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Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The pause before fall

It is a dreary, cool, and rainy day in western South Dakota. The perfect rain to get everything nicely soaked up going into fall; a beautiful day.

It feels like the earth's orbit slows just a bit for a week or two right now, during that in-between time at summer's end and fall's beginning. Mother nature takes a breath, and the ag community follows suit.

We all know that before long the early mornings and dark nights of fall work will be upon us. Crews pulling gooseneck trailers will be headed down darkened highways and backroads long before dawn's light, followed by cattle pots a few hours later. Vets will be spotted traversing the country like squirrels chasing nuts; empty coffee cups rolling on the floorboard, used OB gloves flapping in the pickup box, and a squeeze chute rattling along behind.

Wheat will be cleaned if it hasn't been already, and planted as always in anticipation of next year. Corn faces the combine, then a possible truck ride or two. Big machinery will slow highway traffic on a regular basis before long. Being a good hay year means there are also likely bales left to be rowed and hauled before winter comes.

On the wife front, it's a welcome if brief time of not having to reheat supper at 9 p.m. for her husband. For just a few days, everyone is home together for all three meals, with only a few grumbles from the man of house about not getting much done. Baked goods are popping up in an attempt to put off starting the furnace for a couple more weeks. The bills may even be sent off a few days before they're due.

The calf market is checked regularly, wheat and corn futures, too. Everyone knows the going rate to have hay hauled. Winter propane contracts are making the rounds, and folks are considering if, in order to pay for it, they ought to get that old bull sent to town.

Machinery is being maintained as it heads into or out of the shed. A couple guys are looking into a new bale bed. Kids are wearing considerably more clothes as the mornings are dewy and the nights are borderline cold.

Coffee pots are brewing an extra pot. Long underwear are out, and likely being worn. Feed rows and bunks are prepped for the calves soon to arrive. Water and fencing projects are nearly wrapped up. That constant list of little fix-its jobs is seeing several checked off. The wife wants to paint, so there's also a lot getting done out in the shop.

Perhaps things aren't going that slow, after all. But, it still feels like the world takes a pause. It's a welcome reprieve and a chance to get just a little bit caught up. In between summer's heat and fall's rush.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Love is a verb

"You can't make a person love someone." I was told a couple weeks back, followed by a long dissertation on why it really was alright, likely best, that one spouse had left another.

It has weighed heavily on my mind since. It weighs on me every time I hear that little frequently tossed about phrase. It's correct in that neither you, nor I, can make a person love another.

But, frankly, we shouldn't have to.

Love was never designed to solely be an emotion, though people have fallen into the trap of limiting it to just that since the beginning of time.

Love is so much more. One of the best ways I've ever heard it described is that love is a verb. It is a decision leading to action chosen over and over again, despite what our human emotions feel at a given time.

The Bible backs the statement of love being a verb repeatedly with verses that say, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink," in Romans and, "Do good to those who hate you, bless those to curse you, pray for those who mistreat you," in Luke. In John, God's expression of love to his people is demonstrated by sending his only Son into the world that we may live through him. On the more romantic side, the well-known passage in 1 Corinthians says, "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

All those verses and more explain love through actions and decisions designed to strengthen us and create habits that prevent us from falling into the trap of limiting love to emotion.

That's a tough road, though. Deep stuff. I've fallen short countless times myself. It also goes against the grain that today's society holds so dear; that we should be able to do what we want, when we want. That mindset is a disaster in many ways, one being that it promotes following emotion, which is so often a short-term, knee-jerk thing for we humans.

Our emotions don't think about next week or year, nor do they always take into consideration last week or last year. Emotions are right here and right now, which can cause big issues beyond the here and now.

Thinking of love as a verb has been a perspective changer for me, particularly in the area of marriage. Purposely and actively loving my spouse, even on the days I don't "feel" like it, makes a big difference. I am learning there is real return in treating love as more than just a feeling, and in actively doing all you can to prevent yourself from becoming a person that cannot be made to love another.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Grandma’s House

