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Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: Warmer weather, emotionally weary, updates, BLM horses, clinics, benefits, be praying

It's 50 degrees here as I write this, with bright sunshine and water running everywhere from the melting of the abundant snow. I'm sure glad for the warming temps and promise of spring. It's been a long winter for most and we are weary.

My family is particularly weary as we have taken another devastating loss. In February we lost my beloved brother-in-law and we were still reeling from that when word came that our brother David has passed away in Los Angeles where he had lived for many years. Most folks didn't know him as well or at all, as he wasn't into rodeo or ranching like some of the rest of us, plus had left the area fairly early in his working life. But, he truly loved this region and even bought a place just over the line in Wyoming which he had enjoyed immensely. He was such a good man and a lot of fun to be around. Those of you who did know him will remember his wonderful grin and his adventurous personality. He lived every day to the fullest and wasn't afraid to try new and different things. He would spontaneously decide to do something and usually took one of us along to do it with him, totally without advance planning but always with a wonderful outcome. It's good that he lived that way as he died way too young at 67, going on 40. I'm sure going to miss him.

I got an update on Dakotah Winsor who was injured in a vehicle accident a back in February. She is home in Kaycee, doing PT and healing. She travels to Denver to Dr. appointments and is recovering well.

The federal government, in an effort to download a bunch of their unadoptable feral horses in their BLM pens, are going to be offering $1000 reward for adopting one of them. It will be a $500 payment during the first 60 days, then another $500 when the animals become titled a year after the adoption date. With hungry people all over the world, we keep feeding livestock that could be feeding humans. Regulations and the anti-everything people are the cause of the continuing problem.

The monthly horse sale at Worland, Wyo will be March 29, 5 p.m. There are lots of nice riding horses already lined up for it. Contact Scott Heny via Facebook for details.

The W Arena, Cody, Wyo., will be hosting a Rope 2 Win Ladies Open Breakaway on March 30. You enter at noon, rope at 1 p.m. It's a $250 added with two full rounds and top 10 to the short go. It's $150 cash entry fee. Call Ben Williams at 307-899-2857 or Kate Williams at 307-899-5031 to learn more.

There will be a medical benefit for Frank Myers Saturday, April 6, at the Pat Duffy Center, Ft. Pierre, S.D. Doors will open at 4:30 with a silent auction, free will donation supper at 5:30 with a live auction to follow. There are some fabulous items already lined up for the auction, including some stallion breedings from Myers Performance Horses of St. Onge. If you want to donate items, call Tara Hicks at 605-280-7702 or Shirley Dennis at 605-683-9872. There is an account set up at First National Bank, 307 Hustan Ave, Ft. Pierre, SD 57532. Frank is battling bladder cancer and this will help to defray the medical expenses.

Northern Hills Little Britches Rodeos #7 and #8 will be April 19 and 20, 1 p.m. and 9 a.m. respectively. Entries are due April 5. It will be at the Event Center, Rapid City, SD.

There's going to be a Lisa Lockhart Barrel Racing clinic at the Event Center, Rapid City, S.D., on April 8 and 9. $600 includes lunch and one stall, and there's a $300 non-refundable deposit required. Taking 12 riders. There will also be a barrel race the night of the 8th, details to be announced. Call Lindsey O'Keeffe at 307-401-2555 to get on the list and for further info.

The Big Horn Rodeo Circuit Queen competition will be April 20, 2 p.m., at the Basin Rodeo Grounds, Basin, Wyo. Girls must be at least 14 years of age and applications need to be in by April 12. Call Melissan Timpany at 307-272-7312 for details.

SDHSRA people, regional rodeo entry deadline is April 15! Entries can be emailed and payments mailed. Get on that right away and don't panic before breakfast on the 15th because you've put it off!

Well, that's my circle for another week. Please be praying for all the farmers, ranchers, townspeople and businesses that were devastated by the blizzards and floods in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. It's a terrible mess and isn't going to let up soon. There are many very legitimate groups taking donations to help them out. This paper will have a list in it.

Pastor’s Wife by Normal Elliott: Things We Want Our Boys To Know

I recently came across this picture in my file and a document on my computer that made me smile. The title was, "Things We Want Our Boys to Know." It was a list that my man and I came up with years ago. Our list was just a reminder that we didn't want our boys to grow up and not know how to do certain things. We sat down at the table one evening, about the time our boys were in middle school, and sketched out a plan.

