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Grant's Columns-page two

Taken from Grant Nelson's column in the "Yesteryears" portion of the Grand Forks (ND) Herald.

Click for Thief River Falls, Minnesota Forecast

The Ride

 

Several years ago I spent the day at Valley Fair. Much of that day saw me face my own fear of heights on the various roller coasters. Although I havent been back to Valley Fair recently I have ridden a roller coaster-just today. You see some days are like a roller coaster ride and today was just one of those days.

The morning started out peacefully enough-parallel this with the slow ride to the top that begins every roller coaster ride. I had some breakfast and enjoyed the anticipation of a day-off from work and the chance to get some work done at home. As I crested the top of the hill I could see what was ahead of me; a morning of digging post holes to replace the rotted posts on my old hay-shed. I was thrilled at my progress as I dug one hole after the other-I was definitely enjoying this ride. Thats when things took a turn for the worse, no the coaster didnt come off its tracks but the mounting bracket for the digger broke. I had already dug several holes so I felt lucky I had made this much progress. I loaded the digger onto a trailer for travel to a repair shop at a later date and looked forward to my next job (i.e. the next hill).

I began fencing soon after dinner. I recently rented about 40 additional acres for my cattle and thought I better get it fenced. I fenced like the wind and felt the heady thrill of being a fencing machine, almost the same thrill you would get from several loop the loops. I was just congratulating myself on my efforts when my pick-up stopped running. (this would be were the coaster came off the tracks) My fuel gauge doesnt work very well and I was now out of gas. I had already walked about 2 miles through tough conditions with a medium load and was a little tired. I now could look forward to another 3/4 mile return journey home to get gas on foot. I cant think of anything similar to this on a roller coaster ride so I wont even try.

I arrived home and decided to tackle another job. I was soon mowing (and feeling another impending hill) at the speed of light-the only thing missing was the blur of surroundings racing past me. Thats when the coaster not only came off the tracks but the whole thing started on fire. I was very near finished when I lost all steering. I could see trees and blades of grass rushing by as I grappled with a steering wheel that had no intention of bending to my will. I should have taken a turn but instead was headed for the nastiest little ditch at my own little amusement park. My knuckles clenched white as I head down the final death drop on the roller coaster ride that had started out as just a regular day at home. Fortunately I finally came to my senses and pulled back on the hydrostatic lever just short of impending doom or at least a very nasty scratch. The ride was over-it couldnt have ended any sooner.

I spoke with Lisa about this later and she laughed just like the ticket-taker had the first time I tried a roller coaster. She faked sympathy for me (again just like the ticket taker) and I realized there would be no refund from this thrill-ride called life. Now as I sit upstairs typing, listening to my bug-zapper fry mosquitoes and wax philosophically its apparent to me that it was actually a pretty fine day and I really did get my moneys worth.

Debbie had a little Lamb

This column was written by my sister, Debbie Waterworth.  I hope you like it-I know you will.

Although I really enjoy having a large yard to work with, ours has become too much to mow. Last weekend my husband Mike finished building the fence around the pine trees south of the house. He made a more quaint looking fence than I'd expected and even made a rustic looking gate with an arbor over the top. Being an admirer of Martha Stewart (at least until her latest episode of insider trading), I immediately seized the opportunity to hang a basket of vining geraniums from the arbor. Mike and I had talked about putting Brittany, the Brittany Spaniel, in this little pasture when we were gone for the day. Better than spending the day in her kennel, we thought. Mike gave it a try but she howled bitterly, demanding to be released. Mike commented that maybe we should just get a couple of lambs to keep the grass down. That was all that it took! I could out-do Martha by decorating with lambs!!

I thought I should have a white-faced lamb and a black faced lamb. The contrast would be good and the pink-lined ears of the white-faced lamb would blend with my pink/lavender/blue and white flowerbeds.(see, my sister really is insane-Grant) We joked back and forth about it for a couple of days and then things got serious. I called Brad and Denae Blawat from Viking. Brad called back on Thursday evening and we made hasty plans for a trip to the Blawat farm Friday evening. We hurried over to see Tom Scheef at the Country Store in town for some sheep food after work Friday. Then on to brother Grants to borrow that sheep feed bunk (you weren't home so we just took it). We arrived at the Blawat farm, full from a meal at the Hobo Haus in Newfolden, ready to capture a couple of "little" lambs. We took Brittany's dog kennel in which to haul them home. Our son Reed came with as I knew that I would probably not be very helpful catching sheep.

We located Brad cultivating corn near his mom, Stella's farm yard. Mike told him that he'd cultivate for him if Brad would escort Reed and I to the sheep pasture. Brad took one look at Reed and I (obvious greenhorns) and called his son, Mark, to assist. Even though Mark had plans with friends for a fishing trip, he graciously motored over on his 4 wheeler to help. He took the 4 wheeler out, rounded up about 100 sheep and helped chase them into the corral. Then the fun began. The lambs were bigger than expected and it was doubtful that two would fit in the dog kennel. Brad was convinced that we should have at least three. Brad, Mark, and Reed dove for the sheep I wanted and when the dust settled we had a freckled lamb, a lamb with one black ear and one white ear, and a lamb with a black circle of wool around one eye. Brad informed me that I had chosen all males and that I would probably want at least one female "just in case you get attached to them". I said goodbye to the black-eyed lamb and decided that a white-faced female would be just the ticket (reference the pink and white flowerbeds). Brad and Mark were amazingly good natured and patient with me. Probably never heard of decorating with sheep before. Finally, Mark and Reed each caught a white sheep and held them side by side while I decided which one I wanted. I picked one and named her Rose. Rose was too large for the dog kennel so she sat in the pick-up with us. It was very difficult listening to her baa all the way home. Once in the pasture, though, she settled down immediately. The two little males flank her every move and obviously liked being in a flock.

Well it was a big day and now it's on to bed. I can't wait to get up in the morning and take my morning garden tour which will now include a visit to Rose and Company. I need to think of names for the boys..........hum, I wonder if Petunia would work for a boy. I really would like to stick with a flower theme.

Cattle Commons

In 1987 Drs Frank and Deborah Popper wrote a very controversial proposal they called the Buffalo Commons or the day all fences came down. At the time they identified hundreds of counties in the Midwest that contained less than 6 people per square mile which was the number used in 1897 to declare the American frontier closed. Theres a lot I disagree with in this proposal but theres also some I agree with and can see parallels with something I call the cattle commons.

There exists acre upon acre of good land just ripe for planting crops. Here farmers plant and harvest good crops and either market their product or take their chances with established markets. There also exists land that was bulldozed and put into production during the 1970s and seven dollar wheat. This is the type of land that would make great cattle pasture or alfalfa land but instead produces a cash flow only because of government intervention-either by payments to farmers or through the Conservation Reserve Program. Cattle farming answers to both of these situations; cattle prices are not supported by taxpayers dollars plus farmers could use the land that would otherwise be enrolled into CRP. Contrast a cattleman making his purchases in town and supporting the economy versus land sitting idle and earning payments for someone who does not produce anything from the land other that a heavier load for the taxpayer.

There is also the issue of quality of life. A farmer retires and idles his ground into CRP rather renting his poorer ground to a young cattleman. I know this happens because I have seen it myself. So what are the ramifications of these actions? The worst case scenario is that the young farmer never begins farming and leaves for greener pastures and still more acreage is dependent upon the taxpayer instead of a young farmers ambitions. What does that mean to you? One less family in church, at least one less child in school and one less pair of shoes walking into the feed mill to make a purchase. Small business creates vitality in any economy and this area offers a great small business opportunity in raising cattle. A higher level of grass land also raises water quality. Most pasture land is a mixture of grass and clover-a combination that requires less fertilizer and also works to filter ground water. In a time when everyone talks about the environment, the cattle farmer quietly fences off his watering holes and plants buffer strips along any streams that run through his land.

My idea for increased use of cattle on poorer land versus enrollment in CRP is only an idea-its not an indictment. All farmers support their economy, I just see an opportunity to make life better and to keep young people on the farm. I also realize smaller cattle farms need a higher level of marketing than the larger feedlots because smaller farms make money based on value and not volume. All opportunities carry new problems that need to be solved and challenges that need to be met. The cattle commons is something I believe would attract the people who could solve the problems and meet the challenges. If nothing else it sure gets the conversation started over a cup of coffee.

Of Cattle and Water

We have recently read about the heavy rains and flooding in Northwest Minnesota. The flooding in some places has caused real problems. My area of the world received about five inches of rain last week and although our flooding was nowhere near what they had in other areas, it was an interesting week.

I was at work when it all started. I remember watching the weather radar and hoping that Id soon get a little rain on my newly-planted alfalfa. I kept watching and hoping the rain wouldnt pass us by-it didnt disappoint. The first morning I considered that a little extra rain would help out the pasture land. Then the small creek that flows through my place (the Black River) swelled outside of its banks. Ive experienced this before so I wasnt too worried but the run-off from hundreds of acres was soon lapping at the foundation of my barn. I noticed my cattle

had moved to higher land however they soon had little grass left to eat. Its here where I really got acquainted with

the little creek that most people scoff at when I call it a river.

I started by fencing off a little extra grass near my yard. Now on a normal day I will do almost anything to keep my feet dry but the cows needed food and that would require me to get a little wet. I started by stepping from one tiny island to the next. Its a slippery slope though when you feel that first water creep into your shoe and soon I was crashing from one pool to another to move the cattle into their new pasture. Considering I pick-up my feet extra high during morning dew this was really a radical departure. It all ended well when my dad stopped by the next day and we moved my freshly-washed little herd to the summer pasture on the ridge.

This week I have been able to remove the water from my basement and even mow the jungle that had become of my former prairie lawn. I was even able to trim up some fence and clean the gutters on my house. I really felt like I was back in control and hoping things would dry up not only for me but for the people whove really suffered. As I finish this column I am sitting next to an open southern-facing window. The wind has blown my papers to the floor and I can feel the raindrops occasionally. That feeling of control I enjoyed two hours ago is gone-maybe its time I realize it never really existed.

Drive Time

The time during the afternoon when people travel home is designated as "drive-time" by most radio stations. It is an important time to advertise as listeners as very receptive while enjoying their favorite program or music. I have always loved to listen to the radio so for me its always drive time.

 

It hasnt always been drive-time for me, however. I think my vehicles are fairly well-known for having rather poor sound systems. You dont need a radio for a car to drive but it sure helps. My old pick-up came with a radio and a booster about 6 years ago. The booster switch was held in place with a matchstick so maybe I should have been suspicious. I havent heard that radio speak for about 5 1/2 years so I do a lot of singing when I haul hay or use it for fencing. Judging from the dismayed look on the faces of my dogs, Rudy and Muffin, I would guess they might like something other than my crooning. Christine, my jeep, also went for a time without a stereo. One day when I was in Grand Forks I decided to splurge and ended up with a stereo that not only plays music but can receive satellite programming. I went from the outhouse to the penthouse on that deal. Its usually feast or famine for me.

Now that I have one working radio I love to play my cassette tapes. I have spent the last 2 months listening to Chris Ledoux. I have never called myself a cowboy but Chris Ledoux plays and writes cowboy music. I love the lyrics and can recite them at a moments notice. Ive even suggested (threatened?) singing one for Lisa during our wedding. I sang it for her last night but she was not impressed. Chris Ledoux does not write the regular sappy, honeydripping type of love song. Heres a sample of some of his lyrics;"for your love Id take the moon and put it in a blender, mix up a concoction that might make you surrender" and "Id climb the tower on the tv station and broadcast my affection to the United Nations" or my favorite "your love aint just the hot sauce its the whole enchilada." I guess I can see why she didnt want me to sing that one. Maybe Ill leave the singing to trained professionals-discretion is the better part of valor.

 

When I consider how much I enjoy music in my jeep it inspires me to perhaps install a new stereo in my old pick-up. Maybe some new speakers too, I know Rudy and Muffin would like it and then it would always be drive time. It might be cheaper if I just learned some news songs to sing and bought earplugs for the dogs. As far as Lisas lack of appreciation for Chris Ledoux, that might take a little more time.

Spring Planting

I decided last winter that I needed to plant 20 acres of alfalfa this spring. Alfalfa is fairly expensive to plant so I needed a way to pay for it. I decided to get another job and it made perfect sense to work for the people from whom I would purchase the seed and fertilizer. This spring I drove a tender truck for the local elevator and so for the first time in awhile I participated in spring planting.

 

I arrived in St Hilaire friday morning to find my truck started and ready to go. I was impressed at this and figured all was going smoothly. Then I walked into the office. It was like the war room to a major military operation. A constant chatter crackled over the radio and the phone was never set down. This was ground zero for spring planting. I was soon loaded and went to drop-off my first load. It was there I met John Jenson from Greenbush, Minn. John operates his own floater (like a huge four wheeler for broadcasting seed) and it was easy to see he was used to working fast. I think John would have been more at home in a race car than the floater however. If he wasnt driving fast he was talking even faster. Hes the kind of charismatic person you need to boost everyone else when the hours get long and I really enjoyed working with him.

I believe that the way you end an experience is the most important thing-more inmportant than the stuff in the middle. I ended my first attempt at tender driver five days after it began. We had intermittent rain and I was in doubt whether we would get in a full day.

I had more than just a personal interest in finishing the day as we were going to plant my alfalfa that morning. I had just taken on my load and headed west from St Hilaire when a few drops of rain landed on my windshield. A full blown rain would stop planting so I wanted to beat the storm. I mashed the accelarator to the floor and I could see black smoke belch from the stack of the Kenworth (is this turning into a Red Sovine truck-driving song?) I decided I wanted to live dangerously so I navigated right for the "minimum maintenance" road to save a little time.

I quickly backed up to Johns floater and dumped my precious cargo. I headed back to town and called my neighbor, Curt Swanson, who told me it had just started raining but that he was talking to John and hed finished my field.

I really enjoy my short stint of spring planting. It had all the elements I like;a little drama, confict, new friends and the beauty of the land from which farmers make their living which drives our local economy. I look forward to next season and hope to drive again. I enjoyed it so much this year that I might even do it for free-well perhaps not.