It's a kitchen table that nearly fills the room

Beneath a wooden clock sporting a mule deer buck

There are cookies in the jar on the counter

The biggest of the set with the mushrooms on top

Handwritten recipes in a fine cursive print

Hideous carpet the seventies sent

More than twenty sets of dishes ready to serve

Pat Sajak in the corner asking for a verb

Friend chicken and lavishly doctored baked beans

Homemade jam and dinner rolls alongside handpicked greens

Fresh cream atop canned peaches or rhubarb dessert

Followed by coffee stout enough to make your head hurt

Plenty of room to sleep a dozen or more

In bedrooms located on three different floors

Beds all made and awaiting their guests

Electric blankets ready to warm upon request

The backdrop to countless hours of dialog

A pair of davenports that house a little Chihuahua dog

The guardian against turkeys and mostly tame cats

Of whom he thinks the same his owner does of bureaucrats

Out front is a pair of large cottonwood logs

That have been transformed into flower pots

Lilacs, pansy's and poppy's provide the backdrop

To any car as it pulls to a stop

Coats are left and later gathered

On the small porch that goes from clean to haphazard

It's the scene of years of goodbyes and rebundled kids

Who are ready to watch the back of their eyelids

The stove in the corner heats and smolders

There are wigs in the closet with hand-drawn faces on their holders

A box of toys that were old decades ago

And a picture-like view out every window

A place of warm welcome to all who arrive

An enthusiastic hello as the screen door swings wide

The little lady inside a favorite of all who have known

The one who made that house a home.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Lessons in losing

Fair season is rapidly approaching. Most people either love or hate fair season and involvement; I am among those who love it. I am also already seeing the, "that's not fair," statement tossed out among adults regarding kids with animals who won't make weight, won't be eligible for the sale, can't compete with local money, etc… I have an opinion on fairness at the fair (no pun intended), and it comes from the perspective of a non-winner.

Perhaps that's a bit untrue, as I had a great deal of success throughout my 4-H career. However, with 20-some beef projects under my belt in my 11 years, I never exhibited the Grand Champion Market steer, which was the premier award in our county for those showing beef. I also never showed the Grand Champion Breeding Heifer; another prestigious and coveted award in Niobrara County, Wyoming.

It wasn't for a lack of trying, lack of effort, or a lack of dedication. I was fully committed, very goal oriented, and determined to reach my goal of exhibiting the best beef animal every single year. I did everything "right." Yet, it never happened. The closest I came was exhibiting the Reserve Grand Champion Market Steer one time in eleven years.

That was extremely hard at the time. However, looking back, I can see with great clarity what it did for me to repeatedly lose to someone each and every year.

It taught me that you can be rewarded for your hard work and the commitment you have for your project, even if your animal isn't the best in a given judge's eyes. I was tough to beat at showmanship and herdsmanship in my latter years. I was asked to put on several clinics in multiple counties on animal care and showmanship preparation. Colleges came calling when I graduated high school with scholarship offers to judge livestock for them.

Perhaps more importantly, I learned how to lose; something so many in today's society cannot fathom. Instead of blaming someone or something or throwing a fit, I was taught to be courteous and congratulatory. Acting with maturity and grace in the face of loss was a non-negotiable aspect of participation in my family.

I learned to face the fact that my best efforts would not always come in first. May not ever come in first. That hard work and a goal does not guarantee success in the way I thought it should, but that it may bring success in ways I had not thought of.

If your child loses at fair this season, consider it an opportunity to teach them to congratulate the winner. If their animal can't make the sale, the opportunity to learn how to market an animal private treaty just presented itself. Point out those older kids who are setting a good example at caring for and showing their animals. Encourage them help those who beat them when the opportunity arises.

And, in a world so very concerned with fairness and participation awards, consider the value of a program that provides the opportunity for kids to lose to their peers. Don't fall into the trap of systematically blaming losses on someone else. In my experience that manifests itself into far larger issues when those children reach what should be adulthood. If the judge did legitimately miss your child's animal, there is a proper time, place, and way to communicate that to your kid without them missing the lesson in learning to lose with tact.

Would I have said it was fair that I lost over and over all those years ago? Certainly not. But, today, I can appreciate what my 4-H involvement did for me as a whole, and it is far more valuable than a ribbon or plague would be sitting in a box in a closet somewhere.

Best of luck to all the youth exhibiting at fair!

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The Wife Report

In honor of the AM radio stations who educate their listeners on all things agriculture with their reports, commentary and advertising, I present the summer wife report, direct from western South Dakota. Derived from a variety of solid and questionable sources, held in a sleep deprived mind for hours to weeks, take it for what is worth. Please read with your best impression of your preferred commentator.