Although some of the things on the list they were already learning, we had met far to many young men who didn't know how to do certain things. We both had grown up with dad's who taught us so much and we wanted to pass that along to our boys. At times we forgot about "the list" but along the way, it reappeared reminding us of our quest.

I wanted to share this with you, exactly as we wrote it……..

Things We Want Our Boys To Know

1. The Lord

2. Value of Family

3. Choosing a Wife

4. Financial Responsibility: Earning a living through something they love, balancing a checkbook, marketing their God giving abilities and knowing their value is high and worth being paid well for their field.

5. Hard Work and Education: By combining the two through work experience and knowledge of their field they can excel. Being teachable, willing to learn and share with others.

6. Maintenance: Basic vehicle and home repairs, changing oil, tires, checking tire pressure, air filter, wiper blades, and fuses. Home Repairs: Basic electrical, plumbing, and building.

7. Horse Stuff: Ground Work, round pen, judging confirmation, feed & feeding, hoof care, shoeing, disease, what to watch for. Tack repair, leather work, and what to do in a bind.

8. On the ranch: Wind milling, water work, range management.

9. Hunting: Gun cleaning and safety, calls, leading hunts.

10. Knots: Different knots for all occasions. Loads, tying up horse, and misc.

And……..Driving, a standard!……

So, here we sit more than fifteen years later, our oldest Clay, 28, and youngest, Jake, 26. Both men, both good men and once again we look at the list. We slowly read over each one and ask ourselves, how did we do? We laugh at some of the things, such as home repair…….we had a little contracting business, the boys spent their summer working for us….they'd rather forget it! The next summer we made money cutting and baling hay…..the boys each drove a tractor, all times of the day and even at night. Our youngest son laughs at the vehicle repairs and remarks…"The kind of trucks we drive, we have to know that!"

Leather work? Two saddles, headstalls, bridles, and I have lost count of the leggins they have made.

Horse stuff? Both have shown horses, have trained and been many miles day working.

Since my original post five years ago…we now have a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Our youngest did an excellent job choosing a wife. The older one has a steady girlfriend and the future looks bright.

Some things on the list happened by accident, unintentional, while others we were quite deliberate about

……..like balancing a checkbook…..this wasn't one of their favorite lessons, but we struggled through.

……..asked a saddle maker to teach them to make their own saddle. It's amazing what people will help you with if you ask. It did take a little bit of cash as well, we saved some money and off they went to make their own saddle.

………a spur maker, in California, had them in his home for a week and taught them to make spurs……….

"We thank God for the opportunities that He made possible for our family….I can't explain it any other way!!"

We also saw strengths and weaknesses in certain things. One of the boys is better at vehicle repair and the other a stickler for details.

What is it that you want to teach your children? It could be a basic list or a more detailed list. Look around and decide what it is that you want them to know. Even if you forget at times about your list, if you commit it to God and ask Him for help, you will be surprised each time the list reappears.

Psalm 37:5 NIV

"Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this."

Lee Pitts: Everythin I Know I Learnt In Collage

Over thirty years ago Robert Fulghum wrote a short essay that overnight made him one of the most beloved writers in America. The essay was called "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." It contained sage advice such as, "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit. Flush. Take a nap every afternoon. Be aware of wonder." The essay was read into the Congressional Record, recited by Paul Harvey and quoted by Dear Abby and led to a multi-book deal for Fulghum who, by the way, had once been a working cowboy, among other jobs.

I'm afraid if Fulghum's essay was written today to reflect current attitudes it would be called "Everythin I Know I Learnt In Collage" and would contain modern day wisdom such as…

• Go in debt $200,000 to get a BA degree in blog writing and then go back home and live with your parents until you're 35 and try to land a job waiting tables.

• Climate change is real and the earth will self destruct in 20 years if we don't stop cows from farting.

• America is a rotten place and our founding fathers were a bunch of creeps and jerks.

• Success in life is best measured by the number of your Facebook friends and You Tube subscribers.

• Anyone who makes over $100,000 a year should have to pay 90% of it in income tax.

• The energy that powers electric bikes and electric cars is all produced by windmills and solar panels. All coal plants should be shut down and while we're at it, we should tear down all dams.