Viking, Mn  (part one)

I share the bottom of this page with a very good historic writer, Tom Isern.  Ive always enjoyed his column and
have purposely avoided writing about small towns and history because he already does it so beautifully.   This week
I want to make an exception and write about a town thats near to my heart.   I grew up in Viking, Mn but it wasnt
my presence that made it special to me-it was the presence of others.  I want to tell you about them over the next
few weeks.

We live in a modular, throw-away world.   We dont repair anything-we buy new.  I knew a man who didnt do
that, his name was Erling Hegg.  Erling was a blacksmith and represented an era now past.   Erling could fix
almost anything but I believe he worked miracles when it came to steel.  He once cut out the inside drum from a
John Deere manure spreader leaving only the teeth.   He then carefully placed sheet steel bent to the same shape
back inside the empty frame and welded it in solid.   Erling was born of a generation that lived through the
depression.    He was a legendary spendthrift and was known to take several butt-ends from used welding rods and
weld them together to make a new one.   Although he saved every penny, he never skimped on what he was willing
to do for others and was a beloved member of Viking. 
 
I was forced at a young age to take piano lessons.  It was the best thing my Mom could have ever done for (to?) me.
Virgil Hjelles son Steve also played the piano and thats how I met Virgil.  Virgil delivered the mail around
Viking but I think his good character and happy demeanor were worth more than any package he ever delivered.  
Virgil even took the time to send me a quick note of encouragement after a piano concert at which I played.  He
addressed it Master Grant Nelson and it made me feel great.  I have never seen a man who felt happier when
someone else gained success.  He and his wife, Marville even stopped by my house about a year ago to encourage
me about writing this column.   Virgil and Marville still live in Viking and can be found riding their bicyles down
the tree-lined streets.  (and probably holding hands at the same time)
 
Well, youve had a little taste of the town where I grew up.   The creamery, bank and the elevator are long since
gone yet Viking remains.  Its because of its people, its the same for any town.    During the next few weeks you
will get to know these people the way I know them which will introduce you to Viking, Mn.   Population 124. 

Viking, Mn  part II

Viking, Mn has never had a lot of buildings or manufacturing to attract new residents.  The one thing it does have
is its people.  This is a three-part series on the people who make the personality the defines the town of Viking.
Dale Anderson would be described today as developmentally disabled.   Dale either walked or bicycled the streets
of Viking with his little dog , Tippy.  I didnt always understand Dale but his good nature was quite easy to see.
Dale loved to laugh and really enjoyed people.  I think he was  proud to be entrusted with janitorial work at the
Lutheran church and his many lawnmowing jobs.   There are certain people or things that I call constants.   They
never seem to  change and they make you feel at home even when you havent been around for a long time.  After
leaving town for awhile I always felt like I was really home when I saw Dale and Tippy out for a quiet bike ride or
on a walk with Dale using a cane that Im not sure he ever really needed.   They seemed to me to be quiet sentinels
of pride and perseverance although they now exist only in memories.
Although Vikings days as a center of commerce are done that doesnt mean it isnt the center of the community.
Nothing brings people together like food and coffee and Viking has managed to offer both.  A long list of
shopkeepers and cafe owners have kept Viking fed.  Gary and Jean Anderson ran the old Farmers Union store
until  Lavonne Seaverson remodeled it into a cafe and grocery store that became legendary.   Small-town
economics closed that cafe but small-town pride re-opened it with Pam and Custis Halvorson in the kitchen.  One
of my best memories was during Halloween when we visited the old Hartz store.  Myrtle Sackett must have
shoveled candy on these nights from a tiny little store that offered more to us than just wide aisles.   Even today I
occasionally stop at Vikings community center for a can of pop and talk a little with Gaylord Grandstrand.  I can
remember playing foosball after confirmation at the center and thinking how it was good to get away on a
week-end night.
Its sad to condense all of Viking into three short columns.     The phrase I could write a book leaps to mind
when I try to write about Viking and its people.   Looking at these last two columns its evident to me that my
hometown and its people represent to me a way way of life and a state of mind.  No matter where I go Ill always
have one thing going for me-Im from Viking, Mn.

Viking, Mn  (final)

The last three weeks Ive been telling about the town of Viking and its people-they are one in the same. Every town is more than just buildings and infrastructure-its the sum total of its people. Viking is small in population yet Ive never seen a bigger town.

 

Viking, MN has one major industry-agriculture. Farm families made up most of this village for many years, although that has changed during the last few years. I can think of one common denominator that makes good people-hard work. Farm kids work hard together with their mother, father and siblings and even if they leave for other opportunities always carry the experience amongst other memories. We always had great farmers around Viking. My dad is a great farmer. (sorry, I know this embarrasses you) He and my mom have always been active in their community and created a very balanced life for us. Dairy cattle, small grains, athletics, music and alfalfa all blossomed on this farm along with their five children.

Melvin Grandstrand raised some of the nicest beef cattle youve ever seen. My brother Steve and I were just talking about how nice they were last week. I am fortunate enough to still have a few cows from one of Melvins bulls to this day. Farming makes you respect action more than words and I think Melvin is one of those people who shows his feeling by how he lives life. In the early nineties, I kept beef cattle with my brother, Darrel. The road to Darrels place was always full of snow and although short in length it always felt long and lonesome to me. Fortunately John Grandstrand kept me company during the barren Minnesota winter. John was always out in the cold with his cattle and I always thought that I wanted to be tough like him. I dont know that John and Melvin are even related but they shared a bond of cattle and passed that love on to me without even knowing it.

Todays modern farmers exists in Viking today but I think that Viking exists even more in todays modern farmer.

Roger, Scott and Mike Anderson all farm together around Viking and I think they maintain the best of old and new. They farm with modern equipment but live with old-time values. Mike and Scott maintain a herd of beef cattle and I think its more than just product diversity. I think they just want to be near the animals and still have a pitchfork in their hand on occasion. My brother Steve is much the same and is probably the best pure cattle man I know. He is a man who loves the life that others tell him is just a business. He is lucky to know better.

There is Viking from my perspective. Theres as many different ways to look at a town as there are people but I like equal parts emotion and historic fact-it makes a nice mix. I hope you liked my account but hope you know that its an incomplete story. This is a little town thats had a large part in making me who I am today. No matter what happens to me Ill always be able to says that I am from Viking, MN. Pop 124.

Junkyard Wars

I enjoy the television program known as Junkyard Wars.   During each segment two teams compete to see who
can build a better machine with parts found at a local junkyard.   Each week its a different machine such as a
submarine, a combine, drag racer or whatever idea the hosts dream up.    Bryan Steiger and I put together a
machine this winter that I call a snowbine.   While preparing this combine/snowblower combination I have created
my own personal junkyard war.

It started with an old 510 Massey combine that my brother, Steve, hadnt used for a few years.   The harvesting
portion was pretty well used but the driveline was fine.   This was my first and easiest salvage purchase.   Since
that time I have spent a fair amount of time at the salvage yard in town.    I have even developed a protocol for
hunting down parts although protocol may be an overstatement of the care I put into my technique.  The first
pass through a junkyard should always be for targets of opportunity.   These targets are usually created by someone
elses hard work.    A farmer who needed the inner pulley on a combine shaft may have left the outer one on the
ground or someone took the cab off a tractor who needed something from the driveline.    If you can find your parts
this way it saves much wrenching time.  
I think theres also a certain etiquette to parts salvage.   I noticed that parts pulled from a machine were often
stacked next to its former host.  Very rarely do you find an International Harvester part next to a John Deere part
(theyd probably just fight anyway).   I also noticed most parts were stacked off the ground which made sense when
I tried to remove a part from the frozen ground.   The following may be a touchy matter but I believe someone has
to bring it to light.  Can you relieve youself in the junkyard?  I mean its not like youre shopping a Tiffanys or
anyone can see you.  I was in such a predicament this week that was further complicated by another guy who
apparently needed similar combine parts so that we kept ending up in the same place.   I will use a little discretion
and not tell you how I solved my problem but I thought it should be brought out in a public forum.   
Finally I always feel that Im  paying too much for whatever I buy but usually take my lumps and then leave.   This
week when I walked up to the counter I stated to the lady that, these all came from the ten dollar rack.   She
looked a little stunned (the way Id look at a Martian) and one of the men in back of her almost choked on his
sandwich and the other grabbed a pipe wrench and moved menacingly towards me.   I guess they didnt appreciate
my attempt at humor so I quickly went to my pick-up for the wheelbarrow of money Id need to pay for my
purchase.
In the end I got the parts I needed to finish my snowbine and Bryan is machining them a little so everything fits
perfectly.   My trips to the junkyard taught me about old combines, human interaction and the value of a dollar.
Ive taken away more than the sum total of the various parts I purchased.   Maybe in the end it was a better value
than I thought -hey, what can I say, I have to make friends for the next time I need parts.

Letter to Dave

Dear Dave,
I just got back from dinner in Thief River Falls.    Mom and Dad invited Lisa, her mother and I out to the Lantern
restaurant to kind of get to know each other a little.  We all had fun and I was happy Lisas family and mine are
getting to know each other prior to our wedding.    I really needed a little fun tonight as Ive spent the last two days
doing end of the year book work and taxes.  Actually, considering how  much laughter emanates from the room,
you would think that my farm business instructor and I were having a blast.  I have always read in the Readers
Digest that laughter is the best medicine and so I try to prescribe as much of it as I can while we go through
fin-an, fin-flo (farmers will know what I mean) and even turbotax.   I finished all of these things so late because I
had my ledger on computer and the computer crashed so I had to recreate the whole year on paper.  It was a task
equivalent to telling the ancient Egyptians that the pyramids were supposed to to be on the other lot of land so
please build them again.
My new job is going great.   The mixture of familiar and new faces makes the job comfortable and challenging at
the same time.   I also like the short commute plus I really needed a change.   Deni, one of the police officers,
asked me after wed  had several accidents in a row if I was glad to be back.  Despite the insanity of the past hour
and a half, I really was glad to be back.  
 
  Lisa and I have just begun remodeling plans for my house (soon to be our
house).   The carpenter who built her sisters home came over last week-end and should be back in July (?) to get
things started.  I have began ripping up carpet and preparing for the change.  You and I have discussed this but the
problem I see is that once you start, where do you stop?  I foresee a case of creeping decimalism in my future and
am now looking for a part-time trucking job for the summer.
 
Latest update on the snowbine is that it worked very well during the last snow we had.  I would guess the storm
was about 8 inches and I had plenty of power to handle it all.  The only problem is that the driven pulley is larger
than the driver and so the belt doesnt grip as well as it should.    The driven pulley is connected to the gear case
from a 6601 John Deere combine so I picked up a pulley to match it.    I paid $25 dollars for the pulley from a
combine that I probably could have bought for $500.   Either Im an idiot or I need to open a salvage yard-possibly
both.  Oh well, gotta support local business if we are to grow and prosper.  
Tell the wife and kinder hello for me and thank Mary for her last email.

Your brother
Grant

The Witches-revisited

I wrote about "the witches" in my column almost a year ago. The reaction to this column has included smiles, blank stares and even uproar. Occasionally I will add to my coven of "witches" and try to explain what that term means to me. I wont lift the veil of mystery however I will try to clarify what being part of this group means.

 

First off, its usually the guys who dont get it. So this will most likely be redundant for most of the women readers. Also I do not practice any strange religions and dont even know what "wicca" means. I am a Lutheran-a veteran of catechism, prayer and a little pot luck after services. My witches have no particular religious orientation-rather their common denominator is the spells they create and the magic they bring to life. My witches are people who have always been there for me or who have just entered my life. They are people who gain happiness from someone elses success as easy as they do from their own. They are strong people who may run a business during the day but would rather love their family at night. My witches are people who make the ordinary special through the simple act of kindness. They are women who are happy with themselves and put people at ease. They make Christmas more than a holiday, supper more than food, turn a house into a home and make holding hands more than a good idea when crossing the street.

Guys, are you still lost? Well, I cant tell any more secrets about my witches but maybe you have one in your house and dont realize it. Have you ever come in from the cold to find a warm meal or hot coffee waiting for you? Do you remember a time when money was short and your wife turned a hard candy Christmas into a cherished memory? My greatest wish for any man would be, at a moment of doubt, to have a woman tell him, "you can do it-I believe in you" youll never feel any better. These things are more than mere acts or words-they are spells born of magic.

I have recently started a new job and now work with both men and women. I am continually amazed at how well these ladies handle a job that can be dangerous and even sad yet still maintain the spark that makes them special. (maybe even witches one day) I could use what I see every day at work to create a laundry list of what makes a woman a witch. I wont do that though as discovering a witch is synonymous with discovering yourself. Thats a search I wouldnt deny anyone.

I Call Her Christine

I like to write about relationships-mostly family and friends.  My relationships are normally very
positive and enjoyable however recently I became involved in a very abusive relationship.  This is the
relationship that began when I bought my 1988 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
I saw her last fall along the roadside.   I had noticed the beautiful red paint and authentic stick-on
wood paneling from the highway when I drove past the car lot for several months.  Was I the only one
who saw her inner beauty-was this my diamond in the rough?   I felt like a thief as I offered a trifling
amount of money in exchange for the keys to this vehicle that would soon sit on its own pedestal in
my garage.   I blushed as I told the clerk at the Motor Vehicle department how much I had paid.  I felt
reassured that I was not only a smart shopper but a good and moral person for seeing the beauty
where others apparently had seen none.   This was to be a wedding of man and wood paneled,
mud-tired American vehicle craftsmanship.  We were on our way to our new home.
Well, we almost made it home.   My new 4-wheeled love tired on the way and so we took a rest.  I
was dismayed to find that my little Jeep had electrical problems.  Nothing that a little tender loving
care (plus 4 trips to the mechanic and $300) couldnt solve.  I also noticed she had never been
properly shodded so I found some modestly-priced tires ($300-Ive had paychecks smaller than that).
I soon discovered that when the temperature approached anything under 10 degrees my poor little
prized Wagoneer would shiver in the night air and wouldnt start (4 trips to get it fixed at $300 dollars
and two new mufflers after the engine backfired on two separate occasions-$80.  Plus it still doesnt
work right).
Its obvious that this blushing bride of a vehicle had become a needy, malevolent, even risky partner. 
So often have I called my mechanic sobbing that I dont think hes even shocked any more.  Many
people have told me to get out of this relationship but I think I can change her.  A little more paint, a
little more money (a lot more) and my gentle touch will make all well.  Isnt the power of love(how about denial)amazing?