Hay in western South Dakota is fast becoming exceptional this year. First cutting alfalfa was average at one to two tons per acre and taken just as the weevils hit. Second cutting and grass hay looks amazing. Every tractor and two-thirds or better piece of worn equipment have been pulled out to help in getting caught up.

Hay prices remain steady from 2017. As the 2018 crop comes in and is listed for sale, optimists foresee the price going down considerably. Pessimists do not, citing demand in drought-stricken Colorado and Utah as likely sources for keeping prices high. Trucking should remain steady.

Rain has also allowed planting of millet and Sudan to wrap up in most sandy soil types. Two-week-old Sudan is nearly six inches tall.

Wheat is filling nicely, if it didn't get some random, or maybe not random, disease. Rusty stalk, worms, tetanus. I really don't know, but it's very, very bad if it gets it. If it didn't get "it," you'd better start making sure the combine is ready to go.

The weather pessimists are struggling not to be overly happy with the year. Most have decided to be irritated that the frequent rain showers are causing the hay to grow so fast they are becoming more behind with each passing day. Sympathy for them is scarce.

Pastures look great, cattle are fat and slicked off. Calves are predicted to be on the heavy side this fall. Breed-ups should be great if all your bulls didn't get foot rot.

Mosquitos were non-existent early but came on with a vengeance the last week in June. Use bug spray or risk needing a blood transfusion.

Flies are also having a good year and controlling them on livestock this summer has been more challenging than usual. Talk of pinkeye has begun.

Tourists are the only thing thicker than bugs. Pay attention, because they're not. Consider it practice for the bikers.

Check those fences, the rain in recent weeks was heavy in many areas, causing minor to major fence issues. Those cows will find the holes if you don't. The clover always looks better on the next ridge and the neighbor's ugliest bull never gets foot rot.

Kids are mostly naked this time of year. Consider passing on purchasing any clothes beyond a couple town outfits and put the money toward sunscreen and bug spray. Or a sombrero big enough to shadow their entire body.

Your wife is driving a tractor because she loves you. It has AC because you love her. That's romance this time of year.

It's not like this everywhere. Pray for those that are facing drought and flood. God doesn't give us all a picture-perfect summer at once.

That's all for now. Otherwise known as it is time to rake hay.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Moments

I recently read a piece on comparing a ranch job to a regular, 9-5 occupation. A lady read both to her husband, then asked which one he would pick. Obviously, he said, the 9-5 was the only choice on paper. But, then she asked him why he picked ranching, and he recited a favorite moment of watching the baby calves play. It inspired me to do an extended version:

It will be considerable outdoor labor when it is blistering hot and frigidly cold. It's a 24-7 gig that lasts from birth until death. There are no sick days and most planned days off will be cut short or eliminated. Major life events will be scheduled around it, not the other way around.

You will make between a one and three percent return when all your years are averaged out. When you mess up, lives will be lost. You will have to pay your own wage, insurance, and run the risk of having zero sick pay. Finding help to hire is next to impossible. The weather will make or break you.

Not the rosiest of job descriptions.

But, there will be moments. Moments you will feel more alive than you dreamed possible. When those calves throw their tails in the air and head full tilt away, only to bear hard back around so they can dance and prance in front of you. When the steers come in heavy, and every single one goes on the front-end load. When your calves top the market and the auctioneer tips his hat, and the year that every three-year old breeds back.

When you crest a hilltop on a good horse in that perfect morning light, and witness a scene spill out that took generations to create, and God's hand to paint. Cattle and riders, both expertly navigating the terrain that's lost more than a few. Weaving and dipping in and out of view.

When, after staying up all night, you assist in bringing forth a brand-new life. That's the kind of moment that regardless of how many times it's repeated, never gets old.

Neither does sitting on the deck in the evening light, watching that grass wave and bend, in shades of green that westerners swear looks just like Ireland.

When you are finally able to purchase a brand-new vehicle or implement, and the banker hasn't heard a word from you about it.

When those cotton candy clouds float by, on a day after it rained through the night, all to the tune of a Meadowlark, perched nearby.

There is the enticement of independence, not answering to a boss or sitting at a desk. The freedom of the outdoors, and work that sometimes feels resplendent.

Then there is watching a child grow up in this life. If the moments didn't catch your breath before, watching your children on a ranch will make your heart soar.

Certainly, the job description looks far from fine. It's a hard life with both valleys and peaks. But, if you're blessed with the chance to make your life on a ranch, don't waste too much time on how the job looks like written line by line.