• The stock market is evil.

• It's a waste of time to learn to spell or write because a computer will do that for you.

• It's not impolite to put your phone on speaker and talk loudly in a crowded restaurant so everyone can hear both sides of your idiotic conversation, nor is it impolite to roll down your windows and turn your car radio up so high the base notes register on the richter scale.

• Joining the Army, Navy or Marines is for suckers.

• Eating too much Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream won't make you fat because its founders were greenies.

• Species didn't start becoming endangered until loggers, ranchers and miners stated wiping them out.

• The only way to get rich in America these days is to buy a winning lottery ticket.

• You should put more thought into the design of your tattoos, your computer passwords and what emojis you use than you do in selecting a "partner". (Notice I did not say spouse.)

• All Americans should be ashamed of themselves for all the evil things our country has done.

• Everyone should be entitled to a free college education, free medical care, a good job and paid maternity leave for both the sperm and egg donors.

• All cops are evil and kneeling during the National Anthem will stop them from killing black people.

• Books are dead, rap is forever, skateboards and social media are the future.

• Humans were never meant to eat meat or wheat, or drink milk. Vegans rule!

• Socialism is much better than capitalism and the best examples of the utopia-like conditions possible under socialism are the havens of Cuba, Venezuela, and the former USSR.

• All men are jerks.

• If a person finds himself or herself deeply in debt for school loans, is presently living out of their van with no job prospects, one can always go back to college for further education and a PhD and then become a highly paid college professor who knows everything.

Baxter Black: 90% Taxes is Nothing New

This year I'm having a déjà foo.

I remember learning in high school social studies that the maximum income tax then was 90%! I was stunned! Over the years I watched President Kennedy reduce the max tax to 62%. In 1989 Reagan reduced the max-tax to 28%. Tax Creep rose then George W. Bush knocked it back to 30% after the 9/11 depression and now, President Trump has used tax relief to lift a chronic economy out of stagnation.

It is an old cycle.

Lately some politicians have proposed Socialism as a future for America whereas max-taxes of 70 and 90% are demanded. But do you think well-off Americans will pay these exorbitant taxes? OF COURSE NOT! This is America! A good businessman will call his lawyers, accountants and brokers to invest his money back into his own business, donate to charities, buy bonds, etc…all TAX EXEMPT!

In the 70's they bought cattle feed in advance, they bought barges, railroad cars, built apartments, bought farmland, funded construction and invested their money back into the private sector. They preferred to choose how to invest their own money themselves rather than hand it over to politicians. It was good for them but it left the middle class businessman struggling to get ahead.

I'm a good example. In 1982 I moved from a regular check to entrepreneurism with no "financial expertise or advisors," so the government took half my money! It was tough. Sometimes my airline ticket was more than my speaking fee!

I owe two presidents credit for making it possible to convert this "workin' for wages cow vet" into the self-supporting cowboy poet that I became. In 1978 President Carter deregulated the airlines. Suddenly the airlines had competition and travel became affordable. Then President Reagan dropped the tax rate from 50% in 1983 to 28% in 1987. He let me keep my money to invest in my own business! I took off and never looked back.

This cycle of raising taxes – depression – lower taxes – expansion – tax creep – overspending and raising taxes, repeats over and over and over, like the tide. It is a battle of opposing political mentalities; Group One – liberals, live by words…lawyers. Group Two – conservatives, live by actions…businessmen.

Each group looks at the government's responsibility differently. One wants to be Cared For, the other Left Alone. I don't question either one's motive, I just assume it is money and power. To those who are pushing extremely high taxes on the "rich", remember they are not stupid. They will invest their money into their business, construction, infrastructure, research, industry, create jobs, erect a wall around their home in San Francisco, donate to Detroit Public Schools Foundation or some worthy cause before the government can take it from them. And finally, sky high taxes will also stifle low and middle class entrepreneurism from succeeding and leave them to join the 44% of Americans that pay no federal taxes at all.

Right or Wrong, I quote:

"If you are not generous when you can afford to be, it marks you as a small person. However, being generous with somebody else's money simply marks you as cheap."

Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: What a storm!, congrats, clinics, schools, rodeo schedules

I am absolutely stunned at the force and damage of the recent storms that inundated the nation in over 23 states. From hurrican winds in New Mexico that blew a train off of a trestle, to a blizzard with 80 mph winds and epic flooding in South Dakota and Nebraska, blizzard in Wyoming and tornadoes in the southeast, it's been absolutely terrible for so many people and their livestock and livelihoods. I was spared all but the wind in the last one and nearly feel guilty even saying it. My heart goes out to all those who weren't spared.

Congratulations to Belle Fourche's Hannah Johnson and her great horse Kourageous Hope, aka Stuart, on being awarded the National 100 Mile Award by the American Endurance Ride Conference 2018 at the awards ceeremony earlier this month. This great duo compete in endurance races from five to 100 miles.

I also want to congratulate Jace Johnson, New Town, N.D. And Ashlee Jaeger, Newell, S.D. on winning the NTR National Finals V National 9.5 Finale in Wickenberg, Ariz. They team roped together in the draw and pocketed over $25,000 roping four steers in 39 seconds.

The GPIRA folks need to get their memberships paid for, including the personnel and arena help. You can go to http://www.infr.org for options on how to buy your card. The season's coming up soon!

The AQHA is implementing the use of microchips to better I.D. Horses. You won't be required to chip your horses, but it is a new option as they are now capable to entering the 15 digit number into their database and it can be on your horse's file. It would be a solid way of proving ownership, identifying horses that are displaced in floods or fires, or verifying that a horse is who it is preported to be. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is placed in the tissue on the horse's neck.

The Cati Stanko Breakaway school is coming up April 7 at Chadron, Neb. Tuition is $200 with $100 deposit required. Lunch is provided and it's limited to 10 students. The deposit is due April 1. You can mail it to Brianna Tonjes, P.O. Box 115, Hay Springs, NE 69347.

There will be a Ty Tuff Goat Tying clinic with two time CNFR Champion Kayla Nelson Spickelmier at Newcastle, Wyo., April 19-20. You can contact Misty Harrington at 307-941-0365 for details.

The 2019 Bothwell-Weischeidel Bull Riding and Bull Fighting school will be April 18-20. Instructors for bull are Brett Stall and Jobie Dryden, instructor for bull fighting is Cooper Waln. Senior bulls and bull fighting will be $300 and Jr. Bulls $275. Call Thad Bothwell at 605-381-9166 or Rachel Bothwell at 605-381-7914.

Big Horn Rodeo Circuit has released it's schedule. Dates are as follows: May 4 Spring Rodeo, Cowley, Wyo.; June 1 Party In The Pasture, Meteetsee, Wyo.; June 7 Days of 49, Greybull, Wyo.; June 29 Mustang Days, Lovell, Wyo.; July 4-5 Ten Sleep Rodeo, Ten Sleep, Wyo.; July 20 Cowley Days 70th Anniversary, Cowley, Wyo.; August 2 Washakie County Fair Rodeo, Worland, Wyo.; August 3 Big Horn County Fair Rodeo, Basin, Wyo.; and Sept. 2 Labor Day Rodeo, Meteetsee, Wyo. Call 307-899-0789 for details or go to the Facebook page.

Mark your calenders so you don't miss it! The 26th Annual Casey Tibbs Match of Champions PRCA sanctioned bronc ride will be June 1 at the Stanley County Fairgrounds, Ft. Pierre, S.D. Tickets go on sale May 1.

May 12 is the date for the Spring Tune Up Horse Clinic at the W Arena, Cody, Wyo. It will have a 9 a.m. Start and you can learn new things and sharpen up what you're already doing. It's a ladies only clinic, sorry guys, and will take 12 riders. It's $125/rider and $35 to audit. To get more info or to register, go to http://www.oliverhorses.com.

The Dawson Jackpot Association will be holding their youth rodeo series at the Ted Casey Arena, Glendive, Mont. Dates are May 30, June 20 and 27, July 11 and 25, August 8 and 22. Ages 0-18. For info call Ashley at 406-939-1356. Pre-entries are takent the week ahead of each date.

This is just a reminder to be kind to your neighbors. They're sometimes going through something that you have no idea about. Be an encourager instead of a critic.

Well, that's my circle for another week. I hope the snow has shrunk some by the time you read this. I personally am ready to have a color other than white in my box of crayons.