My sweet, insane sister Debbie

Great people often times have the most interesting idiosyncrasies-this is true of my sister Debbie. I have nothing but love for my sister however sometimes I must just sit back and wonder if those blue eyes and big smile are just a store-front for the kind of market that sells crazy wholesale. That is why I always refer to the matriarch of our generation as my sweet, insane sister Debbie.

 

The world of the internet has been great for most. However when my sister found email it was somewhat akin to the computer in 2001:A Space Odyssey becoming self-aware and then dangerous when the humans tried to shut it down. My sister is a wonderful craft/food person and she recently discovered the Martha Stewart website. Now you have to understand that anyone who is the subject of my sisters emailing affections is about in the same spot as a rancid piece of meat is to a wolverine. Deb likes to email-a lot. I understand Martha Stewarts protection order will lapse in 6 months so Deb can once again ask home interior questions and trade recipes. Recently my sister discovered buckwheat pillows and so began her internet investigations. She is now emailing Juan at the North Dakota State Mill. Hes been very nice and she is quite happy but I wonder if that poor man knows what hes done. Its like in Jurassic Park-dont move, dont reply and the T-Rex wont see you. I suspect its too late and he will be receiving many more buckwheat hull emails from Deb.

 

Thats enough bashing my sister-now the sweet part. When I first went to school as a child I hated it. I still dont like leaving home and I liked it even less then. My sister had graduated the year before and decided to come to kindergarden with me. It helped me so much and I soon quit crying all the time and began to enjoy myself. My sister Debbie is the one I bring my problems to first. When my dog Buddy got run over by a train she was the first person, after my dad, that I spoke to. I always share my triumphs with her too. She receives more joy from them than I do. She was one of the few people who knew that I planned to propose to Lisa before Lisa knew. Deb was also the first one I called after Lisa agreed to my offer of matrimonial bliss. Finally when Lisa and I are so busy with wedding preparations, Deb and her husband Mike, have offered to do our grooms supper. What a nice thing to do.

 

My sister provides me with so much; laughter, a shoulder and a friend. I plan to always spend a lot of time talking to her and spending time with her. I just hope I can get my name removed from her email list.

Holding Hands (the Valentines Day remix)

We all search for ways to stay close in a relationship. People go to counseling, have children and try trendy tips they find in magazines all in an effort to stay close to their partner. Its way simpler than that, it all starts by holding hands.


In my own relationships Ive always loved to hold hands. It feels so good to have your relationship acknowledged in public. I guess this is probably has something to do with my human ego but its still important. I have been divorced for seven years and have had to bare the social stigma of being a single person. This stigma includes having to take your holiday picture with mom and dad, enduring the smug attitudes of those who are married and trying to disguise the tick-tock of my own biological clock. (Does a guy have one of those?) When I walk into a room with Lisa I grasp her hand like a passenger on the titanic grasps an oar. Lisa doesnt like a lot of public display of affection so I really appreciate it on the rare occasions when she actually reaches for my hand-I sometimes wonder if it causes me to blush because it really means a lot.

I have a great handholding story for you. My friends, Ken and Cheri Krohn from Viking, MN met on a softball trip to Winnipeg, MB. Kenny and Cheri are both quite easy going so you know this story isnt going to end with steamy windows but it is quite romantic. I dont know what kind of conversation they made during the softball tournament but Im sure Cheri carried most of it-Ken mostly just smiles a lot. Anyway on the way home Cheri was seated in back of Ken and he reached back between the seat and the door of the van and their hands met. This isnt the stuff of soap operas but they ended up with four kids so it must have been a good start-it makes my heart melt and I usually make them tell me the story about once every couple of years.

We celebrated St Valentines Day this week. Candy, roses, cards and jewelry were likely the order of the day for some. Whatever people did I hope it made them happy. If none of those things worked for you try something else. Sit down with your partner; look them right in the eye and then start-holding hands.




Why America Wins

Why does America win? This question leaves a lot of room for bragging and chest thumping but thats not what youre about to read. America doesnt win because it has more resources, more money or more people-although in most cause it does have more. America wins because of the character of its people.

In the last few years of World War II America and its allies began taking on many prisoners from Germany. The prisoners were scared to death, with good reason. They were about to become prisoners in a foreign land their government had engaged in war. I saw a documentary about this and one German soldier said a large crowd in a small town awaited the prisoner train in which he was a passenger. He feared they would be lynched or worse. As the prisoners stepped out a young girl walked up to him and said, welcome to America. Even now as our Army captures cowards who could never be considered soldiers our government ensures that each one is treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The world sees how we value life-even our enemies lives and they want to support us and even be like us.

We know right from wrong and good from bad. We respect and demand the truth. The truth is so important that our First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. The press is the watchdog of our government and is responsible to expose dishonesty. The truth is such a high priority that we place dishonesty in government right on the front page and are willing to ask dishonest Presidents to leave their office. Americans are a compassionate bunch-we exist to care about each other. Look at our volunteer fire departments or ambulance service, humane societies and even the Federal Emergency Management Agency. We cheer the underdog, smile at others success and embrace our heroes. Monday night at the Westminster Dog Show, sixteen of the dogs participating in the search at the World Trade Center were recognized. A capacity crowd gave these animals a standing ovation. There is room for everyone in America to shine without regard to sex, race, religion or even if youre not a human.

Some would say that its easy to aspire to high moral ground when youre a wealthy country like America. I believe that our character would be the same even if we were poor and struggling. We struggle under the specter of terrorism right now and yet still stand tall. Our character will see us through. We are Americans-we work hard, we love, we fail but try again and like many times in the past, we will win.





Machinery Lot Skulking

There is a somewhat unknown hobby in England known as train spotting. In this hobby you gather subway schedules and then try to observe each train you find on the schedule. This sounds very boring to me but I think I have an American version of this hobby. I call this little-known hobby Machinery Lot Skulking.


To participate in this hobby all you need is an interest in farm machinery and a little time on your hands. Preferably you will have some reason to be near a machinery lot in the first place. A classic would be telling your wife or girlfriend that you know she needs time to shop for clothes and that you will give her some time to herself so that she may relax and shop. You must then quickly estimate how long she will shop and proceed to a nearby machinery lot. A good rule of thumb for this time away is 1 times however long your lady says it will take to finish shopping minus travel time (1.5 X optimistic estimate T ((T=travel)). Most experts already know this equation but for the young or uninitiated it must be memorized lest you pick your wife up late resulting in your being left at home on the next trip to town.

I have always said that I want a bare minimum of equipment because cattle make the money-not machinery. I work for auctioneer Ron Mckercher and therefore usually know what machinery is on his lot. However I cant help myself but to drive through his lot in St Hilaire just to check for new arrivals. I even find myself trying to think of ways I could use the equipment that sits there even when I dont need it. This is where a simple hobby becomes a full-blown sickness and is also a good reason for the woman in the relationship to control the one and only checkbook. I recently arrived in town a little early for league volleyball and found myself killing time in a salvage lot and talking to Lisa on my cell phone at the same time. I told myself I was multi-tasking but really I was just combining two of my favorite things in an effort to increase my excitement. I fear there is no hope for me.

Machinery Lot Skulking-harmless hobby or an abhorrent mental sickness? I am too close to the subject to make an objective opinion. I do know that I have curbed this habit recently and feel back under control. However John Deere has a new side lift loader and I recently saw a bi-directional tractor I havent sat in yet and then theres that used front-wheel assist tractor I saw last week!-uhm, what was I saying?


Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphors really help me communicate. A metaphor compares what is known to a new situation to make it more understandable. This week I discovered I am a metaphor. My vintage pump jack and my futuristic computer were both in need of repair. I was facing a problem from the past and a problem from the future-just like many farmers are doing right now.

Farms have faced financial challenges from the very beginning. Whether it was the cost of horses over oxen, tractors over horses or loss of a crop-financial difficulties are a familiar problem. Like my own problem with my ancient pump-jack, money problems seem to have no real fix but a temporary one. One of the most severe problems with farming is the loss of young people to other careers and other locations. Young farmers watch as their peers buy new cars and large homes and wonder why they farm. Most of the progress in any industry comes from people with fresh ideas-young people. I read recently that Canada has made substantial inroads to our beef industry. If we do not have aggressive young minds engaged in farming we will lose more ground to foreign competitors and have an even worse financial situation.

This is where the problem from the future appears-only in this case I will call this a solution disguised as a problem. Many farmers who I have spoken with fear our new farm economy and see it as a problem. I believe marketing our products directly is one way to stay competitive and stay in business. Farming will need its best members together with its youngest to direct and move the new farm economy. The problem of marketing our own products, if properly solved, will help put to rest the oldest problem in farming-money. I dont believe our government will make farming work in the future, although the Free Trade Agreement and other Federal law may create the field upon which we all will play. People with ideas, experience and personal initiative are the fuel for the next generation of farming and will see the new economy as an opportunity to improve farming.

Problems from the past and the future have converged today and demand answers. Like my old pump jack and my new computer we will probably react to each very differently. In my case I used a couple of bricks to fix my old pump-jack, probably a temporary fix. I handled my computer problem differently, however. I realized I needed to understand my computer better so the problem wouldnt happen again. My problem had become a challenge and then a solution to my own computer ignorance. I guess I really am a metaphor.

Put Out to Pasture

A changing of the guard occured last week. Two old soldiers were finally relieved of their duty and allowed some
rest. Like a horse who no longers runs but still has value, my Dads International Harvesters tractor were put out
to pasture.


I wanted nothing more than to drive a tractor when I was ten years old. My Dad finally gave in and put his son in
the care of his trusted little 300 IH tractor. This 300 tractor had power steering but had a few less horses than
the BIG 300 and so it was named. My Dad purchased one in 1966 and the other in 1967. I alway enjoyed
sqare baling and I really liked the smaller of these two tractors. I guess our relationship began when Dad let me
learn to drive while pulling around a manure spreader. Dad knew I had to get used to a tractor so I drove endlessly
around a straw pile pulling my empty load. Our family had used both 300s to seed, bale and spread manure for
years. My brother, Dave had overhauled the smaller one and even re-painted it. These two tractors where the
mechanical heart and soul of our farm. My Dad knew they would start in the worst of conditions and were equal to
almost any task.

The last few years both 300s have stood along the sideline and watched while newer tractors have taken their
place. Like a veteran quarterback, each would save the day when needed then quietly go back into storage. I
spoke with Dad last week and he said neither tractor uses any oil to this day. A neighbor, Scott Peters told me that
when he asked if he should check the oil when he borrowed one of the 300s my dad said, their
Internationals-you dont have to worry about it. A farm thrives on equal parts nostalgia and business sense, still
equipment must be useful. These 2 old warriors hadnt seen much action in the last few years and Dad didnt want
them to rust into the ground. My brother Dave has a friend in Carrington, ND who collects I-H tractors and last
week he collected two more. Dad was unhappy to see his friends leave. They say nothing bonds like shared
experience and Dad shared much with the 300s. He purchased them at a time before the farm crisis, before man
landed on the moon and prior to $7 dollar wheat. Cold winter mornings, lonely nights cultivating and letting a
little boy sit on his lap wouldnt have been the same without either 300 tractor.

My Mom and Dad go out to Carrington, ND to see my brother and his family fairly often. People out there like
parades and they love old tractors. I hope this summer my Dad watches a parade and when the old tractors appear
he sees his old friends and his memories come clearly into view. Still wont use any oil, either.

Playing Fair

Its not who wins, it is how the game is played is a phrase I havent heard for a long time. Normally I wouldnt care because most phrases that are repeated often lose their meaning. This is a case, however when I believe changes in our society has caused us to cast this phrase aside.

Dwight D Eisenhower supposedly said prior to the D-Day landings that he wouldnt want a soldier who hadnt played football fight for him. Im sure there were many brave soldiers who werent athletes at Normandy but this statement underscores how important teamwork was to General Eisenhower. Learning to play together prepares us to work together in later life. This is a principle that many miss. Team sports promote teamwork and sportsmanship; not personal glorification. My parents would never have asked for a conference with a coach who hadnt played me enough. They knew one day I would have a boss who would make decisions I had to respect even if I didnt agree with him. Parents who pressure coaches on their childs behalf throw respect for authority out the window. The game isnt as important as the effect it has on young minds, people who fail to see that lose their perspective.


Lack of perspective manifests itself in the conduct of players and spectators. Players ignore their scholastic responsibilities and spectators act like theyre attending a Roman gladiator event. Inspired cheering is great however a crowd should never shout during free throws and should never yell at the official. I have even watched as parents yell at a coach during a game or undermine him the next day during coffee at the caf. Imagine if someone observed you at work and yelled each time you made a mistake-real or perceived. Imagine that coach as your young daughter during her first time out as a varsity volleyball coach. Imagine your mother is watching your conduct next time you attend a game. We all know what is acceptable; we just need to be reminded.

Sports teach respect, courage, teamwork and sportsmanship. Remember these four values and how important they are and youll never have to apologize, as a player or spectator, for not playing fair.

Angels Among Us

Each morning as I leave the house I am greeted by my dogs, Muffin and Rudy. I usually bend over and hug them
both. I thought I had only recently began this little ritual but discovered differently last summer during Mom and
Dads anniversary party. Old pictures had been posted on tagboard and one of them was me bent over and hugging
my dog. It was apparent that a dog in my life has always been like an Angel on my shoulder.