When living it, these moments won't take long to get through; you'll soon realize that you can't beat the work, the help and certainly not the view.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Spring Wrecks: The corral post

It was a wet spring as I recall, though I wasn't all that old. We lived down what was 20 miles of ungraveled road at the time, with a soil type locally called gumbo. The stuff was simultaneously slick and sticky; it would build up on your tires until they wouldn't turn at the 20 mph speed that also prevented it from shooting you out of the ruts and straight into the ditch and pasture beyond.

We were sorting something, and my dad and his horse, Brownie, were cutting a cow out in the correl. Brownie was a leggy, thoroughbred looking gelding that was rough as a cob to ride. But, he was as solid and honest as horses come, and was flat quick when he needed to jump out and cut or stop a cow. I know, I've fallen off of him more than once when he stopped a cow from going back.

Dad and Brownie did this massive jump to stop a cow from escaping through the corral gate, and BOOM, it sounded like a gun went off. It was actually my dad's knee smacking the corral gate post as Brownie stopped the right cow.

That had to hurt.

At about this same time a storm cloud was building ominously to the west, which is probably what the rush was to begin with. My mom hit high gear with impressive force, even for her. In what felt like five minutes she had called the Newcastle ER to tell them we were on our way (you do this when you live 70 miles from an emergency room). She then hit about 55 mph, in reverse, backing our baby blue Cadillac sedan stuffed full of pillows from the house to the corral.

Upon screeching to halt, she basically shoved my dad in the backseat, and got what we all knew had to be a broken leg propped up with pillows in the gap between the front seats. I am assuming someone unsaddled Brownie as well in the middle of the excitement – our horses were always cared for before we were. My brother and I were told to load up, and we headed for Newcastle to have my dad checked out.

We typically made good time going anywhere, but when those first couple big, fat rain drops hit that Cadillac's windshield we came as close to light speed as you can on a rutted up, ungraveled county road in northern Niobrara County, Wyo. My dad was pale, but it was hard to tell if he was in pain or fearful for his life. My mom wasn't about to be stuck on the side of the road with an injured husband and two little kids for who knew how long.

We eventually made it to the ER, where X-Rays confirmed that my dad's leg was not broken. Everything was fine, if sore. What a miracle!

Several hours later, likely after stopping at the grocery store and running a few more errands while we were in town, we headed home. The last 20 miles we went the requisite 20 mph, because it had indeed rained behind us.

A few years later we rebuilt that section of corral, and took out the gate where the incident took place. When we pulled the nails out of the post dad hit, it promptly fell over, broke off at ground level and solidifying what my dad said after his accident; "God broke that post to save my leg."

Have a safe spring, everyone.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The reservation tow

One day my husband called from the little town of Martin, located about an hour and a half south of our home. He was in his old blue, two-and-a-half ton, C65 Chevy truck, loaded with about eight ton of cake, and it had died. While I considered this a personal problem, he did not, and while I was not the first person he called, I was the first one "available" to rescue him.

The last time I had pull started him in the same truck, he had failed to mention the brakes didn't work, and ran into the back of me. I didn't care much for the blue truck.

Off I went in our three-quarter-ton Dodge pickup. Upon arriving I found him sitting in a parking lot, his trusty dog Molly in her usual spot on the passenger seat. We hooked the truck behind the pickup, both climbed into our driver's seats, and the fun began.

I carefully eased the slack out of the tow chain, and we started across the parking lot toward the street, which was also the highway we needed to take out of town. Having been taught that as the puller you do not stop and start unnecessarily, consequently jarring and irritating the pullee, I pulled out onto the far side of the empty road as a light turned green about a block and a half away, and traffic began our way. It was at this time I did the responsible thing and also looked in my rear-view mirror. Much to my surprise my husband was yelling at me, signaling the oncoming traffic, and obviously mad as a hornet about something.

I was a bit miffed but decided to brush it off. He was stressed, the truck wasn't running, men are odd creatures at times, so on and so forth. But, as he continued making it clear what he thought of my efforts as we worked our way out of town, I very seriously considered educating him on why one should never make the person responsible for speed and arrival at end destination mad. But, I did not.