Lee Pitts: The Best Summer Of My Youth

I've had a lifelong love affair with Angus cattle despite an inauspicious beginning to my cattle career. Near the end of my freshman year in high school I got a $350 loan from a kind-hearted banker and bought the meanest Angus steer that ever lived. He was also a chronic bloater. My ag teacher picked him out for me and that's the last time I ever let anyone buy cattle for me.

I named my steer Abe, built a nice pen and kept it spotless. I had to feed Abe every morning by six because that's when he wanted his breakfast and if I was one minute late he'd ball and wake up my lazy neighbors. I invested $300 total in Abe and spent over 350 hours cleaning his pen, feeding, grooming and trying to gentle him. Despite his angry nature I loved that steer and cried when they hauled him away. Interestingly, the only time I ever won showmanship at any fair was with crazy Abe! In the final analysis I lost $13.50, thus establishing the pattern for the rest of my checkered cattleman career.

Despite the heavy financial loss I couldn't wait until my Sophomore year to do it all over again. I'd learned a thing or two the first time, so I wasn't going to let my teacher pick a steer for me at the auction barn. I did my research, contacted Mr. Dow of the Superior Angus Ranch and immediately fell in love with an Angus steer I named Abner. He looked just like the poster of the ideal Angus steer the Angus Association sent me. Abner was the Grand Champion county fair steer and overnight I became the richest kid in my class.

The next year I went back to the same place and bought a steer I named George after my grandfather, which I'm sure touched him deeply. George was also a County Fair Grand Champion and the minute a photo of George appeared in the county newspaper mentioning how much money I got per pound I soon became my parents's loanshark. I also bought 4 registered Angus heifers and a bull because I'd fallen in love with showing cattle and going to fairs. I wanted my own mini-show string so I joined the American Angus Association, framed my membership certificate and covered all the walls in my room with pictures of showring winners.

The next summer I went to 5 fairs, including the state fair. Due to my age, at two of the fairs I had to be chaperoned by a local FFA advisor and my grandpa accompanied me to the others. He loved the show road as much as I did and I put him to work with a pitchfork picking up the hot ones, if you know what I mean.

I showed my cattle in both the junior and senior divisions and usually won in the junior division classes, often because I had the only animal. But when I went up against the large purebred breeders my bull stood dead last every time. This was due to a lack of conformation and conditioning and because the pros cheated. They heated the backs of their animals with a heat lamp and rolled them with a rolling pin to make them flatter, dyed their cattle jet black, fudged on their birthdays and injected air to make their animals appear more muscular, or their udders fuller. I know all this because an old herdsmen took pity on me and taught me the tricks of the trade.

We were all like one big gypsy family until the last fair of the summer when some idiot got into the show barn one night and untied every single animal. I found two of my heifers in the swine barn, another cavorting with Holsteins, and caught my bull with a big smile on his face breeding several of the open heifers belonging to the professionals. When they realized their prize winning heifers might be infected with sperm from my inferior bull they besieged the fair veterinarian in search of "morning after" pills.

I quit the registered business shortly thereafter, the Angus Association quit sending me the Angus Journal and to this day some Angus breeders blame me for any genetic defects that might show up in the breed.

Britt’s Witt: A calf shipping story

As the month of fat flying cherubs comes to an end,

and we're all hoping March and calving can be friends.

I come to you with a story that's mainly true and a little not,

and a few pieces that I've forgot.

A vet and her husband were hauling hogs.

One to the butcher, two to a friend, and picking up bones for the dogs.

When rounding a corner and what should she spy from under her cap?

A perfectly whole porcupine, taking a little pavement nap!!

But with no place to turn a trailer, and many miles ahead,

The perfect reclaimed arts and crafts project was left for dead.

Her husband is a little of the romantic kind,

and decided on the return trip to pick up the porcupine!

Carefully loaded and set down just through the stock trailers back gate,

and this my friends is the future of much cussing and hate.

For five days later in the early morning twilight.

The vet would scream and cuss and be on the fight.

She would question their calf's heritage, mother's, and brain cell amount.

She'd cuss the old dog, the young dog, and a few other things she can't count.

She was loading calves to make it early to the Tuesday sale,

and why in the world would the calves not load and it was all going to hell!!

When finally a lead calf let out a beller and jumped, his comrades following behind,

did the memory of the St Valentines gift enter her mind.