Before Muffin and Rudy came along my best friend was a Shepherd/cross dog named Buddy. Buddy always
accompanied me whether on walks or cutting wood. One day while we gathered wood along the railroad I saw a
train approach. I called Buddy over and held him tightly as the train passed. Buddy wiggled away from me and
was killed while I watched. I had never known real sadness until that moment. Susan Halverson was my boss at
the time and called to offer condolences and extra time off if I needed it. My family called as if there had been a
death in the family. There had been. My wife at the time finally helped me get passed my sadness. She told me
that she had planned to leave me that month but Buddys death had convinced her to stay to help me. We
eventually divorced but the time Buddy bought for us allowed us to work some things out and leave as friends.
Buddy exists now in my mind as he did then-an Angel.

I have no sad stories about my current pair of dogs. I hope the only sad story I can ever tell is that they only lived
until the age of nineteen instead of twenty. Muffin is very easy-going but Rudy is a middle-aged puppy who is
quite possessive. Muffin recently arrived at my door early so was hugged first. This did not sit well with Rudy at
all. As I hugged muffin I noticed the shadow of a three-legged dog on the snow in front of me. I turned my gaze
in time to see a cascading stream of urine as proof that Rudy had decided to cock his leg and make claim of me in a
most ancient canine way. Now Ive observed Rudy fail at this same little trick with everything from a pile of old
twine to a pail of feed so I know hes a terrible aim. I let out a little yelp, however and our eyes both met.
Rudys gaze belied the fact he knew he had chosen the wrong approach to gain my favor. I was too shocked to do
anything but give thanks that his aim hadnt improved. Considering our relationship and his doggy ways it
almost seemed logical.(appealed to the Vulcan in me-I guess)

Do Angels exist? Yes. Do they have wings? I dont think it really matters. I do believe that those who make us
feel special, help us appreciate life and give love without strings have some angel in them. The next time a dog
makes you cry, calms you in a tough time, loves you to death or makes you laugh until youre sick-consider your
definition of an Angel. I know I will.

Christmas Tour 2001

Christmas Tour 2001 made its final stop last night. My family shared Christmas festivities at my brother Darrels home. While it didnt last as long as the average concert tour or even as long as Hanukah, Christmas in my family continues beyond just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and thats why I call it the Christmas Tour 2001.

Lisa and I attended approximately four Christmas celebrations each with its own special food and drink. I have drank enough Irish Whiskey, Cask and Cream and Egg-nog that Im quite sure Ive kept several cows working overtime to make the necessary dairy products. I also ate lutefisk on Christmas day. It wasnt bad but I did spend the next several nights dreaming rubbery little fish carrying containers of melted butter were chasing me. All things considered the food and drink were incredible but Christmas isnt a great springboard to a new diet.

People ask if Santa was good to me. The honest truth is that I spend most of the year being good (too good) to myself so I really need nothing. Last week, however I was standing in my kitchen with three of my old watches trying to make one that would work. Lisa must have known of my watchless plight and presented me with a beautiful watch on Christmas Eve. She also gave me a calendar with pictures of cows to replace the calendar with pictures of barns from 2001. Each person in my family brought a mens or womens present and we all drew numbers to see who chose a present first. This is a time when first is not best. The people who choose their present after you may also take your present away and give you theirs. This adds a nice survival of the fittest edge to Christmas. Raised voices usually mark this little exchange however my brother Darrel was the Christmas Czar this year and kept control of our happy little mob.

Christmas Tour 2001 made its final stop and we are all tired and ready for this tour to end. We have good memories and warm feelings enough to last until the next time we hop on the bus, bake the lutefisk, dust off our guitars, make Irish whiskey and get ready to take this show on the road for the Christmas Tour 2002.


New Years Resolution

I will not make a New Years resolution this year-I never do. My experience with resolutions is that their goals are so lofty that they are not achievable. Worse is that these lofty goals give us so much short-term hope that we may throw caution to the wind. With the promise of change in the future, alcoholics binge one more time, gamblers spend one more paycheck and so on. This year lets try something different.

People have tried to change their outside appearance for years hoping to make their life better. I believe we need to change our insides first. Here are a few things that may make your life better and cost much less than the latest diet or exercise machine. Hug your children for those who have none or have lost a child this year. Kiss your spouse for those who will remember this year as one where the best part of themselves died and lies in a grave. Watch a sunrise for those who can only guess at Gods daily show of strength and beauty with eyes that never see. Find in yourself one heroic act for those whove died on a foreign shore so that you may taste freedom on a daily basis. Pray for those who cannot because they feel God was not present when they needed Him and cant get past their own hate. Pet you dog or cat and remember that your pet is an innocent reflection of you and how you treat them is a good indication of how you feel towards yourself. Finally feel lucky for those who have so much less than you do but feel they already have everything.

We all face the prospect of a new year as we analyze the year just lived. Each year offers it own problems and rewards. The only way to improve our lives is in our reaction to lifes story. Firmer abs and glutes may or may not improve you life however firmer ties to your family, a deeper appreciation for life and empathy for others make life better. If you must make a resolution then resolve to work hard, love deeply, appreciate each day and tell the truth-all else will fall into place.

1-800-COW-PSYCHIC

I can tell when something is amiss on my little farm even when Im not there. This might sound a little far-fetched but I dont think Im alone. I have even considered that maybe I just worry about my cows constantly and that sometimes things just happen but I do have some anecdotal evidence and a possible theory that explains the phenomena. Three years ago I was driving home and I felt uneasy. I knew something was wrong. About two miles from my home, I found my neighbors three horses out running towards a main highway. I was able to get in front of them and, with help from a passerby, put them back in their corral. I thought, Well, theres the reason I felt uneasy. I still felt nervous but dismissed the feeling. When I arrived home I found a heifer was loose and standing in the middle of the yard. I have had many incidents similar to this one. A person I once worked with said that when he was on his fathers farm his dad would always know when the bull was in a particular pasture and whether it was safe or not. I think this sixth sense is universal among cattle people and I dont think its so unusual. It might even be perfectly natural. I believe this will strike a cord with people who enjoys horses and other animals too. Anyone who raises cattle finds that they become part of the animals world. A cattleman/cattlewoman adapts himself to the rhythm of the livestock-probably without even knowing it. Cattle have been around for thousands of years and the undercurrent of their lives is very strong and steady. When youre one of the privileged few to be part of this society you easily notice ripples in the regular course of the day, even over long distances. Changes to the everyday cycle stand out and are easily seen or felt. Whether real or not, I think this explanation seems reasonable. At the very least its more reasonable than a tarot card reading at $2.99 a minute.

Spare the Fork. Spoil the Farmer

I am going to offend a few people. I want to look at cattle farming in a different way. Please read the whole article and then decide if you agree or not. Farmers need to be efficient. Not an earth-shaking concept. The keyword is be." Not buy. You can buy efficiency but you must really adhere to certain policies to make it profitable. You must use that piece of equipment a high percentage of the time. Every time it sits it loses money. If you buy the brand new skidsteer loader you finish chores in two hours instead of 5 hours. What then? The loader sits and does nothing and youre still paying for it. Do the cattle make any more money as a result of your finishing sooner? Ive thought about taking this route myself but always come to the same conclusion-Im cheap and don't come with payment book. Id rather spend my labor than my money. Less overhead makes lean times a little less lean. Do you like what you are doing? I do. I love being with my cattle. I dont need to get out of the cattle yard right away. I enjoy nothing more than putting a big square of straw in my 76 Chevrolet pick-up and bedding with a fork. I get a chance to see the cattle from ground level and I also get a chance to listen for coughing without an engine running. Cattle act differently when they arent getting out of the way of a tractor. You can see when they are down and need a visit from the vet. I hear the protests. The calls of burn him, hes a heretic or hes in league with the devil!. I know we follow the manufacturing model. The more you can produce per hour the less it costs to produce. This is fine but from what Ive seen you need to produce incredible amounts and make your money on very slim margins because of high overhead. You must also follow this model very closely. If you buy into the feed salesmans plan for feeding your cattle and leave a couple of steps out to save money, chances are it will not work as well and the margins become smaller. Are you using implants? If you implant only once instead of the recommended amount are you really getting much out of it? I think the one thing we all can do to maintain cash flow and maybe even increase our prices is to market. Unfortunately weve gotten into a catch 22." At a time when we should be marketing we instead buy more land, more cattle and more tractors. We are now even more busy than before and have even less time to market and to keep accurate books so we can analyze costs and losses. Sometimes just looking over your canceled checks can show you negative trends. We cannot buy an operation-we have to accumulate it over time. You cannot buy your goals. You have to work towards them over time. Finally, I do know that many of my ideas work only for the small or hobby farmer. Boy do I hate that term. Just because I have other jobs does not mean I am less serious than the next guy. Whats wrong with being smaller? Farming this way requires less equipment. We receive prices for our products equal to those from 40 years ago but the equipment prices are gauged to contemporary prices. I dont approve of restrictions on feedlots but fewer cattle on the same land do create a lower concentration of manure. Maybe smaller is the trend for the future. It sure makes farming more enjoyable and leaves you more time to be resourceful in marketing your product. Youll spend more time with a pitchfork in your hands and less with your rear in a tractor seat, however. But my Belarus tractor doesnt have a padded seat anyway so maybe thats not a bad thing

Trucker Fantasy Camp

Each Fall after the Boys of Summer have packed it up for the year another group takes their place. This group is virtually unknown and not as well paid but is equally dedicated. We are the people who take vacation time from our regular jobs and drive the trucks you see during sugar beet harvest. If I liked baseball I might pay for baseball fantasy camp but I do not and this fantasy camp pays me.

My brother, Darrel drove a truck and ran a rotabeeter for R and R Farms before I did. Darrel helped me get a job working for John Rehder and Ed Rosendahl about 10 years ago. Since then I have seen drive shafts twisted, diesel fuel pumped into an engine that operates on gas and have almost electrocuted myself lifting a box underneath an overhead power line. In 1999 one of the semi trucks was stuck with a full load on it. My boss told me to drive my semi out in the field and pull out the other truck. I laughed to myself as this is equivalent to a whale floating up on shore, joining flippers with its beached friend and then pulling him back into the surf. I realized he was serious only when two big John Deere tractors left us alone in the field. However after fifteen minutes, a broken chain and much colorful language we both emerged from a cloud of burnt clutch smoke into truck-driving history.

My nephew, Jamie, rode with me when he was younger. Two years ago Jamie began driving for R and R. I told my bosses they ould like Jamie because he was like me-without the big mouth. Last year my brother, Steve drove a truck also. There is talk about an all-Nelson shift but I dont think that will happen as John and I would miss talking about politics, UFOs and how the night crew is the backbone of the harvest operation.

The night crew operates in a sparsely populated sea of darkness populated by islands known as beet dumps. We haul to Warren, OMeara and Alvarado. These well-lit outposts contain the only people you ever see and I enjoy a few words with the people who work there. Tom Yutrzenka is the night foreman in Warren and was my neighbor in Viking. He along with his organized and friendly crew provide a nice break from what can be a tedious job. As with most jobs its the people and not the job that make it memorable.

The first week of beet-hauling fantasy camp is just that-a fantasy. The next week reminds me why I only do this for two weeks a year and I am glad this camp will close soon. Its been fun but now its time to quit for the year. I will put my half-gallon coffee thermos away and consider retiring. The following Fall will arrive and Ill crave shifting without a clutch, riding up high in the truck and talking to Jhn and Ed on the radio. I will lace up my cleats and head back to-Trucker's Fantasy Camp.

Christmas Time

Marilyn Hagerty's Christmas column has been a Yuletide favorite for my sister, Deb Waterworth for years. Deb wrote about the Nelson family Christmas and I thought I'd share it with you this week.

There's Mom in the kitchen baking lutefisk and making meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy. She made hundreds of Bohemian Kolache weeks ago in preparation for Christmas, as well as several different kinds of Christmas cookies. We kids paced around the house all day waiting while Mom, upstairs doing the last minute wrapping, completed her tasks. The fact each of us stole away to wrap gifts for Mom and Dad added to our anticipation. Dad was still in the barn milking and we kids waited anxiously for him to come in so our celebration could begin. Dad came in earlier than usual, to our delight. He and Mom must have been exhausted from chores and preparations, to say nothing of caring for the 5 of us, although it never showed. Dad would tease us about how long he would need to clean up before dinner and gifts. Our house seemed to sparkle with lights and excitement. Mom knew how to plan and execute Christmas at our house! With any luck, Grandpa and Grandma Zavoral would be out to share the evening with us although Grandma Nelson usually spent Christmas Eve in town with some of her other children and we'd see her Christmas Day.

At dinner Dad passed around the Lutefisk, offering us each a serving to our protest. Grampa, although Bohemian, shared it with Dad. We all knew it was a very special tradition to Dad and that's why Mom made it. Dad would rave about the meal and Mom would beam.Dishes were done by the older ones while the younger ones (you and Darrel) ran around making noise asking how long it would be until we opened gifts.

After dishes we all settled in the living room around the lighted tree. Mom had written the "Christmas Story" or other poems on scrolls and hung them on the tree for us to take turns reading . None of my 4 brothers complained when I played "Silent Night" on the old upright piano at Mom's request. Dad says how well I've done. The older children would hand out gifts to the younger ones creating a "pile" for each of them. When Mom says that all have been delivered properly, we were given permission to open the gifts. This is fully accomplished in less than 5 minutes! I open "Radio Girl" perfume from Dave and Steve and a Diary from you and Darrel. Mom has sewn new pajamas for us and slippers to go with them (I still love to go to bed Christmas Eve wearing new pajamas). Mom and Dad always gave us something we wished for plus some surprises. I always received a new doll and you boys got toy farm machinery and "cowboy stuff". Dad always requested yellow fleece gloves from Bjorkmans and pliers from Fleet. Mom gets perfume from Woolworths, embroidered hankies, and slippers. Mom and Dad gave each other a special gift and I would watch with anticipation to see what pretty blouse or sweater Mom received. I know she always had a nice shirt for Dad or something similar, but blue chambray shirts and work jeans were his favorites. Lastly, our dog Chipper received his gifts from us kids.

