Reflections on a month of life lessons
October 31, 2008
Over the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of reflecting on life. This process started late in September at the annual North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Convention. Always a good time and a chance to see old friends and meet some new ones, the convention provided me the opportunity to discuss industry issues with cattle producers from across the state.
Two days later, I attended Tom Tescher’s funeral. Tom’s family ranched about a mile south (as the crow flies) from my dad’s ranch north of Sentinel Butte, ND, for many years. Tom had a large family and many friends in the rodeo and ranching community and the funeral attendees were a Who’s Who of those involved in ranching in the region. Finally, on Oct. 11, my infant nephew passed away. He was born on Sept. 29 with a herniated diaphragm (a condition in which the diaphragm fails to develop completely, causing pressure on the developing lungs). All of these events put me in the mood to reflect on the things I am thankful for.
Funerals always make you consider your own mortality (or at least they should). In the case of the two recent funerals, there were significant differences, but also similarities. One person lived a full life, the other a life way too short. Despite the differences, each funeral brought out family, friends, and neighbors from far and wide. I think that’s one of the reasons I am most grateful for having grown up in rural North Dakota. No matter the situation, you can count on friends and neighbors to be there when you need help and support. I want to especially thank all the friends and neighbors who have helped and continue to help my wife’s family (Kevin, Cody, Wyatt, and Hadlie; Kermit and Marcy) with all the chores, silage chopping, cow moving and weaning, and bringing in meals during this difficult time. You can’t imagine how the things you have done, both big and small, have helped.
I grew up with four younger brothers. As you can imagine, by the time we reached our teens, we were popular invitees to many brandings in the area. You don’t find many ready-made calf wrestling crews all in one family, but we had one! Those experiences taught us the value of a hard day’s work, and it also taught us the value of teamwork and neighborliness. As I’ve watched my home area change over the past 20 years, I’ve viewed, with sadness, the increasing use of calf tables and four wheelers. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the forces that have created these changes. However, I think we may be losing some sense of that neighborly interdependence to help get things done when the big projects come along. One of the joys of our summers as kids was getting together with the Tescher, Obrigewitch, Brown and Cook families to brand calves and work cattle. After the work was done, you could always count on a big meal with all kinds of food and plenty of cold beverages.
Part of what got me thinking about writing this column was a comment made to me by a member of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association at the convention. He said he noticed that my columns had become increasingly “eastern;” meaning that the longer I’ve worked at NDSU, the more I’ve been writing about things that pertain to the eastern Dakotas, as opposed to the western Dakotas. Rest assured, Aaron, I have not forgotten, and will not forget, my roots in Sentinel Butte and ranch country.
Finally, this month I have had a chance to complete my “once-in-a-lifetime” elk hunt in North Dakota. I spent about two weeks in the North Dakota Badlands, staying at my folk’s ranch and hunting elk north of Sentinel Butte. I got to spend a couple of days with my kids and younger brother at the start of the season. My kids got to see an elk herd up close and mercilessly tease their dad for passing up a nice 5×6 bull an hour into the season. I also got to spend a few days hunting with our neighbor Pete, which was a treat.
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Most of those two weeks, though, I spent alone. It gave me a chance to reflect and think about life’s lessons. I didn’t come out of the hunt with answers to all of my questions, especially those about the brevity of my nephew Braxton’s short life. It did, however, reinforce my belief that growing up on a ranch in southwest North Dakota can teach a lot of important lessons in life. I’ve tried to summarize a few of them below.
– Whether you are on foot or on horseback, spending time alone in beautiful country gives a person a chance to do a lot of thinking.
– Neighbors and good friends are often underrated. Both will be there and willing to help you; all you need to do is ask.
– We take too many things in life for granted. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell those closest to you how important they really are to you. We often don’t do a very good job of recognizing how important family is to us. When you read this, I hope you pick up the phone and call your mom or dad and thank them for everything they gave you and everything they gave up for you to have the life you have.
– Saying thank you is important. I would like to thank all the neighbors who help in times of need and thanks to the family, friends and neighbors who taught life lessons to five boys growing up in southwest North Dakota.
By the way, after 12 days of hunting, I came home with a 5×6 bull elk taken about seven miles northeast of where I grew up. It was a great hunt. Thanks to Rod and Diane; Jeff and Audrey; and Barry and Nancy for access to the great elk habitat, and thanks to Pete and Don for helping me load up my elk once I got him!
If you want to read more about my nephew Braxton and understand the value of having a family with great faith, visit this web site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/babybraxton.
email greg lardy at firstname.lastname@example.org