The porcupine still quite stiff, looked to be a smiling a bit,

as she rolled him out of the back of the trailer and wondered about her own wit?

Life is full of ups and downs and a few pokey scenes,

but all and all the life of a rancher is quite serene.

So bless the market and the new calves hitting the ground,

and may your love of the life and your wife continue to abound!

Baxter Black: The Rookie DVM

How many of you have ever had a new veterinarian out to your place? You think you're scared!

One of the hazards of a livestock veterinary practice is that it is the one specialty in vet medicine where the client almost always knows more than the new graduate veterinarian! Ya, see, in vet school we spent years learning diseases and treatments. We were taught hundreds of possible ailments that might afflict yer critters.

By the time we finally escape and are turned loose on the unsuspecting public, we are bursting with knowledge. They've packed it in our brains like sand in a rat hole! Only problem is, we haven't figgered out which diseases get priority when we're tryin' to come up with a diagnosis.

Say I was lookin' at a feedlot steer with a swollen foot. My brain would be swimmin' with possibilities – ergot, frost bite, fractured sesamoids, BVD, corns…While I'm sifting my computer-like memory bank for tests to run to determine how to diagnose the limping steer, the feedlot cowboy is shuffling his feet. It's the third steer like this he's pulled this week and the 99th one he's seen in the last five years. He knows what it is. The odds are in his favor.

Or the rancher with an Anaplasmosis cow. He's seen hundreds of them. The new vet's never seen one! Same with Erysipelas in hogs or bumblefoot in sheep.

New livestock vets learn a lot their first year, thanks to the kindness and patience of many livestock producers.

The new vet that goes into a dog and cat practice still have the same problems sorting out priorities but the average dog or cat owner is not as knowledgeable in pet diseases. Horse practice is probably the strangest of all specialties. Backyard horse owners are much like pet owners in that they really know very little about the ailments of their equine.

But those brave new vets who take up racetrack practice or a horse show specialty face a mysterious clientele. In addition to the extensive list of legitimate problems and treatments encountered, they must also deal with a blithering array of mythical ailments and mystical treatments. Superstition, patent medicine and secret ingredients abound in the horse world.

So all I can ask is, when you have a "wet behind the ears" graduate veterinarian out to your place, cut 'em a little slack. Who knows – with your help they might amount to somethin' some day.

Varilek’s Cattle Call: Market trending slowly up

I am happy to be coming to you with news during an up trending market. The live cattle futures and cash prices continue to rise. The speed of the rally may be slow, but it is welcomed nonetheless.

Open interest continues to increase meaning more traders are entering the cattle futures. The debatable issue is what this means for the market. The bears will say the funds need to exit which gives the chance for a break. However, I do not want to fight the trend with that and personally view it as the strength of the market. Old sayings always seem to arise within the markets… "The trend is your friend."

Demand has remained surprisingly strong for the last several months. We still have the best seasonal demand to come with grilling season approaching. It looks like the groundhog was a liar this year, but I promise the snow will eventually melt.

I love being friendly cattle, but the higher markets have created some nice hedge opportunities. Currently we have an overbought market with the continued rally. Hedgers have really increased the pace this week with straight hedges and options. Option prices are relatively low with the volatility in check. Having the choice to lock in the profit or stay open is sure more fun than watching profits slide in to the red.

The summer months have us all a little nervous with an increase in supply, so I am not opposed to find a hedge strategy. The front market seems to be on solid ground with the winter conditions and spring demand around the corner. The winter conditions are friendly the market now, but keep in mind it will back more cattle up in to summer marketing.

The USDA cattle inventory report last week leads me to believe this summer will be the peak "On Feed" numbers for the cattle cycle. Increased female slaughter in 2018 and a 97% rate of heifers kept for breeding are the two factors that bring me to that conclusion.

That should be plenty to chew on for my first week with you. I am praying for all of you fighting weather and needing some relief. The bright spot is we have profits to take as cattle producers.

The risk of loss when trading futures and options is substantial. Each investor must consider whether this is a suitable investment. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Simmental cattle

Politics and religion aren't always for casual conversation, but should be addressed before entering into marriage. If you're a ranching couple, that's only the tip of the iceburg of "major" things you need to know about where the other stands. Preference on cattle breed(s), pickup brands, dog bloodlines, desirable equine traits, table versus rope and drag, steel or aluminum trailers, to name a select few, are among the topics that can cause the honeymoon phase of a relationship to end with a crash.

