April 10, 2013



This morning is really calving season. Forecast for half a foot of snow. Strong NE winds, forecast says winds to change to NW. Dropping temperatures. But, it is wet. And from here to Texas, the moisture is badly needed. So tie that neckerchief on, pull the earflaps down, slip on the Carharts and mudboots, and head for the calving pen. And, Shirley, don’t forget to feed my saddle horse! I’m going to watch the markets.
But, on to a different story.
You know, you’ve seen those t-shirts and bumper stickers that proclaim, “You can’t fix stupid!” And I guess that is true. I’ve done dumb things in my life. Lots of them. Some intended. Some not. But I’ve never intentionally started a prairie fire on a warm, windy day in a drought- stricken area. Which, I’m sure you are aware, the Forest Service did near Lemmon a few days ago. I’m sure the person that ordered the “controlled” burn is sorry. I’m sure he (or she) will strive to find some justification for this monumental lapse of judgment.  
I’ve seen and fought plenty of fires. Some started by lighting. One started by an oil flare. One started by a rancher burning feed sacks on an ice-covered dam in the winter. One started by a loving wife burning garbage in a barrel between the propane tank and the haystacks! And I still love her. And I’m still glad the propane tank had no leaks. I fought a fire started by an arsonist in Sioux County. I’ve been involved in fires on Squaw Creek and Big Bottom on Fort Berthold.
I’ve always been a believer that government can be helpful. But when government action, or inaction, causes harm, they have to be responsible. I hope the ranchers in Grand River find a way to get by. Many lost pasture land they were dependent upon for spring and summer grass. Some lost valuable hay supplies. Luckily, no lives were lost, but some fled moments ahead of the inferno. I hope that whomever is in charge of reparations, realizes that cows have to eat. Today, tomorrow, and the day after that. I hope they realize that these ranchers need answers and feed now. Not in two months. Not in six months. Not next year. I hope they realize that you can’t just wait for the grass to grow back and the hay yards to fill up again. One shouldn’t have to hope. You should be able to depend on it.
I was never a fan of the sequestration. But, and some may disagree with me, if I had to find places to lay off government employees, I know where I would start.
We tend to forget that those volunteers on rural fire departments are farmers and ranchers and schoolteachers and mechanics who live with a radio on their hip and leave their farms and ranches and factories when that radio statics a little. They run out from weddings or funerals or hay fields or family picnics. They are our neighbors who, often times, leave their places unattended as they fight fire at a neighbor’s. A neighbor whom they may or may not know. The neighbor may live over the hill, across the river, or 50 miles from them.
Prairie fires are fast moving demons. They can travel faster than man or truck can travel and create their own wind. A fire that is burning on a still day can quickly become a traveling monster. On a windy day, they can be nearly invincible.
And that is why farmers and ranchers jump on trucks and tractors and pickups with water tanks and spray coupes and grab wet sacks and slappers and shovels and hoes and head for the smoke in a heartbeat. Be safe out there.
And on a lighter note, these two old friends were sitting at the bar sipping on a cool one. I imagine they were talking about the weather, the Minnesota Twins, and the lack of moisture in the subsoil.
One of them looked at two sorry- looking old guys across the bar from them. “There sits you and me in 10 or 15 years.”
His friend looks and says, “It’s a mirror, you idiot!”