Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: Even ranchers need a hobby
The other day the doctor asked me if I got any exercise outside of work. At first I thought it was a trick question to see if I could remember when I wasn’t working. I answered honestly and admitted that I didn’t exercise after work. It’s not a good idea to exercise when you are tired. This will probably look bad on my Obamacare permanent record. Once again ranch life does not conform well to normal life.
Most recreational activities have the same double meaning problem as work and exercise. When a friend asked me if I wanted to come up to his cabin and ride four-wheeelers, I was not very interested. I had been riding my ATV spraying weeds for nearly a week so I politely declined to have any more ATV fun.
Even finding a hobby that fits in with ranch life is a little tricky. I have only found three practical ranch hobbies. Arrowhead hunting, photography and shooting fit in the best with ranch work. Finding an arrowhead is always great fun, and if you’re a little sneaky, can be done anywhere and anytime around the ranch. I once went out in a corral to catch a horse to trim his feet and found a perfect little arrowhead. My son found an arrowhead while were were working on a leaking stock tank. I have found more arrowheads while fixing fence than I have found evidence of the neighbors doing their share of the fence repairs.
Photography can work pretty well but it’s always tempting to buy more stuff. I had a little digital camera that was easy to carry and I took one photo with it that I really liked. I entered the photo in a contest and although I didn’t win anything, the outfit running the contest bought the photo and published it in a book. Now I was really hooked. I had to buy a much better camera with a tripod and accessories. Now I can’t carry the thing in my pocket. Still it’s fun to stop for a minute a take a few pictures and it doesn’t disrupt ranch work, if kept under control.
Shooting is one the best ranch hobbies. A few minutes spent thinning out the local prairie dog herd while checking water wells keeps one proficient. Even putting holes in a paper plate is fun. Last winter I shot a coyote from my livingroom – which is a little unusual. While washing dishes I looked out to see him sitting a 100 yards from the house. I grabbed a rifle and hearing protectors and slid open the sliding door. I think Homeland Security would frown on this hobby but I need to do something with all the ammunition I am hoarding.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the July 24, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News