In my case, I was fine driving Dodge pickups, had no issue with English Shepherd cow dogs and got along well with my husband's good horse. But, when it came to cattle, I gave a great deal of thought to the breed his family had raised "forever." Simmentals.

My hesitation stemmed from personal experience. Around 2010, my dad bought some weaned steer and heifer calves to winter. They were out of Simmental cows and a low birthweight Angus bull. Nice calves. Nice enough that we decided to keep four of the heifers as replacements and breed them.

One came up open the following fall, resulting in three of them showing up the calving pen the next spring. That particular spring my dad and brother were gone the vast majority of the time hauling hay. I was heading up the daily ranch chores with help from my mom when she wasn't gone with her paper shredding job.

The first Simmental heifer calved, and lost her calf because I was gone feeding and she didn't lick him off and he chilled down. Okay, some individuals are just not meant to be mothers.

Then, I was short a cow in the calving lot one morning. There wasn't a wire out of place or a clue of any sort as to where she went. I had everything written down, and hadn't had children yet, so my mind was still sharp enough to keep track of an exact head count.

Where I grew up, you cannot just find a cow if she decides she wants to disappear. It's rough country with lots of deep draws and areas to hide. But, I still did a circle, with no leads.

I had to get on with the day's feeding and water checking, but kept a close eye out for who I had determined was one of the Simmental heifers.

Then, while heading to check water at a well about a mile from the house, I saw a black bovine in a draw. I buzzed down, and here was my missing heifer, with a dead calf hanging out of her.

Oh, great.

The calf had also apparently pinched a nerve or something, as she was struggling with her back end. Maybe he was hip-locked. I sat there for a few minutes, pondering the situation. Obviously, she was not going to make it the three-quarters of a mile back to the house, across two pretty good draws. I was home alone that day, with no one expected until evening.

Eventually I formulated a plan. Home I went to gather up calf pullers, Rompin, a syringe, everything needed to sew up a prolapse (assuming that was likely next in her life story), and a couple ropes.

Back up I went. While far from impressed with her in general at that exact moment, I was grateful she possessed the docility of an aging Collie dog. I finagled her closer to a nearby fence, and was able to give her a shot of Rompin thanks to her wobbly back legs.

Then I backed off and waited, listening to the Jeopardy game show song play in my head repeatedly.

Finally, she started to drool, then laid down. A few more minutes passed as I waited for the Rompin to take full effect; one didn't just do this sort of thing with the cows, or heifers, I was raised around. At least, not without a horse under you. Then, I took the rope, looped it over both back feet, and tied it off to a gnarly cedar fence post. The post's cousin, located down line a quarter mile, broke a chain when we tried to pull it the summer before. Consequently, I was confident it would hold her.

I was able to get the calf pullers in place, and said a silent prayer this would not be the day I pulled a calf out of a cow in pieces. I had never experienced that, and really wanted to keep it that way. Logic said that wouldn't happen in a single night, but, it nonetheless seemed prayer worthy at the time.

Fortunately, the calf was still fresh, not that large, and the pull was pretty easy. I was taught to be extremely careful whenever pulling a calf, and I didn't have to rotate him or do anything special. My conclusion was her docility gene was directly tied to her push gene.

She was kind enough not to prolapse, so I untied her and left her alone to allow the Rompin to wear off. She was in the pasture we kicked our heifer pairs into, so odds were she would get hooked up with them when she was back up and about.

Shortly thereafter, the third Simmental heifer calved, got up, walked away and never looked back. My dad and I took that as a life lesson on the breed, deciding we never wanted anything else to do with them. Myself especially.

Then, in a fun twist of irony, God led me to where I am now, five years into a marriage that includes calving Simmental and Simmental/Angus cross heifers every spring.

I now work to find the good in a breed I swore to never own again. It's actually been a really good life lesson. We, myself included, tend to have very strong opinions in agriculture, and that is alright. They're usually based on experience. But, it's also alright to learn to find the value in opinions and experiences different than our own.

I still occasionally shake my head at them during calving season, but I truly appreciate the job those Simmental cows do raising great big, top end steer calves each fall.

Regardless of breed, may everyone have a blessed and uneventful calving season this year!