what I was doing. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two workers in the accident, I cannot imagine what they are going through. Many questions popped into my mind. Was I spending my day and my time wisely, was I really paying attention to what was important? Was all the rushing, being busy and filling every minute of my day really how I wanted to spend my life?
We are all really good at being busy, but are we good at being happy? It’s a lot to think about and I am not sure of the answer.  All I know for sure is that every day we spend on this earth is a gift. No matter how bad the day is, it is a gift. How are you spending that gift is the real problem that we each need to solve. Are we just filling our calendars or are we really living our lives? I’ll let you answer that one.