Soon we'd leave for the candlelight service at Zion Lutheran in Viking. I waited all year for this service. Afterwards we went home to crawl into our new pajamas and drift off to sleep. This is about all I, too, could take. I can't help but remember what Christmas was like back then and hope that the memories created in my home for my family will be as wonderful as those created by Mom and Dad for us all.
Peace,
Deb Waterworth

Grant Nelson
www.Highlandcattle.Ws


Your Life is Now

I like the music of John Mellencamp. His small-town sensibilities and lyrics really appeal to me. One of my favorite songs is Your Life is Now. I like this song but just the title holds an important message.

I have spent the last 8 years pursuing my own cattle herd and always increasing my numbers. I recently realized that I am very close to having as many as I want. The funny thing is I was always living for this moment and now achieving this goal isnt as rewarding as pursuing it. That part of my life which includes cattle was happening the whole time and I thought it would not begin until I had the herd I wanted.

The veterinarian, Dr. Johnson, was recently at my place and asked me the age of my dog Muffin . I told him she was seven years and old and he said he thought she looked older. I realized then that both Muffin and Rudy are going to get old and die. No matter how busy I am I now take more time to pet my dogs and they ride with me in the pick-up more often now. I have to enjoy them today as they will not be here forever. I need to make memories now so I can enjoy them later.

My life is passing by too. I am healthy and 35 years old but there are so many things I want to do. Sickness and death have touched my life and I now realize that I too am mortal. I think this is healthy because it gives you a deadline to complete what you want to accomplish-no pun intended. Discovering your own mortality gives life more immediacy and demands action each day.

So what does this mean? Get off the bench-be involved with your family and friends. Invite family over, make plans with your friends and take time to talk to people during the day. Pick a dream and do it- then take time to relish the moment. Plan for tomorrow but live for today-your future is tomorrow but your life is now.

Together Again

Thanksgiving Day we paused to remember all of our blessings then helplessly watched as one of those blessings was lost. November 22nd my girlfriends brother, Ross Walseth passed away. His funeral was this past Monday.

The poet, Dylan Thomas once wrote, Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. A loving family allied Ross in his efforts to fight the enemy that grew inside him. If a war can be won with love, theirs would be the battle plan. I have learned about Ross mostly from stories that Lisa and her family tell but its apparent that Ross lived his life in the same way he died-quietly, with dignity and his family always nearby.

I dont like being away from my friends and family. I occasionally must travel and will sometimes comfort myself by considering that the same stars, moon and sun that I see are seen by those I miss-only from a different perspective. We both share the same view, almost like theyre standing right beside me. That may be the way we need to think about loved ones that have died. We both are united in an experience as basic as enjoying the night sky-they in Heaven and us here on earth.

Rosss family will gather together again-probably on the deck at the house where his mother Jeanette and my Lisa live. If its a clear night well all look up to see the night sky and maybe Ross will look down to see it too. Then for a moment well all be together; the moon, the stars, Ross and us.

Letter to Dave

Dear Dave

Happy Thanksgiving from the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes to the land of ten thousand trees (including perennial bushes). I hope the holiday finds you, Mary and the kids doing well out in North Dakota.

I included our sister, Debbie, into "The Witches" in my column last week. Unfortunately a co-worker told her she was a "witch" at work and she shrugged it of as just another disgruntled employee. Deb, however read the column later on my website and cackled with glee.

Last week Lisa, her mother, her sisters and I went to the Rod Stewart concert in Grand Forks. It was so much fun. Rod was so entertaining and sang all his songs, both original and cover songs. Kari Lindemoen played violin for the concert. She is married to Randy Lindemoen who was my classmate. His brother's, Merlin and Norman would be more your age. Anyway the strings added so much to the concert and we all had a blast. Our brother, Darrel and his wife Melanie also attended and they loved the show. You might remember Darrel used to dress like Mr Stewart however jeans and a nice shirt were Darrel's attire this evening.


We finished my hay shed two weeks ago. Construction went fine until we had to put the tarp on but my neighbor, Lyle Swanson and his hunting party came by to provide some much-needed muscle. I am also in the final stages of mounting a snowblower onto my Massey 510 combine. I haven't decided if I will call it a snowbine or a winter reaper yet but I will let you know. I'm sure sleep will be hard to come by until you get my descision.

Better let you go-hope to see you at Christmas. (never X-mas. X wasn't born to save mankind)

Your little brother
Grant Nelson

The First Year

One year ago I penned up my old bull, Cyrus and broke his heart. It really hurt so I wrote about it and later decided to send it into "Yesteryears." Cameron published it and since then my stories have become a fairly regular feature. It's my one year anniversary and I want to review it.

By writing this column I have been able to document my life to some degree. Looking at past column's I see how quickly things change. This column was begun at a time when America felt safe within it's own borders-that has changed. At the time we were a nation that enjoyed incredible growth which has become muted and none were sure who would be the next President. We have now rallied behind the son of a past President who has defined his legacy very early in his term.

My private life has changed too. Last year at this time Lisa and I had just begun our relationship. We are now veterans of this relationship and have both grown. I have enjoyed feedback from people who read my column and I'm no longer surprised when someone tells me something and then whispers "but I don't want this to end up in the Herald."

Earlier this year I did an expose on "The Witches." This column suffered from a lack of research and I have since located three new witches, Teresa and Ana Hibbert and my sister, Debbie. All three meet the requirements for entrance into this coven. Good memories are the spells they create. Charm and personality are the potions they use to create them. They will make excellent additions.

The past year has been really good for me. Writing this column has made it even better. It's a constant reminder that life is good and would mean much less without the people who read it. Thank-you very much.

Facing our Fears

I want to talk about an emotion that weve all recently had to face-fear. The fear of pain, loss or failure
creates much more trouble than the pain, loss or failure does. Fear is a reaction to a perceived threat and is useful in that sense but it becomes a monster when we fail to control it.

During Franklin Roosevelts inaugural address in 1933 he said ten timeless words, The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. President Roosevelt knew he must fight fear as President just as we must all must fight fear in our lives. I have always said that I make my decisions based on facts and not fear. Deciding a situation is dangerous based on facts and avoiding it is healthy. Being fearful of any new situation is a recipe for constant anxiety and unrealized dreams.

Fear has many different allies. Laziness and procrastination find a hiding place in fear. If you can claim fear of a situation instead of admitting you are just too lazy to do the work it helps you save face. Fear looks for faithlessness to find a resting place. Fear craves weakness and itself fears strength of faith and character.

How do we defeat fear? Faith creates an environment where fear cannot live. Faith in a higher being, your family, yourself and your government eliminates fear and anxiety. The unknown causes fear too so become informed. Educate yourself and the unknown will no longer exist.

Fear has come to America through recent acts of terrorism. We all hear about Anthrax and other acts designed to create fear. This is a time to face our fears and gain strength from the experience. Look for the facts, find your faith, embrace your family and believe in yourself. Now go live your life.

The Farmer takes a Bride

I do lots of different odd jobs. One part-time job includes working at
wedding dances for private parties. I worked a dance this past week-end that
I want to tell you about.


Gary and Arlene Novak from St Hilaire approached me last spring about working
at a wedding dance for their son, Garret and his fianc Andrea. I usually
only work for people I know and I had worked with Arlene so I agreed to the
proposition. I arrived at the local National Guard armory that night and got
everything ready and sat down to wait for my assistants and the wedding party.

It was a great night. Everyone arrived fresh from the wedding dressed in
their best and the bride and groom arrived in a gleaming John Deere tractor.
It was easy to see they were proud and happy to be married. The first dance
was all theirs and I watched them with their foreheads pressed together and
thought about being young and fearless. They embraced their future as they
did each other. The unknown makes the future scary for everyone but Andrea
and Garret would now meet tomorrow together. The night had a rare magic
unique to a wedding dance. Husbands and wives remembered what good dancers
they used to be, family members reunited, the single wished they werent and a
community met its newest addition.

The night ended, we cleaned up a little and I thanked Gary, Arlene, Garret and
Andrea. I left with some new memories, feeling optimistic with a little
different way of thinking-and a story. And you thought I just poured beer.

Book Report-Giants in the Earth (part one)

The events of the past two weeks have stunned us all. There are many columns and articles that report important information and opinions. This week I want to do something different. I want to tell you a story-a book report of sorts.

I have used Giants in the Earth by O.E Rolvaag as a resource for my column in the past. I decided recently to read this book again. This book covers the travels of Per Hansa, his wife Beret and children Ole, Hans (Store-Hans or big Hans)and little Anna (And-Ongen or little duckling). Their travels begin in Norway then to Quebec on to Fillmore County in Minnesota and then to the Dakota territory. Ive read about half of the book so far so this is not a complete report.

Several things have stood-out so far. I cant believe how little people have changed since the time of this story which is the 1870s.Per Hansa reminds of a few people. Per Hansa believes he can accomplish anything by his own hard work. Several incidents in the book show Per turning tragedy into triumph. A neighbor, Kjersti, finds the settlements cattle gone one day. The settlers meals are based on milk so this is real trouble. Per Hansa leaves the next day (on a pony given to him by passing Indians in gratitude for Pers healing one of their tribe) and locates the cows. When he returns he has also traded for a young bull during his trip. The cows will no longer need to search for the company of men anymore. Per Hansa also turns confrontation with some claim jumpers into a chance to sell them potatoes. Per could be seen as a stereotypical strong male lead in any story but his compassion gives him much more depth and a more interesting character.

Beret is Per Hansas wife and represents many pioneer women. She is intelligent, strong, clever and scared to death! She fears a land where there are no trees to hide amongst and wants to go back East, although she never tells her husband. She would find many of her peers on todays farming operation. Women who take care of the home, maintain a second source of income and who fear the unknown. Berets main fear is geographical but she worries about her children, money, shelter and that her husband will work himself to death-the same as many wives. Beret also represents an unending theme in our world- even in great turmoil life continues. As Winter approaches, claim jumpers threaten and food gets short, Beret is pregnant. Despite all of the other worries, this causes nothing but excitement and happiness.


I will finish this book report when I am finished reading it. This book is of historical purpose
but its interesting to see people face life in much the same way we do. Id let you borrow my copy but there are at least 4 other people ahead of you. Check your local library.


Book Report-Giants in the Earth (part two)

I thought I would complete this report in two columns-it will take three. The temptation is to read Giants quickly as I am enjoying it so much. I am taking my time and looking back at previous chapters to make sure that I understand the relationships and the significance of each event that occurs. I also do not want it to end.

Beret has now given birth to Per Hansas child. The birth is incredibly draining and she nearly dies. However a son is born whos name is Peder Victorious. Last week, Hal Rosenheim sent me an email about how he enjoyed Giants also and suggested I read O.E. Rolvaags Peder Victorious which I now know is about Per and Berets son. During the birth Per is so worried that he even contemplates suicide or as Rolvaag writes the beam and rope in the barn beckon him. This is not the last time Per Hansa wants to end his life. Being a homesteader brings out every insecurity and emotion from the characters in the book.

In February the men of the settlement make a trip to gather firewood from the Tronders settlement by the Sioux River. During the trip a storm separates Per Hansa from the group. He knows that the proper thing to do is to kill one of his oxen and climb inside it for warmth but he cant do it. Old Soren and Perkel have become more precious to Per than just the value of their labor as draft animals. I love animals and this really touches me. Eventually Per Hansa finds the Tronders settlement and makes the return trip with the firewood.

The last chapter I read seems of real historic importance. Per Hansa and the others change their names. Simply changing Per Hansa to Peder Hanson is not good enough. People will not realize that they are good Norwegians by their name and may think the settlers are Irish or of other ancestry. Besides, the Swedish people have so many Johnsons, Olsons and Hansons that many Norwegians of the time changed their names if only to be practical. Many used the area they came from for a last name bringing about names that end with -stad , -dahl or fjeld Per Hansa decides on Holm and is delighted but Beret feels they are discarding their fathers names along with all the other sacred things they have discarded.

Finishing Giants is not something I want to do. I have made the characters part of my family. I have made my family part of the characters. I dont wish to leave them-but I will soon. By the way, the waiting list for my copy of this book is now six people deep.

Book Report Giants in the Earth (final)

I just finished Giants in the Earth. As this is a book report and not a book review I have decided to reveal how the book ends. Not many people enjoy the free time I do and probably wont read a book this long. As the author, O.E. Rolvaag died in 1931 I dont believe he would care if I gave away the ending and slowed book sales either.


The last 250 pages of Giants begins innocently enough. New pioneers join the Spring Creek settlers-Irish first and then the Vossings and Sognings from Norway. Soon, however there is trouble. That Summer and for the next approximately 7 years locusts come and ruin the crops to some degree. This is also a time when Beret begins to truly go mad. She feels this is the first of many plagues God has sent for living a godless life. Per Hansa finds Beret hidden in a trunk at one time and even suspects Beret might kill young Peder Victorious. Beret has been talking to her long-dead mother and thinks the boys Grandmother wants him. Pioneer life has been hard on Beret and insanity was not uncommon to pioneers.

The book spends a great deal of time on the importance of religion to early settlers. One day in June a traveling minister comes to the Spring Creek settlement. His words and ceremonies bring faith back to the settlers. While he is not able to cure Berets insanity he does bring her out of her catatonic state by telling her that the settlers have been living life the best they can and relieves her guilt. Beret becomes more functioning at this time and loving towards her family.

The Winter of 1880-1881 brings a terrible toll. Hans Olsa (a dear friend of Pers) ends up caught with his cattle in a storm. He gets very sick and is bed ridden. Beret wants Per Hansa to retrieve the minister for last rites and Hans wife , Sorine wants Per to find a doctor. The snow is at least four feet deep-everywhere and deeper in most places. Per knows he will die on this trip. After a bitter argument with Beret he leaves. Before he goes Peder Victorious comes out to the barn and tells his father that mother has coffee ready for him. Facing death Per Hansa is relieved and heartened that his wife has forgiven him over their argument but leaves without saying good-bye.

Hans Olsa died that winter. The following Spring some children came up to an old haystack and found Per Hansa-long since dead. The last line of the book is open to limited interpretation but I think it is the most touching sentence Ive ever read. His face was ashen and drawn. His eyes were set towards the West.

Starting Over


September 11th the United States was attacked. An unseen entity created death and destruction of property with a
relatively small loss to itself. A group located a weakness-an open window-and exploited it and hurt the United
States and the world. This is an actual event but it is also a metaphor for our lives and maybe a lesson for living
our lives.


