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Baxter Black: Hung Up In The Fence

She was a pretty cow. A big polled Hereford but she was only half bagged up. So they sorted her off. These were pretty rangy cows and when they got separated from the big bunch they got nervous. Rex and Clair dropped her over into the "questionable" pen to run her though the chute. Rex wanted to check her bag.

The big cow had fire in her eyes when she saw Rex. She charged him! He raced to the fence. Clair stepped in front of the one-cow stampede and swung at her with a broken plastic whip. She changed directions, missed him by a hare's breath and cleared the fence herself!

I say 'cleared the fence'. I mean 'almost cleared the fence'. Rex was proud of his new fence. He built it of Red Brand welded wire 4 x 6 foot panels and cedar posts. He ran a line of treated 2 x 8's around the top. The cow in question drove a hind foot through one of the squares in the welded wire panel. She hung up and straddled the fence like a limp cheese stick crawlin' outta the bowl.

"Lemme run and get the bolt cutter, Rex. We can weld it back later."

"No. I wanna check her bag first," he said.

The way the cow was draped over the 2 x 8, her bag was at eye level. Clair could see the look on Rex's face. "Don't do it," she said.

Rex reached out, grabbed the proffered tit and squeezed. A foul smelling clump of cottage cheese hit him square in the face! At the same time he pulled, she made a tremendous effort to escape. She fell back down inside the pen, ripping off the welded wire panel in a shower of staples! She rose with the panel still around her foot.

Wearing her giant snowshoe, she stomped, shuffled and cha-cha'd her way back through the cows in the questionable pen. They spooked and scattered to the four points of the compass, but all unerringly, managed to find the new gap in the fence and join the rest of the herd.

All escaped except the cow with the fly swatter foot. Clair roped her and held her down long enough for Rex to cut the panel off with the bolt cutters. They let'er up and she followed the other cows.

Rex wiped a clod of curd off the bill of his cap. "Well," he said philosophically. "At least we know."

Baxter Black: A Minority Needs Help

What do cable TV and "Where your food comes from" have in common?

ANSWER: Television ag programming is beneficial, educational to the curious public people who eat food, and the food producers that provide the food they eat.

Interesting surveys: population of U.S. 327 million people that eat,

3.2 million is the number of food producers that feed them.

How do the 327 billion who eat communicate with the 3.2 million?

Television/internet is the biggest communicator in the country…on Earth.

Seventy-nine percent have a television, 77 percent communicate over internet.

National television is owned by a handful of merging moguls like Time Warner, Verizon FiOS, ComCast and other voracious traders who are deliberately together trying to eliminate the miniscule Ag/Rural networks that are left in the U.S., which includes RFDtv. Even the big independent ag programs like U.S. Farm Report, Orion Samulson and Superior Livestock use RFDtv to increase their coverage.

What can the 3.2 million Food Producers and those other mammals that want to know Where Food Comes From…do?

ANSWER: THE RURAL COMMUNICATION ACT 2018

"It requires each multichannel video programming distributor with 5,000 or more subscribers shall reserve 1 percent of its total bandwidth to distribute to all its subscribers video programming that predominately serves the needs and interests of rural America."

WRITE OR CALL your national politicians to support the act. If your representative gives you the shuffle then call the next day and the next. Surveys show 55 percent of consumers are interested in where their food comes from. If that's you, call.

Inform your politicians of the FCC Diversity Committee that requires 2.5 percent of cable and broadcast operators be dedicated to minorities including: Latino 17 percent of population, Black 12 percent, Asian 4.7 percent and American Indian .7 percent. Ranchers and Farmers of all colors, races and ages make up a mere 2 percent of our entire population. Talk about minority groups!

Why would officers of these mega telecoms that control thousands of 'broadcast bands' deliberately exclude ag/rural networks? ANSWER: They deem that the 2 percent minority of Food Producers are insignificant. Their ignorance of the essentials of life…FOOD WATER AND SHELTER is sad.

Direction from Congress is the only way to recognize that the agriculture networks educate, communicate, entertain and keep this valuable minority informed.

Ring…"Hello? Is this the office of my senator/congressmen? I'm part of the 3.2 million Food Producers that feeds you lunch. Are you familiar with THE RURAL COMMINICATIONS ACT 2018?"

How to find your state senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

How to find your Congressmen: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Baxter Black: I Should’a Brought a Raincoat

As Noah said when he went out on the deck to check the windshield wipers, "I should'a brought a raincoat."

