Baxter Black: Who’s in charge? | TSLN.com

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Baxter Black: Who’s in charge?

Sometimes we forget who's in charge.

There has been so much concern lately regarding man's ability to change the environment. We worry about cutting down the forests, damming up the rivers, endangering the species, warming the globe and paving the wetlands. We have begun to wonder, somewhat self-righteously, how on earth the earth ever survived without us!

Then we have extreme weather.

We watch floods in Arizona, avalanches in the Rockies, blizzards in the breadbasket and the mother of all storms closing airports from Albany to Atlanta. Secretaries of state, lettuce growers, Sierra Club members who always paid their dues, cowboys, geniuses and self-made millionaires all huddled in their little holes waiting for Public Service to turn the lights back on.

Human beings are pretty small potatoes when Mother Nature decides to put us in our place. And those of us who live on the land seldom need reminding of our status in the pecking order.

When you have to leave your four-wheel drive out on the road for a week and walk the half-mile to the house, it's a humbling experience for both you and General Motors.

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When you can't feed for three days and only lose two cows, you are thankful.

When the flood washed away the machine shed but spares the house, you consider yourself lucky.

When the temperature in your orchard doesn't reach freezing as predicted, you know you've been spared.

It has to do with deadlines.

People of the land meet a different kind of deadline. It is not manmade. A reporter must meet an arbitrary deadline. Like this column. I must have agreed on the deadline and it can't be changed.

But every livestock producer, fruit grower or wheat farmer plays the odds. He gets his work done on time only to find God has changed his deadline. We can only do the best we know how and hope for a little luck.

I was a grown man the first time I saw the ocean. I watched the waves wash upon the shore. The timeless inexorable cycle of nature impressed me to the bone. I realized that in spite of our good intentions, our technological advancements and our privileged place on earth, that man, is just a water skipper on the pond of life.

From the smallest snowflake to the most awesome volcano, we are reminded that someone else is in charge.