The United States is an open society and that is partly why we are susceptible to this act of war. We dont have a
military officer on each corner and we pretty much go wherever we want to go. I however believe that we as a
nation have probably contributed to this act by our own attitudes and actions. Our government was originally
created to provide for the common defense of our people. Our government has branched out into many other facets
of our daily lives. This isnt intrinsically bad but detracts from the governments main purpose. Our security at
many airports is no longer as secure because people have become apethetic from lack of a perceivable threat. The
people of this nation fought for freedom and have many times. We, however take freedom for granted causing
other nations to question if we are perhaps weak. Finally I believe in the separation of church and state but the
over-zealous have also removed morality while trying to avoid state-sanctioned religion. This country is a Nation
under God and thats why we are indivisable. This is the source of strength we need to survive and to make other
nations respect us.

This is were lifes lesson takes place. The family unit began so that two people could raise a next generation and
provide themselves with security. A family was only strengthened by marriage-particularly when it went from a
civil contract to being recognized by various religions. Divorce, infidelity and too many detractions have weakened
the family and detracted from its original purpose. Its more of a rite of social passage than a tool to make us all
stronger and happier. Strong families raise good kids and make our society better. In my own marriage I
neglected to maintain our relationship. I got married and thought that was it. I didnt work daily to improve
things and I wasnt vigilant in defending the unions sanctity. I think many married people forget how much
work it was to create their relationship and simply fail to maintain it. Finally, your religion is your business but a
relationship needs faith. Faith gives strength and removes the anxiety that occurs in every
relationship-particularly as it changes and grows. Faith creates strength in a marriage, makes other respect the
marriage and keeps trouble away from us.

Our country has not been maintained properly. It will take our faith and support of Americas leaders to make it
right. It will take time but it will happen. Our societies condition can change today. We need to be there for
our families and our communities. People need to tell the truth, talk to their children and find faith. Something
positive must come from this terrible event. Tonights television includes stories of heroic efforts, people crowding
their churches, giving blood and clinging to their children. Maybe its already started.

Going to Rollag

People of the Muslim faith find it compulsory to make a pilgrimage to a place called Mecca. Mecca is the center of their world and also where the Koran started. This pilgrimage is called the Haj.
I make a pilgrimage every few years that while not a Holy act is very enjoyable. I call it goin to Rollag.


The Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion is a place that showcases our regions history. I first went to Rollag 3 years ago. I went alone but while eating dinner at the church food stand and among all those people heard my name called. It was my brother, Darrel and his family. I spent the rest of the day with them and had a blast. Steam engines really interest me so I had lots of questions to ask. We boarded the steam train and were transported around the perimeter of the grounds and back in history. Its no wonder people stopped working and watched the train pass by in the old days. Huge, loud and powerful scarcely describe this majestic machine-it must have made people feel connected to the East and hopeful that they were no longer alone on the frontier.

People tell me I should have lived back in the 1900s. I like my satellite TV, the Internet and my cell-phone but maybe its the simplicity that attracts me to life at that time. The first time I saw the little farm at the bottom of the hill at Rollag I felt like I was really home. The old house stood tall and stark without any trees around it. The barn was full of horses and tack. This was a farm where gas or oil-powered machines did not exist. The baler and threshing machine were both run by horses walking in circles around a power unit. I hate noise and this farm would have been a quiet place where a clear head would be easy to attain.

There are events at Rollag that are much less sedate. The steamers and oil-burners line-up daily to test their mettle again the pony brake-a version of the modern dynamometer. There is a machinery parade each day that reminds me of nothing so much as a group of Veterans marching at a Fourth of July parade.
Surprisingly some of the largest engines make the least noise. You can stand beside them and hold a conversation quite easily. This year Im going to Rollag with Craig Jonson and last week we both had hoped we would still be able to see the steamers in light of the recent explosion in Ohio. You can imagine the stack of OSHA safety laws this tragedy may inspire.

While the Steam Threshers Reunion is not a holy experience, I will approach it with reverence and it is a good representation of things important to me. Also, while I admire Muslims for their dedication to their religion I do not plan to lie prostate every few steps on my way up to machinery hill. That sounds like a good way to get ran over by an elderly gent on a Rascal scooter who is in just as much of a hurry to visit this piece of history as I am.
















Cyrus loses everything.then is restored.

I have always said I could see the whole world in my little farm and today confirmed that premise. I corraled my bull, Cyrus 2 days ago. I left three heifers that werent in heat to stay with him 1 days to help him transition to life alone. Those three heifers left him today. Nothing disastrous happened. No bent gates or corral pipe torn apartjust a broken heart. I had taken everything Cyrus had away from him. Even those three little heifers whom he had ignored were part of his world and now they were gone. Cyrus paced the perimeter of his lonely existence looking for a way out just like I have done figuratively myself. I felt his loneliness and lack of connection with his herd. I have felt outside the loop myself. He didnt try to break-outhe just seemed sad. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Cyrus had done nothing but be a good-tempered lover to my cows and had sired a nice bunch of calves. This kind of isolation was not a just reward. I thought the least I could do was give him something good to eat so I brought him a nice big square bale of alfalfa leaving the twines on so he wouldnt eat too fast and risk bloating. I remembered the phrase comfort food as this young bull immediately settled down. The cows noticed the new hay and soon gathered around the corral and Cyrus had his harem back. All was betterif not right. I have always been very independent and enjoy a certain amount of solitude but today I was reminded about how much we need each other. Family, friendseven three little heifers can make all the difference.

Paint your wagon (and other modern business management tools)

I recently visited my dad and mom, Gene and Alice Nelson. I told them that I was going a little crazy as it was raining and I couldnt get to my outdoor work. My dad told me that in high school his Farming instructor used to tell his class, now on rainy days, make sure you paint your wagon and dont go to the beer parlor. This was a way for my dads instructor to tell his pupils about time management using your time well. This was a lesson my dad learned well. About ten years ago our former veterinarian, Dr Frank Hazard, told me that my dad was the hardest working man he had ever known. I would like to amend that statement to say that my dad was also one of the smartest workers Ive ever known. Along with the paint your wagon time management tool, my dad also told me how he would plan to work on a project for 2-3 hours and then about the time his interest would wane he would move on to something else. This would give him renewed vigor and excitement for his work. Lastly is the pitching calf pen manure all day and getting it done work mode. My dad would work hard and steady but never to the point of frenzy. Put him on a task and he would finish it and still be ready for whatever was next. Contrast this with person who works himself into the ground, finishes 15 minutes sooner but then has to go inside for an hour before he begin working again. My full-time job requires me to attend various classes and seminars. Ive heard about paradigm shifts, time management, suffered through break-out sessions and have learned many new techniques. However, next time a speaker with a Phd in business plans to hold me hostage for an afternoon..I think Ill just go paint my wagon. No guarantee on staying away from the beer parlor though.

The Morn of Preg Checking (Head-Butts Revenge)
(A christmas-time re-take of "the Night before Christmas")

Twas the morn of preg checking and all through the house, I was the only thing stirring, the sticky trap got the mouse. My back-belt was hung round my middle with care, Anticipating lifting some cows derriere. The puppies were tied to a tire in the yard, Their main goal in life is making herd work hard. With one leg in my Car-harts and one in the bed, I watched Mick and Stacey and the news they read. When out on the lawn I heard a diesel clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tripped over a beer can and got a nice gash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, Made it look too dang cold to start this show. Now bear with me as I try make this rhyme, It was old Doc Cater and he was right on time. As I considered the task, ahead of us lay, I thought to myself-how bout Saturday? As I poured out some corn, my cattle they came, And I hacked and then coughed, and called them by name. Now Head-Butt, now, Short-Ears, Now Lil Miss and Kitten, Come on, Boss, Come on Boss- Uh-Oh, they listened To the top of the fence! Crash that bugger down! Just wreck the whole thing then well all go to town. The ground trembled before wild cattle on the fly, I hoped and I prayed and then covered both eyes. So up to the feeders the cattle they flew, I sighed with relief, Doc Cater did too. And then in a twinkling they went for the barn, Cattle intent on doing great harm. As I drew in my hand and was turning around, Out the door old Head-butt came with a bound. She was wearing a gate round her hairy black neck, and was leading the rest out the door, now wrecked. A group of young calves, had followed her round, And they looked like young cowboys, just out on the town. My hands---how they trembled! The vet dried my tears. I could see an impending breakdown was near! I was about to give-up, success was nowhere near, Then along came a man and eight tiny reindeer. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and was a round little bloke, Chasing cows, I thought, might give him a stroke. He was chubby and plump, but he was the boss, and he rode those reindeer, like a man and a hoss. With a wink of his eye and a shake of his mane, Elves poured out of his sleigh with pink cattle canes! He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And corralled those dang cows; then turned with a jerk. His mouth fell open and then it shut, He looked in the field, wed missed old Head-Butt. He sprang to his sleigh, with his foot hit the gas, He said, that ones too mean, well have to pass. But I heard him exclaim, as those reindeer peeled out. Im a cattle panel dealer, next week, gimme a shout!

The Calf

He was born in the wind and the rain. A product of his mothers love and her pain. A beautiful little calf-his mothers first. An event like this should never have been cursed. His mother was brave and worked very hard. But in this case, death played the last card. Mother made it-with help from the vet. Her wounds were fixed-like a leg youd set. Right now, I feel like Ill never again laugh. Tomorrow might be better-but today I buried the calf.

I had been hauling sugarbeets that day. Calving should have been done but this heifer had gotten a little late. I drove home that afternoon and noticed her laying on her side with her legs straight out. You dont see that much with cattle. They usually lay with their legs under them or just out to the side. I walked over to check on her and saw she had given partial-birth to a little bull. Seeing this beautiful animal laying there weak from her efforts on a rainy, cold day removed any doubt that the Devil is a real part of our everyday lives. I wished I could apologize to this animal for not being there but she needed help, not sentiment. Dr Johnson came out and was able to make things better. The heifer was so weak that I just put a halter on her and held her out in the pasture. I made her as comfortable as possible, buried the calf and went inside the house. The heifer healed but was not able to be bred until well after the other animals. My brother, Steve has both Spring and Fall calving so I sold the heifer to him and hoped she would be able to calve and enjoy a long and productive life. She deserved this at the very least. Months later I stopped by my brothers to visit and we went to look at his cattle. There was a gorgeous, black cow quietly moving her calf around. It was my heifer. I have no children so cannot know how a parent feels when his child graduates or gets married but I felt both my eyes and my heart fill. I felt like crying the day my heifer lost her calf. I feel like crying every time I see her now too. But now I feel like crying because I wish I still owned her. I can live with those tears.

The care, maintenance and feeding of the average farmer.

In the last few months several individuals from my social circle have found partners. Some of these people are friends, some family but all either farm or are very close to the life. Today I thought about what these relationships had in common and what some good pointers are for a being in a relationship with a farmer. Many of my well-meaning friends have tried to set me up with someone who liked cattle. This sounds like a logical idea but Ive always said that the cattle are my own uniques interest. I could not imagine life without cattle but they are only one part of my personality. I have many other interests and the farmers I know do too. Fishing, movies, sports, the arts, travel are just a few interests of my own friends. Hollywoods treatment of the farmer as a silent individual who does not know his own feelings is also a myth. Any person who is close to the land or close to cattle knows his or her feelings. Watching a cow give birth, planting and raising crops or watching the whole thing fall apart brings them face to face with their feelings on a regular basis. Farmers do not distance themselves from their emotions but rather embrace them as their emotions are one of the reasons they farm. What a farmer likes in a partner is probably what anyone else would-only more so. One day I was finishing up work at home and tried to get one more thing done before I went to see my friend, Lisa. I called her and said I would be s late. She told me that was not a problem. That kind of understanding makes me want to climb mountains and slay dragons to be on time the next time. Lisa also gives me balance in my life. Striking a balance is very personal and particular to each relationship but in my case it means getting a little more sleep and knowing when to call it quits at the end of the day. I also have trouble remembering that the world consists of people and not just cattle and Lisa gently reminds me; Call your mom or You should see your Grandma more. Farmers like someone who likes being at home. My neighbor went to London for his honeymoon, my brother Steve and his wife Jeana love dinner out when they can and brother Darrel and his wife Melanie have an ice-fishing house nicer than the first three places I rented. However, they know, home is best. Investing time, work, money and emotion into the place you live always pays back and a farmer knows this because he has already invested this way in the land. Lisa and I watched the movie Castaway last night. I could here her sniffle at certain emotional parts and I found it touching. We all need someone in our life, its just so much better when theyre the right person.

Strong Fences Make Good Neighbors

If you raise cattle or live next to a cattle farm you know the importance of a good fence. I would go further to say that a well-constructed fence is not only a complement to the appearance of the landscape but says much about the builder. Here are some personality types based on the fence they build. 1. The classic five-strand barb wire fence. This fence speaks of permanence, strength, stability and an incredible lust for work. 2. The high-tensile, low-impedance fence. This rancher is the son of the barbed-wire rancher, figuratively and maybe literally. Always a believer in new technology, he uses the 20 joule fencer that couldnt be grounded even when the salesman hung four crowbars on the fence wire. There have been a couple of electrocutions but all in the name of security. He tests his fence by trying to drive a tractor through it and is on four different fencing catalogue lists. 3. One rusty wire and a lot of hope. A fence that features a re-bar post every 75 feet and the fencer is one of Mr. Edisons original prototypes. This fence comes from the wrong side of the tracks and most likely lets the cattle end up on the wrong side of the fence. This rancher must attend church often because he sure has faith. Here are a few fencing tips that work for my cattle operation. 1. Post frequency. Fence wire is not heavy but a snowdrift will weigh it down as it settles. More fence posts help keep the wire from breaking and make the fence more visible to cattle. 2. Rust-free connections. Simply wrapping wire together breaks the galvanized coating and invites rust. Buy the crimped factory connections or the twist-wire type. One bad connection will not ruin a fence but many have a cumulative effect. 3. Weed control. Spray the ground outside the fence. This will keep cattle from reaching through the fence and ending up on the wrong side. I keep small pruning sheers in my back pocket to nip small trees and thick weeds. 4. Grounding rods. Use at least three grounding rods driven eight feet deep and 10 feet apart. I prefer to place the rods in the bottom of a ditch as moist soil conducts better. Some advice for the real world of fencing. 1. Plenty of food is the best fence. This is my favorite quotation. 2. Feed a little corn even when its not needed. Humans follow good leaders but cattle follow anyone carrying a feed pail. This will help if they do get out of the fence. 3. If someone notices your fence is not exactly straight just explain that its caused by the curve of the earth. I have done it myself and it always works. I love seeing a nice fence with green pasture. I read a quotation once that stated, People who plant Oak trees have poetry in their soul. I feel my poet come out every time I build fence.