Paul's day started out with a drumroll. Every morning for months as he went into the machine shed he noticed the rusty gate hinge on the door jam. It was shoulder high and stuck out like a rhino horn. 'Could be dangerous,' he often thought.

That morning he was in a hurry and listed just enough to starboard to catch his shirt sleeve on the hinge. It jerked him hard to the right! As he swung around he stepped on the weed hoe. It stood smartly to attention and saluted him across the eyebrow!

He stumbled across the grain room holding his eye and stepped into the cat's dish. It slid out from under him. He did the splits and straddled the door jam into the big shed. Looking up from the floor he noticed his tractor leaning, like it had its foot off the curb. On closer inspection he found the lean was the result of a flat tire.

Back at the house to get a Band Aid he discovered they had no water. The well pump was out. Well houses in this part of Iowa are usually circular, concrete, twelve feet in the ground and have a lip not much above the ground level.

Paul loaded up the dog and went to town for parts. Backing out in front of the hardware store, he stuck his elbow out the open window. The protruding door lock slipped up under his sleeve. When he leaned out looking back he mashed the door lock down and pinched a thumbful of skin! He reacted by stomping the gas and nearly blindsiding pore ol' Bud who was on his way to the sale barn in Moville.

When Paul finally got home he saw that his cows were out. Probably in search of water. With the dog's help he managed to get the migrating cattle back into the barn lot. He headed for the well.

'At least I'll get it fixed before lunch,' he thought as he lifted the plywood cover and descended the ladder into the well. There was just room enough for one man to stand up, what with the pressure tank, the pump and pipes.

He knelt down to check the points and leaned a little to let the noon day sun shine light on the subject. Then he felt a stream of water cascading over his head and down the side of his face. It was warm.

Paul considered turning and shouting up at the dog who was apparently marking the well as his territory, but thought better of it. He leaned as far as he could to avoid the shower, which just allowed the stream to soak his shirt and pant leg.

"Yup," he said, wiping the side of his face, "I should'a brought a raincoat."

Baxter Black: That Time Again

It's fall on the cow outfit.

Time to get out the WD 40 and grease up the handles on the squeeze chute. Maybe find the three or four syringes that work, buy some new gaskets and barrels along with a box of needles. Time to look for the ear tagger, nose tongs and dehorning saw. You could stock up on hot shot batteries and plastic whips and shovel out the chute floor before it freezes.

That'll be the easy part of workin' your cows this fall, the mechanical tasks associated with good management. Yet, laying in wait like the hangover after the night before, is that ominous responsibility that all good cowmen dread… that's right, boys… the open cow.

You know they are in the bunch. And you can bet your hired help, your neighbors and your family will all be lookin' over your shoulder anxious to see your decision. They will be full of advice. But, in the end, whether you keep that open cow or not, will be strictly between you and her.

Say she bangs into the chute. Her teeth are good, she's fat, five years old and just weaned a 550 lb calf. The vet shouts "Open!" The vaccinators are poised waiting for your decision. You rapidly calculate that open cow will bring $$880 at the sale Wednesday.

You dither, remembering her first calf. You had to pull it. It was a cold night in February. The two of you spent four hours in the shed getting' that calf to suck. Once he was goin', she took'im and never looked back! Dang, you hate to see her go. You bite the bullet… "Cull her!" you say, but you can't look her in the eye.

In comes a first calf heifer. Sorta thin, not full grown. She's showin' some potential but when the preg checker calls out "Open!", you realize she won't have a calf next spring. If she settles, she'll wean her second calf 24 months from today. That's a long time to hold your inventory. "Cull'er," you say. Wow! Yer, feelin' like a business man!

In the last chute load, an old red neck mama comes through. You recognize her. When the boy punches her with the hot shot, you wince. Popcorn teeth, hollow flanks and a scruffy tailhead. Her bag hangs like a four dollar drape. She raised a big strappin' calf this year but it took all she had.

She was in the first bunch of heifers you bought when you took over the ranch 12 years ago. She put you over the fence a time or two but now she doesn't seem to care. Too old, too wore out. "Open," comes the intrusion.

The silence is heavy. Your eyes travel down her spine and back to her lifeless eyes. "Run'er one more year!" 'She'll die on this place.' Nobody says a word.