Off toward home we slowly went, and things settled down. Until we reached a small pass we had to climb and then descend into the town of Porcupine. The up part went just fine. The down part did not. I attempted to keep the chain taught, speed even, so on and so forth. However, when a C65 truck loaded with 8 ton of cake taps its breaks, (apparently he fixed those at some point) it basically jerks a three-quarter ton Dodge into a momentary stop, causing the driver simultaneous whiplash and a spike in blood pressure. So we jerked and bumped all the way to the bottom of the pass. I was mad. One of the glances in the rear-view mirror showed him angrily signally for me to pull over. With several more lurches, jerks, skids and bumps we made it to the side of the road. I knew he was mad too, and assumed it was also at the situation.

However, when he reached my window he gave me a piece of his mind on my pulling abilities, and how I clearly had no clue how clue what I was doing, starting with pulling out in front of traffic, ending with his brakes currently smoking because of how I had descended the pass. I'm not sure what he expected in response, but I doubt it was the piece of my mind I gave him on pulling a fully loaded truck with a pickup, my towing abilities being just fine, and that the worst thing that could have happened back in Martin was someone miraculously missed seeing a big blue truck being pulled out onto the road with dog "smiling" out the window and hit him, thus possibility covering some of the trucks multiple issues with insurance. Those smoking brakes had nothing on us, and while I would have happily left him right there in the middle of the reservation, we had said vows to one another not long before. So, I continued on toward home, resolutely swearing to never get myself in the position of pulling him anywhere, ever again.

Later he had me pull over again, insistently. He apologized, and said I was actually getting the hang of it. That also went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

We finally made it home, our marriage survived, and several months later I turned over a chunk of my savings to help purchase a newer truck, with the condition that it would be kept in good, running order, because I was not towing him anywhere in it. So far this arrangement is working out well for the both of us, though I am still very hesitant to answer if he calls when I know he is in Martin picking up feed.

(My husband may have a slightly different account of this incident; however, this is not his column.)

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Ag kids in the spring

The youngest of the farming and ranching community love spring; they emerge from winter like a fully caffeinated puppy following a good nap. They can hardly stand themselves they have so much pent up energy, things to explore, animals to tame and events to attend. I've also caught on that the farm and ranch youth are a unique bunch in this world we live in…

They pitch a fit in the store, just like any other little kid on occasion. However, the reason for their fit is mom said no to buying their own hotshot or cutting knife.

The school is calling nearly daily with complaints that the ag kid is explaining calving, castration, sewing up a prolapse, even the reality of death, to their classmates. Classmates may have been in tears while other parents are upset their child came home asking "breeding questions."

Comparing bruises is a form of entertainment.

The high school principal also called because the ag teenager knew more about animal biology and native plant species than his science teacher, and the teacher didn't take being corrected well. Dad is proud, mom is pleading with everyone to just get through the last two weeks of school.

Pocket treasurers begin to include living or once living things.

If dad isn't along, the kids will happily fill in with his customary commentary on how each field is doing, what has happened with it the recent past (fertilizing, spraying, last year's crop, hail, etc…), and so on, just in case mom forgot.

Every meal includes an updated conversation of who is the best neighborhood calf nut cook.

They're all about the numbers, learning how to write them while making ear tags and recording calving records in their very own calving book, put precisely in their left shirt pocket, with their special pen. They also enthusiastically practice their verbal counting skills every time anything goes through a gate, causing dad to question his own number related abilities.

New cuss words are learned, and tested.

The only good toys are those that be used to replicate spring farm and ranch activities. Discussion at the toy store may include asking an employee why there are not toy OB chains, why the plastic bull does not have testicles, why aren't there cows in the child's breed of choice, can a pusher be added to their toy semi, who would ever recreate a cow that was clearly knocked down in her hip, and so on. This is typically met with great humor or horror.

Everything needs branded. Everything.

Fights may include new weapons, like sorting sticks or hot shots.

Ample discussion among friends occurs regarding each one's mount, if he's broncy, cold backed, hard mouthed, barn sour, lazy, cowy, fat, tall, and the list goes on.

Friendships are made and lost based on opinions regarding rope and drag versus table brandings and red versus green equipment.

Mom gets weed bouquets daily, and they are proudly displayed.

If they're under about 12 years old, they brag to their town friends about what they got to drive over the weekend.

Kids bring home new legitimate new ideas regarding heifer bulls to use and seed buying options after talking to their ag friends.

Straw hats or caps, boots and worn blue jeans with holes or patches on the knees become the summer uniform of choice. As do dirt dusted freckles, sunburns, and bleached hair-dos. And, yes, the boys do have an opinion on the logo/ranch/brand displayed on their cap. Just ask them.