My Barn

Many things bring people together. Holidays, tragedy and weddings are a few unifying factors. In my case it is much more simple. What brings a few important people and I together is my barn. I moved to my farm in 1996. Lloyd Noreen and his spouse Janice had already lowered the barn but it needed some more work. Lloyd and I became friends while we worked on remodeling the barn. We cut-out openings at each end for the doors and then built the doors to cover them. I came home from town one day to find Lloyd putting in new windows on the front facade. I recently had the roof tinned and the outside painted. Lloyd and I both loved the barn and I was happy that he could see the progress that we had made before he died last Spring. Clifford Lindquist was the person who started Lloyd as a farmer. I finally saw pictures of Clifford at Lloyds funeral. He looked so kind. There was a picture of Lloyd and Clifford together and I could see Lloyd admired Clifford as I admired Lloyd. I can see what Clifford wanted from my barn by the way he built it. I always try to remain true to Cliffords intention for this farm and I am amazed at his forethought. I think he and I would have been friends just like Lloyd and I. A couple of years ago when I first started living here my dad stopped over for the first time. I was so surprised when he told me that he used to keep his draft horses in this very barn. My dad grew up about seven miles from my place and he would walk here to plow for Clifford. I can not imagine walking here and back plus plowing behind horses all day. I now walk into my barn and imagine my dad as a young person hitching up his horses and cheerfully going to work. I never thought I would come that close to knowing my dad as a young person. I am lucky to have had three strong influences in my life, one whom I never even met. I like being part of a line of history that hopefully will not end with me. Clifford, Dad, Lloyd and me-Im in good company

Letting Go

Each spring I have to let go of some of my cattle. I sell steers and cull cows. I hate to see them go but I have to let go just as we all have to do in our human relationships. Its usually a June morning when Howard brings his truck and trailer to my place to haul away cattle. After we have loaded the cattle I am relieved-and a little sad. The last thing I do before they leave is look into the trailer and tell them good luck." I have done everything I can to assure continued success for these animals and now they are gone. I really miss them and it hurts. I think this happens with people too. Parents raise children, people fall in love and we all make friends. You give the best of yourself to each relationship so its hard to see that part leave. There should be pain in letting go. If you part from a relationship with no feeling of loss you havent invested much into the relationship. I am there when a calf is born, if it gets sick and as it matures. I invest time and effort as a parent invests love and patience. I sometimes sell an animal and think, How will it get along without me. It does fine. Children do fine in the world apart from our influence because of what a parent teaches the child. They honor you by how they live. I need to cull cows because they dont fit in my operation. They are fine cows but are too big, too small or just do not fit. I could hold on to them but what good would that do? I do not believe our destiny is a birthright but a product of our choices. Why keep a cow that doesnt suit me when it might be perfect for the next farm? My ex-wife and I divorced seven years ago from a marriage that satisfied neither of us. We could have held on but letting go returned my happiness and hers too. I traded my sadness for the possibility of joy. Friends become part of our life and then they leave. Are they no longer a part of our lives? I used to talk to my friend, Lloyd, about many things. Even though he has passed I can still hear his words of advice when I have a problem and feel his encouragement when Im unsure of myself. Loved ones move on but their memory and the impressions they make on us stay. We can only hope to do the same for them as we let go.

Week-end Warrior

I mention occasionally my dislike for the term Hobby Farmer. I believe this phrase isnt a compliment and is not accurate. I know several people who have jobs in addition to farming but most of these people have plans to farm full-time or are trying to accumulate what they need to farm. They enjoy farming but its far from a hobby. Calling one of us a Hobby Farmer is similar to describing the National Guard or Army Reserves as Week-end Warriors. In either case these two entities not only represent a large portion of their industry but sometimes receive the disdain of their full-time counterparts. I read an article recently that said the average beef herd in the U.S. is 35 head and that the large herds make-up only one-third of the beef producers. The columnist said that small herds are normally not profitable and must have other reasons for existing. There are many small herds that are profitable mainly because of low overhead and good management. Some people have found that bigger is not better-better is better. Registered herds that sell bulls and replacement heifers have traditionally done very well and small commercial producers are now marketing directly to the customer for higher profits. My neighbor told me that the new term for the part-time farmer is Sundowner. This refers to a person who works a job all day then comes home and works until sundown. I can live with this term. Didnt your parents work on the farm until dark? People who work 15 hours a day deserve respect. Farm families have taken in laundry, worked at the general store, done custom farm work and taken winter jobs from the very start. These people are described as hard-working, industrious, independent and very recently-hobby farmers. Until very recently many of the farms in this area were what now would be called hobby farms. I dont know the origins of the phrase hobby farmer but the IRS uses the term so maybe they started it. That would make perfect sense. Let's blame them.

The Inquisition

I am dreading tomorrow. Tuesday morning I will meet with my Farm Business Management instructor, Danie Packard. He and I will construct my cash flow and financial statements and then file my taxes. I always feel organized and prepared as we begin but feel whipped and beaten as we finish. I like to call our little sessions The Inquisition. Papal approval created the original Spanish Inquisition in 1478 to weed out people who had insincerely converted to Christianity. It was a search for truth much like my instructors search for lost pockets of profit and assets. The inquisitor of the middle ages used very brutal methods. This sounds familiar. The inquisition featured tortures which pale in comparison to contemporary methods. Hours spent in a small room going through Finan, Finflo and Turbotax (various accounting programs) will reduce even the most committed, zealous farmer into a blubbering mass willing to confess to anything. We always start with cordial words and coffee but soon questions like how many heifers did you transfer, did we depreciate that over seven or 15 years and my favorite what percentage of that expense do you want to use have me wishing for home and mother. I spoke to Lisa last night and told her I would need plenty of soothing words and hand-holding after today's little session. In the past I have coped by going straight home, locking the front door, changing into my pajamas with the feet already sewn on, sucking my thumb and muttering quietly to myself. This year I am going to try something that leaves me with a little self-esteem. Lisa and I are going out for dinner- I just hope she doesnt make any sudden movements. In reality my Farm Business instructor helps me so much. I am lost without Danies financial assessments and help with taxes. Hes also very dedicated to his job-I would bet he is at home right now sharpening his pokers , oiling the wheels on the rack and making sure his whips are in good repair. You dont often find that kind of dedication.

A Little Magic

Lately there have been many expose television programs on magic. I dont pay much attention to the exposes or the magic shows that inspired them. I did however see some magic this winter that greatly interested me. Northwest Minnesota doesnt often see fog in the winter but it happened recently. I drove home from league volleyball when I noticed a beautiful, orange moon. The trees along the river were shrouded in fog and their outlines were blurred. They seemed huge and held creatures beyond my sight. The tallest tree just broke the outline of the moon and I could see a gray squirrel dance across a branch highlighted by the hazy, orange light. I let my imagination run and thought I could see an owl hiding in the shadows on a lower limb. The dull yard light highlighted the pasture and my cattle seemed to almost float as they walked to get some water. The beauty and magic of the fog blanketed the night that was energized by the animals that live here. I thought about what I had seen that night. A small border collie was hiding along the road and came out to chase my car when I passed. This little animal was following a primal drive to pursue that which he enjoyed. He knew what he liked and did it-magical knowledge not possessed by most people. I passed a nice farmstead recently purchased by a young couple. It was recently uninhabited and seemed lonely but now there were people, horses, new fence and a new beginning. I was happy for them. That night at volleyball we won both matches-not just magic but real evidence of divine intervention. Everything that happened that night could happen any night. There was no sleight of hand or magic wand involved but it all reminded me of what is important and how good Ive got it. The real magic was that I was finally able to see it.

Letter to Dave

I always enjoyed the letters that Marilyn Hagerty wrote to her sister and then published in the Grand Forks Herald. I followed Marilyn and Constant Companion (CC) as they discovered new restaurants and new experiences. My brother, David, lives in Carrington, ND and I rarely see him so I thought I would try Mrs. Hagertys newspaper format. So, while I realize I am walking where giants once trod and with a nod to Marilyn Hagerty and Erma Bombeck , I now give you a Letter to Dave. Dear Dave, I am so excited. I just finished drawing out plans for a calving pen/cattle working area for my farm. When I finish this beauty, farmers from every corner of the globe (at least Dad and Mom) will come to ogle my creation. Ranchers will cry, gnash their teeth and fall to the ground in the glory of this testament to my own desire to keep myself busy. I also located a cupola for my barn. I had almost given up when I located one quite close to home. I consulted our brother-in-law, Mike, last night about plans to build my own wooden windmill. He gave me some good engineering advice and the phone number to a psychologist who bowls on his league. Our nephews, Jamie and Andy brought Cecil (my other bull) home last week. He and Cyrus (current herd bull) battled the first day but now its mostly posturing and trash-talking. I did however discover that its not a good idea to stand between Cecil and a pretty heifer. My physical wounds will heal but I cannot guarantee the psychological scars will ever repair. Jamie went to Texas this week with Christi for spring break. I instructed him that if he saw George W to tell him hes got Grant Nelson in his corner. Lisa went to Little Rock, Arkansas to see a friend. I instructed her that if she saw Bill Clinton to make sure she stays with friends in a well-lit area. Mom and Dad stopped by last week. I saw them coming and feverishly washed up some coffee mugs and closed the cupboard doors. We had fun and theyre both fine. How is your family? Did you sell you pick-up? Speaking of vehicles I had my third flat tire this winter. It happened while I was on my way to work. Fortunately it happened just before midnight so I could enjoy my misery in solitude. Ive always enjoyed changing a flat in freezing mist so it was mostly a positive experience. Well, I better go, I have some high-level pacing and coffee drinking to finish. Tell everyone Hi. Your little brother, Grant

Dave Writes Back

My brother, David, responded last week to the letter I emailed him. David is the Service Manager at Erickson Implement in Carrington, ND and is teaching farmers how to use a field guidance system. He wrote a story about this I thought everyone might enjoy. WHEN I SIT HERE WRITING THIS EVENING ONE THING IS EVER PRESENT IN MY MIND. GPS AND CASE IH LIGHTBAR GUIDANCE SYSTEMS. SINCE JANUARY 31, 2001 I HAVE BEEN DEMONSTRATING THESE SYSTEMS AND GIVING SEMINARS ON THEIR OPERATION AND APPLICATION TO THE POINT THAT I CAN THINK OF NOTHING ELSE. IN CASE YOU WONDER, A LIGHTBAR GUIDANCE SYSTEM IS A SMALL LIGHTED BAR THAT IS MOUNTED IN YOUR TRACTOR, SPRAYER, OR FERTILIZER SPREADER. IT USES GPS SIGNALS TO GUIDE YOU STRAIGHT IN A FIELD WHILE APPLYING CHEMICALS, FERTILIZER, OR SEED. MY SEMINARS REQUIRE ME TO AWAKE AT 5:00 AM AND PREPARE TO LEAVE HERE BY 6:00 FOR A SMALL TOWN COFFEE SHOP AND AN EARLY MORNING BREAKFAST MEETING WITH 10-15 FARMERS. THERE IS USUALLY A STOP ON THE RETURN TRIP FOR A VISIT AND A DEMONSTRATION WITH SOMEONE ALONG THE WAY AND THEN I RETURN TO WORK BY 11:00 AM. WHEN MY DINNER BREAK IS THROUGH I BEGIN CALLING THE FARMERS THAT I WILL MEET WITH TOMMORROW MORNING. I DON'T KNOW IF IT IS THE INTEREST THAT I HAVE IN THIS NEW HIGH TECH MARKER SYSTEM OR THE CHALLENGE TO BE , " THE MAN", THAT EVERYONE LOOKS TO WHEN THEY WANT TO BUY A GPS SYSTEM THAT KEEPS ME GOING OR IF IT MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH MY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES RIDING ON THE OLD TWO ROW CORN PLANTER. WHEN I WAS DRIVING BACK TO TOWN TODAY MEMORIES OF SITTING ON THE PLANTER AND RUNNING THE LIFT LEVER AND THE ROPE FOR THE MARKERS WERE GOING THROUGH MY MIND AND I WAS COMPARING THE OLD MARKERS TO THIS NEW GPS MARKER. THE OLD MARKER REQUIRED DAD OR WHOEVER WAS RIDING ON THE PLANTER TO STOP AND LIFT THE PLANTER WITH A LEVER AND THEN PULL A ROPE TO ALTERNATE MARKERS. TODAY'S MARKER REQUIRES A KEYPRESS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST ROUND AND ANOTHER AT THE END OF THE FIRST ROUND, FROM THERE ON YOU MUST ONLY WATCH A BUNCH OF LIGHTS TO GUIDE YOU IN THE NEXT ROUND. WHEN I LOOK AT WHAT I AM DOING I THINK THAT I MUST BE A LITTLE MIXED UP, I AM GOING THROUGH A LOT OF WORK TO SELL THESE THINGS. MAYBE IT WOULD BE EASIER TO JUST RIDE ALONG AND PULL THE ROPE ON THE OLD TWO ROW PLANTER. BUT I WILL CONTINUE MY HIGH-TECH WORK AS I DON'T WANT TO END UP PARKED IN THE TREES-LIKE THE OLD PLANTER.