Baxter Black: Lawn Clippings

The first week of August I was haulin' a load of cows to the sale. We hadn't had rain for five weeks and my pasture was pretty sorry. I'd been feedin' hay for two weeks. Along the highway I could see houses on either side. Most had green lawns. It occurred to me 'Somethin' is wrong with this picture!'

Not that I'm against people havin' lawns, or even soakin' them with precious water. But then they mow it. They pick up the clippings. Then they stuff these clippings in a plastic bag and try and hide it somewhere. I could quadruple my cow herd if I could just rent pasture from one residential block and graze their yards. But I know that is not realistic.

Residential yard workers do not think of their lawns as forage. They grow it, mow it, harvest its bounty and add it to a landfill. They think of it more like hair than wheat. But you talk about work! Maybe there are people who look forward to mowin' the lawn; barbers, for instance, or manicurists. And it's not just the weekly horse whippin' of a following a Briggs and Stratton around for half a day, some enthusiastic yarders edge, weed, fertilize, shape, prune, rake, haul and water in never-ending tail chase to create compost!

So, I been thinkin' why not capitalize on all this hand labor. What is grass good for? Cow feed, of course. But it is unlikely that livestock producers could rent 2 AUM's (Animal Units per backyard) or some such. Which means we have to be able to use the grass after it is harvested. Now, any cowman who's tried to dump lawn clippings over the fence knows most cows ignore it unless they're starvin'. But the way cows love silage, maybe we could treat it like a fermented product.

We'd spread the word that fresh clippings would be picked up Saturday and Sunday evenings. Participating Eco-sensitive residential yarders would set their plastic bags out. We'd pick it up, haul it to the dairy or feedlot, add silage preservative and put it in a pit. If it was put up fresh it might hold a worthwhile protein level. Of course, all participating yarders would have to guarantee that their lawn was organic; herbicide and pesticide-free.

And it would help our image. It would have tremendously politically correct implications. Urban residents would become more sympathetic to livestock operations in their area. They'd be recycling and saving precious water. It would give meaning to an otherwise strictly cosmetic use of natural resources. Sort of like using a Picasso painting to cover a water stain on the wallpaper.

And if it works we can get a grant to research recycling old hair and toenails. After all, look at marshmallows. I think they're made of horse's hooves.

Baxter Black: Labor Day on the Farm

Labor Day was created by Unions to recognize the American Worker. It did not include ranching and farming; if they did, it would destroy the ability of a farmer to get a loan. If a farmer included the cost of his daily labor on a financial statement, no banker could find a way to show a profit. But things have changed. 'Haying' used to be a full time job for teens in the summer. Tossing bales onto a flat-bed, stacking them on the truck, hauling them back to the hay yard or the barn, throwing bales off and restacking them. It was always hot, sticky, scratchy, sweaty and hard. But if you were on the football team in high school you'd finish the last cutting with money in the bank and muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger! Oh, and the suntan was free.

Fast forward to today. Teenagers in farm communities now have to go to the gym all summer to get in shape. Because one farmer with a round baler, a self-propelled inline bale wrapper, and a tractor with a bale spear can do the work of full teenage hayin' crew in half the time. One of the most labor-intensive chores on the ranch is building fence. I worked for a big outfit that had several large ranches with miles of fence. We had a four-man crew. They would set the corners and the brace posts with posthole diggers and tamping bars. The roll of barbwire would be strung out, carried by two men often walking for miles when the country was too rough to drive along the fence line. Then the wire was stretched and the steel posts were driven in the ground with 15-pound post pounder every 20 or so feet. Stays and clips were spun on to finish. Sometimes they could do a mile a day.

Today we have a tractor with a posthole digger on the three-point hitch and a post pounder (or pusher in places where it rains). For those who still want to "rough it" there is the hand-held hydraulic post driver.

How about the old days of chopping weeds in the row crops? I remember the Bracero Program along the Mexican border where workers legally came into the U.S. to chop weeds, hand plant and harvest crops. The U.S. government stopped the program because it was supposedly taking work from able-bodied Americans. The very next year every cotton farmer in the Rio Grande Valley had bought a McCormick cotton picking machine. Now we spray for weeds or use genetically modified crops that resist insects, weeds and disease. When I was a lad we milked one cow. It supplied butter and milk for our family. Most farmers kept 5-10 milk cows. It took an hour or two every morning. It was the longest part of 'doing the chores.' Farmers sold their milk and cream or traded it for goods. Even today in highly automated dairies milking thousands of cows, it is still an intensive, hands-on part of agriculture. The only thing they don't have to do is milk them!