They can recite the seven-day forecast on a moment's notice, day or night.

Great pride is taken in their tasks, particularly when they move up the ranks in any way. Their new skillset is discussed among their peers with the confidence, knowledge, experience and vernacular only five-year old's possess.

Garden hoses become a primary water source.

Babies think paint stinks, ear tags, calf bottles and a variety of other ranch-related items are toys or teething rings.

They have a running headcount on the number of kittens on the place.

It really is too bad the world doesn't have a few more fearless, adventuresome ag kids running around, especially this time of year.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Ranch Rigs

Everyone is on the road right now, which makes it a good time to go over the primary types of ranch people, pickups and horse trailers found on the highway during these busy spring months.

First is the 36'x8', triple axel, four compartment aluminum trailer pulled by a nice, dually pickup with the insert to hold extra cups of coffee. The back seat is full of sorting sticks, cotton gloves and other swag bearing his ranch name. This is the registered guy delivering bulls to all his customers. He does 24-48-hour stints hauling 20-25 bulls at a whack to half a dozen customers spread over hundreds of miles.

Second is the 30' double axel trailer seen twice a day for a month straight every spring and fall. It's not as nice as the seedstock rig, but is typically in good working order. This guy has been doing this for decades, the exact same way. He knows he is saving money not hiring a semi to haul his cattle, despite what his fuel and tire bills say. Plus, he doesn't have time to fix his load out chute. Excellent person to discuss the past with, a little iffy on conversations of modern technology used in agriculture.

Third is the 24', double compartment trailer that looks like it was dropped off the side of the Grand Canyon. It may be missing a tire, but is still rolling with the axel ratchet strapped up. These people drive a Dodge, and it's always best to give them extra room because their rig likely has that wandering Dodge habit. Honestly, they aren't trying to run you off the road. If nothing else breaks down unexpectedly, they have plans to buy a nicer trailer in the fall. The two extra cows that didn't fit on the semi are in one trailer compartment, three saddle horses in the other. Be aware, they have no lights, and are speeding to get through the last town before dark.

Fourth is also a 24', double compartment trailer that looks like it just rolled off the lot, with the exception of a little road dust. This guy drives a Chevy. His trailer is the same age as the third guy's, but he is a meticulous about maintenance, just like his father. This is the second trailer he's ever owned, and it is comfortably loaded with two horses and two calves that were a little young to put on the truck. It boasts a brand new spare tire and the best rubber floor mats you can get.

Fifth is the most common option you will see. It is a blend of the third and fourth rigs. Everything works, except maybe one brake light. It's a dusty setup, thanks to the miles of gravel road it traverses between home and summer pasture or the neighbors. The trailer is made of steel to withstand gravel roads. The pickup is an extended cab or four door in order to efficiently haul a decent crew of friends, kids, grandkids, and/or canines to the end location, along with lunch for everyone.

Sixth is the 1957, 20'x6', half top bumper pull. The man behind the wheel is 15-20 years older than the trailer. It looks unsafe because it would be if it were fully loaded. However, all he hauls these days is his horse and the occasional bovine that needs a ride from the back side of the place to the corral. It really is a favor to you that he is going 50 mph, and you can crowd him all you want while waiting to pass, but he isn't going to speed up.

Seventh is the, "How many horses do they have squeezed in there?" outfit. Only to repeat the question when seeing the number of shadows in the pickup cab. This crew is headed to a branding. Depending on whose branding, they are most likely either a top-notch bunch of talented individuals, or they are drunk, which negates most of their talent if they had any to begin with.

Eighth is the empty trailer, with the flashers going, driving a puny 10 mph down the center of the road with someone hanging out the window waving a flag or scarf. This person is warning you that there are livestock ahead, and to slow down! Their kids are likely trailing along behind the livestock on the best horses on the place, making for a priceless package. Have some patience; a few minutes off your commute won't hurt you.

Regardless of the type of ranch rig you come across during the next several weeks, keep in mind the people behind the wheel are hard at their job of providing you and everyone else three square meals a day. They smell when they walk behind you in the convenience store, but if you ask they will say that's the smell of money. They're jacking up rigs with blown out tires, loaded, on the side of the road. They're running late, or early, and managing schedules on the fly based on the latest weather report. There is an entire business being largely operated out of that rig you just met on the highway this time of year, except for the guy driving rig six. He turned it over to his kids and will tell you he's just the hired help these days.