Redemption

A favorite theme for my column is redemption. You can recover from almost anything-a sin youve committed, loss of a loved one or personal disaster. Redemption is an abstract term but recently Ive found tangible proof of redemption. A fire occurred three weeks ago at my nephews place. Jamie lost the building, a tractor and two beautiful little puppies. My Dad lost his grain truck. This was a combination or emotional and property loss that really hurt. All the usual things happened; fire trucks arrived, we called the insurance company and everyone was in shock. It was a scene highlighted by despair. Jamie began by using a backhoe to clean-up the buckled concrete and debris. He also took bids on a new building. Yesterday my Dad purchased another grain truck that he really likes. He and I went for a drive in it today and I was really impressed. I spoke to Jamies girlfriend, Kristy, and they now have a Yellow Lab pup. Kristy said the puppy has some of the best characteristics of the two puppies who died in the fire. Things are getting back to normal. We live with our losses and probably never really forget them. We can recover and sometimes even come back better than before-certainly stronger. Bad things happen to us yet somewhere along the way find- redemption.

Calving Time

I dont know anyone who thinks of baseball in the spring. I know thats what a young mans mind is supposed to turn to at this time of the year but I only know of one spring activity-Calving Time. Since late February sleep has been something other people enjoy. Ive spoke to a neighbor and my brother and its currently raining little calves. This is a fun time of year. This is an anxious time of year. I love watching a cow and her calf as she nuzzles him along on a sunny spring day. I hate watching a cow pace the fenceline looking for a calf born dead. Calving time requires hard work but demands passion. Passion for the animals and for this life fuels your hard work and helps keep your knees high in deep mud. You even get to be a hero. Quick, good decisions and resourcefulness sometimes decide life or death for a cow or calf. Before birth, a cow will find a spot by herself and may act a little anxious. She may not show up for hay before calving and her bag is ripe as a melon. Id like to say she finds a nice spot with plenty of straw but most likely she locates the nearest snowdrift in which to calve. A heifer is calving for the first time so it take a little longer. Its tough to let her work because you want to help. Cows normally give birth more quickly and are a little more pragmatic. I saw one of mine lay down to calve only to realize I was feeding corn. She stopped her labor, literally ran to the trough, knocked a few others out of the way and ate. Two minutes later a newborn was laying by her side. Thats the kind of cow that makes you feel like buying a few more. I must confess that I calve in the Fall so most of my information comes from others anecdotes. I know others are calving right now and are probably getting a little worn-out. Take heart! You are doing something most will never get a chance to and worse yet they dont even realize what theyre missing. Lets get those calves on the ground!

Equal Opportunity

My sister, Debbie, is a someone who invents her own destiny. I only
recently included her in my column and previously she had felt a little
"left out". She wrote this little piece in a moment of feeling excluded.
I thought it was funny-I think you will too.


Dear Grant,

I might as well confess that I feel a little
left out of your column at times. Having 4 brothers with a love of farming
running thick in their blood, it's not the first time I've felt left out.

Having 4 brothers, I was also deprived of the "opportunities" of riding the
tractor endless hours. Being the eldest of the bunch, I did spend many
nights in the barn helping with milking. However, as soon as
you guys were old enough, I was relegated back to the house to help Mom with
the cooking and cleaning. I remember one particularily long summer when I
was feeling "discriminated against" because of my gender. If only I could
help with the haying, I could spend hours outside, away from the toils of
housework and also improve my
tan at the same time. Dad and Mom agreed to let me give it a try.

I donned my cutest sleeveless t-shirt and my shortest shorts and happily
trotted out to the load of alfalfa bales that needed to be loaded on the
bale elevator. Unfortunately, women at that time had no Phy-Ed class beyond
10th grade and no experience with weight lifting. The bales were
particularily dense that year and I struggled to load each one on the bale
elevator. Soon, my forearms and the fronts of my legs were bleeding and
scratched up from the bales and my arms and hands were becoming more
fatigued with each bale unloaded. I had to give up and retreat to the house
where baking cookies,
sewing on my 4-H dress for the fair, and taking care of you and Darrel now
seemed like a "piece of cake".

I do remember enjoying farming, though. When I was 9 yrs old and Dave was 6
we drove the grain truck. Dave sat on the seat and steered and I handled
the clutch, brake, gas pedal, and
shifter. Between loads, we sat on the hood and roof of the old truck and
killed grasshoppers by squeezing the "molasses" out of them with a straw
around their throats. Really quite extraordinary that we all turned out as
well as we did. I did, however, retain a love of the land and country
living. Luckily, I married someone who loves gardening as much as I do and
who tolerates my love of copious amounts of flowers. I guess that is my tie
to farming. I couldn't live without it.

Signs of Spring

Life begins again with the dawning of Spring. We are dangerously close to summer to look for signs of Spring but I see them everywhere. The signs I see have less to do with robins and flowers and more to do with my cattle
and actions of my neighbors.
My friend Lloyd always liked to cultivate a high ridge he owned just to make the neighbors a little nervous. I think farmers get eager to enter the field even without Lloyds good-natured prodding. I visited my neighbor, Curt, last week and I noticed he had gnawed his fingernails very short so he is definitely thinking about Spring planting.

Apparently this behavior crosses state borders-at least during planting and harvest. My brother, Dave said farmers come into his shop and say, I guess I am going to need my
tractor a little sooner than I thought neighbor is already in the field. Although their neighbor may just be picking rock it does help drum up service work and in some cases even helps to sell tractors.

I develop my own nervous mannerisms during Spring. I calve in the Fall so I have many feeder calves whos sense of adventure has just reached full bloom. A trip outside the fence creates an enjoyable daytrip for them as
it reduces my life expectancy by a few days. I never walk through the kitchen without looking out the window to make sure everyone is still inside the fence. A group of trees, an odd color in a field, a Magpies flight past my window or even one of my dogs can look like a calf thats escaped. Tonight when I came to work I saw a garbage dumpster behind a building and I thought it was a cow. I quickly realized this was impossible but the moment of terror reminded me it was Spring.

The most traditional sign of Spring manifesting itself as mental infirmity is pyromania. Those kitchen matches sit there all Winter begging for use. I love the look of a nice, clean ditch but lack the guts and the large liability policy necessary to burn with impunity. Runaway crp fires give local fire trucks a chance to hit highway speeds but can cause real damage. Actually most burning occurs under strict control but accidents do happen.

Flowers and Robins are an indication of Spring for most people. I saw a Robin walking on the snow twice already this year do Ill stay with my own signs of Spring- wild cattle on the loose and nervous farmers.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Its too bad the Founding Fathers didnt leave a manual with instructions on attaining happiness. I have my own manual that works for me.

I believe people do not always want what makes them happy. The best life has to offer is very basic. Family, friends, the land, animals and living simply have a long history of making people happy. Only recently have we discovered that we need new tractors, a new truck and kids who are in many after-school activities. A well-maintained older tractor and truck work just as well and the kids need their parents influence more than coaches or teachers. I believe in sports and the arts its just that these activities sometimes deprive us of our children and deprive them of our influence. My sister has a full-time job but likes to be a home as often as possible. She says she wants her son to know that shes always home and available even when he is not there. We need to want the right things.

People dont follow their dreams as they should. You start out in life with a dream but you compromise too much and the dream is left by the wayside. I need to work to make a paycheck but I still have my sights firmly on my dream of a full-time cattle farm. My paycheck makes my life but my interests make it worth living. I have forgotten my dreams at certain times in my life. Without a dream, I am not me. If you arent pursuing your goals in some small way you lose the best part of yourself. You may not have a full-blown love affair with your dream but you should at least flirt with it a little.

Finally, Happiness follows Faith." I cannot tell you how many times Ive said to myself, Im using too much brain, I gotta find some soul. I think we make the mistake of believing we are always in charge. We need to believe in our laws and have faith in our public officials. More importantly we need faith in God. I have built temples in honor of myself, money, and my other ambitions only to watch them crumble. Money does not equal Love, Science does not equal Religion and a big screen television is not one-half of a happy relationship. I always find Faith in tough times but sometimes forget when things are going great. I place all my Faith in myself-not a smart investment.

The movie 8 Seconds is about a bullrider, Lane Frost, who died at a rodeo. I watched it last week and in one scene life wasn't going very well for him but in a reflective moment he said to himself, I love this life. Life can get hard and a little confusing but with little work I think we can all say the same.

Feeling Important


I think most people like feeling important-I know I do. A job, my cattle or anything I do that creates money makes me feel important. Only recently have I had a little enlightenment.

I sometimes perform a task for a friend and then later think of how I could make money performing that same task. When I later make money doing the task I never feel the same sort of sense of accomplishment. My need for importance eclipses my satisfaction at performing a task well. As I look at my life I find greater happiness in the things I do for free.

Each day I feed my dogs, Rudy and Muffin. This is an unpaid position but it is a blast. Rudy weighs more than 100 pounds but his front feet never hit the ground. He dances and pirouettes, runs into me and constantly steps on my heels. Muffin quietly follows us both but wags her tail and licks my hand after I fill her dish. My cattle usually push me around at feeding time but watching them eat gives me great satisfaction. Cattle can be a big responsibility and seeing them eat and knowing where their food comes from gives me a lot of confidence. I am doing something that only my Dad or an older person could do when I was younger. I also enjoy it when someone asks my advice. I recently went with my friend, Craig, to an auction to help buy a tractor. He ended up with a nice 2010 John Deere and I ended feeling good at giving a little assistance.

When I look at each example I realize that in each case I was needed. We all like to be needed-we dont survive long without it. Being needed makes us feel good-matter of fact it might be the only way I know thats an acceptable way of-feeling important.

Letter to Dave

Dear Dave,

You are now the brother of an authentic Lounge Singer. Lisa and I, along with friends from Viking, attended the Lori Morgan/Sammy Kershaw concert this past week-end. Prior to the concert, we all went to the lounge for a couple of drinks. Unfortunately I was pulled from the crowd to lead the men in song while a band played. It was actually quite fun although a little embarrassing. Lori Morgan and Sammy Kershaw were so good. At one point I leaned over to Lisa and said, "these two are in love." She agreed and pointed out Lori's ring. They later announced that they were engaged. The concert really elevated my spirits-afterwards I felt like anything was possible. Lisa and I talked about things I can't print here all the way home-it was great.

Closer to home I have finally completed my crowding chute. I would equate this project with my own personal Panama Canal. No one died but my spirits needed a little intensive care during each rain storm. I finished it Friday and loaded out my calves on Saturday. I sold my calves to a neighbor about three miles away. I guess the calves felt a little home sick because one was already back Sunday night looking for home and Mother. I can understand those feelings. I still get a little weepy each time I have to leave home.

I wrote about Cyrus, my bull, in my first column. I learn from my animals and Cyrus is no exception. Unfortunately lately Cyrus has taught me mostly about fear. He has become more aggressive towards me since I purchased his replacement, Cecil. Although I have a lot of emotion in my farm the bottom line is that I need to produce a product. My product is meat and Wednesday Cyrus will be shipped to the locker plant. I've always said that cattle end up offering us their life but we should make that life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. I think both Cyrus and I have performed our part of that contract. I hope in the end he feels the same way. Hope all is well for you.

Your brother


Grant Nelson

My Hometown


I currently live just a few miles from Dorothy, Mn and drive through it on my way to Red Lake Falls. This little town lies just off of Polk County 23 and was probably very busy at one time. Theres a fair-sized elevator there and I can imagine people coming from across this area to deliver grain and get a bottle of soda from the machine and compare yields. We used to do the same thing in my hometown.


The Viking, Mn elevator seemed like a skyscraper to me and I enjoyed the fast pace of trucks coming and going. The Soo-line railroad would drop off cars on the siding to be filled and I would look down the long, straight tracks and wonder where they went. Years later I would find out when I went to Harvey, ND for my brothers wedding. He even married the daughter of a railroader. My hometown of Viking once had a bank, two stores, an elevator, a caf, post office and two churches. The caf, post office and the churches are still there. I used to ride my bike to town after chores and sit with the others kids in front of the post office and listen to a radio. I still drive to Viking once in awhile to see my family. The town looks great.

I miss my old town. I love my new farm. I cant have both. I'll always have memories of growing up in that great little town, however. I loved the Viking Elementary school and never wanted to leave. I had a crush on my fourth grade teacher. I wanted Beef cattle like John Gustafson or Melvin Grandstrand. Eventually I left Viking Elementary and Mrs Anderson was already married to a great guy. However, I have some cattle from Melvins bloodline and John stopped me at the grocery store and told me he enjoyed my column. You take the good with the bad.

You can take the kid out of the country but you cant take the country out of the kid. Its too bad more kids dont have the chance to enjoy the memories I enjoy. Then again, not everyone can be from my hometown.

The Witches

I didnt realize my friend Lisa was a witch when I first met her. I later found her mother and sisters were witches too. The broom at the door should have been a clue but it wasnt. What made me realize the truth about this little coven was how they make people feel and the effect they all have on me.


Magic comes in many forms but the only real magic comes from appreciating what we already have or making life special. Making life special is the substance of the spells the Walseth women perform. Our first date began with Lisa, her mother Jeanette and I sitting on the deck. Jeanette put me at ease. I would have stayed there all night but I had planned a movie that first night so I thought we should leave. Lisas brother-in-law Craig told me months later that he has always has felt at ease at Jeanettes house too. Craig is an intense person so apparently Jeanettes powers are strong.

Lisas sisters, Lori and Jill began calling me Granty-boy early on in our relationship. They cast a spell of inclusiveness and warmth that made me feel welcome. Jills little daughter Kara sings, dances and guarantees a next generation of witches. Lisa and I were at Jills one night when Kara asked Lisa and Jill to dance in a circle and sing. I had just revealed my witch theory that night and this seemed like confirmation of that theory. I leaned over to Craig and said, If they start levitating its every man for himself!

Lisa has bewitched me in a very personal way and continues to make life great. However sometimes when I look into her brown eyes I wonder if maybe this witch thing is more than a metaphor. She has told me about stories when she has known the answer to a question not yet asked. She and her mom really decorate their yard for Halloween too. Recently she mixed a home-made potion for treating tree diseases and gave me a recipe for repelling mosquitoes. Hmm, makes me think that maybe she really is..Nah, couldnt be.