There are many more examples of the amount of 'labor' required in farming and ranching, then and now, but it is that last one that comes to mind. On my wall is a painting of my grandfather walking from the "cooling room" (where the fresh milk was kept in running water to stay cool) carrying a bucket to the pump at the windmill. Then he would walk back and feed the hogs, scatter grain to the chickens, turn the draft horses out, then up to the house for breakfast. If they painted that picture today, he would be on his four-wheeler and probably weighing another 20 pounds! F

Baxter Black: Predator Friendly

A concept in protecting coyotes has been introduced by a group of Montana animal rights disciples; Predator Friendly Wool. They proposed to develop a market for wool raised on ranches where sheep are not protected from predators. The sheep raisers who do not practice predator control are to be paid a bonus on their wool. They propose to sell Predator Friendly Wool products through boutiques.

Well, all I can say is HALLELUJAH! When was the last time anybody wanted to help sheep people? The government took away wool subsidies, eco-freaks wear petrochemical derivatives and cowboys won't eat sheep. Suddenly, from out of left field we have concerned citizens with expendable income willing to buy and wear wool items. The hitch is that the sheep ranchers must help feed the coyotes, wolves, bears, lions, eagles, wild dogs, carnivorous poachers and mutton loving piranha.

How can we go wrong? We'll get national promotion. We can reduce costs by laying off herders and border collies. Park the camp wagons, use the carbine guns as planters, sell the mules. And all for the price of a few baby lambs and old ewes.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? And if the idea works it may spread to other areas. Inner cities, for instance. They suffer from a terrible image problem. The streets are unsafe, tourism is nill, budgets are always in the red. How about Predator Friendly Neighborhoods.

Any community that did not discourage muggers, buglers, murderers, arsonists, purse snatchers and other assorted predators would be given increased federal dollars.

Police expenses would be cut drastically. Courts would close at noon. Lawyers would desert the community. Tours could be scheduled that allowed sensitive patrons to see predators in their natural habitat rolling winos, mugging passers-by, selling drugs and stealing cars. And all in an environment nationally advertised as Predator Friendly.

And just like the Predator Friendly Wool program, the new Predator Friendly Neighborhood plan could all be accomplished simply by sacrificing a few more sheep.

Or, how 'bout new election laws where presidents and politicians were elected for life. A Predator Friendly Congress, unaccountable to any voter.

Ah, my imagination ran away with me. But the sheep business needs a shot in the arm and the trade-off, though distasteful, is well worth considering. I guess my hesitation is the calling we have chosen.

Ezekiel 34:8 "…and my flock became prey to every beast of the field because there was no shepherd…"

We are the shepherds.

Baxter Black: She Does The Books

This is my wife. She does the books. I do the important stuff

Like mend the fence and check the cows, She makes sure the income's enough

To cover the cost of farmin'. She's tight as a new hat band.

I need to buy a new baler, she figgers out if we can.

I spend all day in the pickup, she's in the office all day

Just talkin' with the SCS or checkin' the price of hay

Or dealin' with the accountants and keepin' the banker straight.

I might be cleanin' a ditch out or hangin' a rusty gate

She fills out all the blasted forms the government makes us keep.

She reads those regulations till she's fightin'em in her sleep.

Me, I go to sleep a'dreamin' of bulls and barns and sales,

She's dreamin' the inventory or estimatin' bales

She still finds time to bake a pie between her business deals

And I keep busy all the time just greasin' squeaky wheels.

I told my wife that we should think 'bout gettin' a hired man.

Runnin' a farm ain't easy, good managers need a plan.

She agreed that it weren't easy to manage and keep abreast

"But, why," she asked, "Get a hired man? I've already got the best."

Baxter Black: THE VALDEZ

Lately there has been dissension at the rancho. I have overheard murmurings in the barnyard, in particular regarding my stock trailer. The grumbling animals enlisted my teenage daughter to present their complaints.

In my defense let me describe my trailer. I felt like it was a real bargain when I bought it. Let's see, in 1986. It's an eighteen foot Hale, '92 model with a bumper hitch. Upon purchasing it from a reputable Hereford breeder who guaranteed it would haul up to eight full grown cows, I made a few minor repairs.

