Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The dad behind feral kids

Some of you probably guessed this was coming. The man behind the wild farm and ranch kids.

Well, he was one of those kids once upon a time. Sometimes it feels like last week, sometimes like a couple lifetimes ago.

He’s a hardworking man. His occupation requires tasks be completed based on the season, weather, day, availability of the crew, but never by five p.m. Clocking out is a foreign concept in his world. This drive, determination and energy level usually transfers to his kids, and is a contributing factor in why most are climbing the walls and giving their mother’s grey hairs soon after they learn to walk.

He’s a smart man. In spite of the modern world’s simplistic perception of farmers and ranchers, it actually takes a great deal of knowledge and brain power on a myriad of subjects to even take a stab at this life. Dinner time conversations run the gamut: calf break evens, soil test results, markets, and weather. His kids are exposed to a lot of what makes his world go round in between being reminded to eat their potatoes. Their little minds are like his, and work hard each day, asking numerous questions on countless subjects, with serious and sincere need for answers.

He comes home to his wife and family on the nights he isn’t volunteering within in his community in some fashion, helping a neighbor, coaching a sport, or fixing whatever is needed most or first the next morning. Those nights he still comes home, but it’s late.

Sometimes it’s by choice, sometimes the result of serious threats from his wife, but as soon as the kids can wipe their own hineys, he starts taking them along. Whether it’s learning to drive any and every piece of machinery, or navigating the fine art of moving cattle on a horse that’s about 10 years from being a kid’s mount, he’s there, sharing his knowledge on all sorts of things.

He’s also in dire need of their help, which he cannot seem to find elsewhere. This is the reason behind countless kids learning to drive old feed pickups, flip switches, run the rake, learn the difference between flat and Philips head screwdrivers, and the never-ending list goes on. For every lazy quitter he encounters, he vows his kids will know how to work. Kids may not appreciate it during the installation process, but that work ethic that will serve them well their entire life, and make their dad proud in the process.

His, “Good job,” can make little chest’s swell with pride. The occasional situation resulting in, “Don’t tell Mom,” just adds to the adventure in a kid’s day. His rebukes may seem harsh, but they come from a man teaching in a real world, where not listening and paying attention can have dire consequences. He will readily tell his children, “You’re going to have to figure out,” when some necessity of life is forgotten for a day – likely never to be left behind again.

His temper is probably a little short half or more of the time, and he will start to realize this when another adult makes a mistake and his young child provides an instant and pointed verbal thrashing. But, to be fair, his child could also likely do the task at hand correctly.

He deals with harsh realities in his line of work, and odds are his children will be exposed to them earlier than most, and he will walk them through it. On the flip side, he also exposes them to the miracle of new life, the skills needed to bring an animal from death’s door back to health, and how to turn a failed crop into something that will still feed a cow.

He’s likely not the most romantic sort, but he’s steady and honest. He puts a roof over his family’s head, says grace over the food he puts on the table, and occasionally takes a few minutes to play ball. There is an acre of gravel in front of the house he believes nobody should ever park on. He has his own chair at the table, his own saddle, and a particular kind of shirt he likes.

He has a working plan, usually A, B and C, for his entire operation constantly running in his head, adapting with every change in weather pattern, movement in the market, and bump in input prices. As the year’s pass, he will be blessed to spend enough time with his children that they will almost always know exactly where that plan stands, what the next step is, and how to go about it. When he is finished, God willing, he will have something to pass on to those children. In a way that ensures they earn it.


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