Three of the wheel bearings needed replacing but the left front still spun good. We welded a jack on the tongue, built a new wooden panel for the end gate, put plywood over the rotting floor and bought inner tubes for the two new recaps that didn't have any tread left.

I'm still working on the wiring and have got a good coat of primer on the front panel which covers about six square feet in the shape of Utah. The greenish primer almost matched the original scour yellow.

Recently I put down a rubber mat on the slick plywood after a horse came loose in transit and slid from front to back goin' up a steep grade. Every improvement an investment, I always say.

Jennifer's list of complaints seem trifling. The horses, she claims, are embarrassed to be seen unloading. She suggested I repaint it. Trying to get along, I pulled it down to the sand blasting guy for an estimate. He recommended against it. Apparently he was afraid it would cause structural damage. To remove that much rust would weaken the steel. Admittedly there has been some erosion where the sheet metal sides attach to the frame. This complaint was brought up by the cows. They worried about sliding a foot through the four inch gap that circles the trailer. I have always looked on that gap as good drainage to prevent manure buildup. I take it the boys at the sale barn agree since they've named my trailer the Valdez.

The dogs only asked that they be allowed to stay in the cab of the pickup instead of shut up in the trailer when I go into the sale. That way if they see any other dogs they can duck below the dash. I thought leavin' them in the trailer would keep other dogs from peein' on the tires. But they said no self-respecting dog would even consider it.

Perhaps my daughter has her own motives. I've noticed she won't even tie her horse to the trailer at a ropin' or horse show. I offered to paint her name on the side. Give her some pride of ownership. She said no thanks. I've always admired her modesty.

Bein' a good ranch boss I'm considering their grievances but I've good reason to avoid any hasty decisions. The Valdez is perfectly suited to my pickup. It's a '89 Ford with good tires and a fully functional left side mirror. Besides, the annual registration for the trailer is only thirteen dollars.

Baxter Black: Mexican War Zone

How would you like to live across the street from an open Mexican border? Would you be afraid?

Do Americans of all races, ages and states have a right to fear an open Mexican border? Yes, but not because the illegal aliens will take jobs, vote fraudulently or get on the government dole, of all of which may or not be true.

Those of us who live in the Mexican War Zone appreciate that our northern neighbor's only source of info is CNN or Fox. Each channel gives you their overblown, five-minute "News Break," opposing each other. The routine debate discusses the taking of American jobs or who is responsible for illegal aliens' children, or does the Constitution mean anything? But ALMOST ALWAYS they avoid the evil beast lurking over every man, women and child on both sides of the border…DRUG USERS!

We condemn the dealers, the smugglers, the growers, anybody who is on the supply line…anyone who is trying to fill our needs. They'll do anything to get our drugs to us, and we will do anything to get it.

My fellow citizens, write this down: Mexico is a Third World Country, ruled by drug cartels with guns. The Mexican War Zone is their border, our front porch. We are their best customer. They deliver drugs to us like pizza!

To maintain their control of the border, since 2007 the cartels have murdered over 80,000 of their fellow Mexicans, both innocent and evil. Why would they sacrifice their lives? For nobility? Love of country? Supplication? Publicity?

No! They do it for you! For your addiction, recreation, popularity…you like your friendly dealer, your girlfriend loves coke, ya know.

It is no surprise that Mexican border towns' tourism has fallen 80 percent and stayed there for years. Should Americans fear open borders?

Walls, Border Patrol, ISIS, compassion, the National Guard and Congress itself flutter like moths around a solution. Then there is California. If their plan goes through, in 25 years they will have become a sovereign state of Mexico, the politicians will become puppets of the biggest cartel in the world.

A heinous conclusion but a glorious one for those 23 percent in the U.S. who are doing their illegal drug shopping from their Mexican dealer, fresh from the border, right now!

Should Americans fear open borders?

Today our government deliberately distracts our numb citizens until they can't tell a cough from a cancer. The Mexico that I grew up beside is "no longer." Phoenix is known for its high number of kidnappings and human smuggling. Most victims are illegals.

Should Americans fear open borders? Yes. It is not without risk.

Should the cartel fear open borders? Are you kidding?! They will be thrilled! They'll have finally conquered the Mexican border. Now, with opening the American side, they will have control in one election span.

It might cost them a little…but what is 80,000 murdered.