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Author Archives: Frank J. Buchman

A Cowboy’s Faith: Wind forces barn construction

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“More than a half century of strong winds finally beat the pole barn so it could no longer be repaired.”

Admittedly the 60’x80’ structure had been “cobbled” together initially, but it served the purpose for which constructed.

The multipurpose barn was considered an asset to the farm when purchased. Yet, it had obviously been built from all used materials with old electric poles serving as the main “stronghold.”

Rafters were designed from various dimensions of old lumber showing ample previous use. Rusted, bent, nail-hole-penetrated tin served as the roof of which some always blew off with the slightest wind.

Through the decades, the tall, open-sided facility was used for storage of big and small hay bales. Tractors, farm equipment, and miscellaneous were placed there for protection from damaging weather.

It was a general catchall for fence posts, wire, feed tubs, water tanks, troughs, hand tools, and worn-out whatever.

Dad was never scared of heights, so he crawled up the 20-foot ladder and nailed down loose tin several times. His son even repaired the roofing sometimes before a professional was hired for the scary task.

Finally, continuous intense winds for months on end damaged the barn so it was deemed irreparable. A handful of contractors were contacted about rebuilding the barn specially to protect expensive farm machinery.

While a couple carpenters said the barn could be renovated somewhat, they agreed the cost would be expensive. It would still be an old structure that the next windstorm would severely damage or destroy.

After considerable deliberation, talking to various builders, determination was made to bulldoze the barn down and haul it off.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Constant task maintaining fences

“Fence is essential for keeping livestock, pets, and sometimes even children out of trouble and where they’re supposed to be.”

Days of open range are long gone when cattle grazed at random going from one location to another without boundary.

There was major disgruntlement between landowners and cattlemen when fences were constructed to keep livestock in their specified place.

Barbed wire was used for building many fences and is still the most common material for keeping livestock confined.

Interesting evaluating early day fences constructed out of native limestone. Remains of those rock fences still exist although likely none can safely be used to keep livestock in. Difficult to imagine the arduous work required to build and maintain those layered rock fences.

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Of course, fences for centuries have been built using various other materials with wood probably the most recurrent.

Regardless of how well a barbed wire fence is built, there seems to be unending maintenance. One large rancher contended that all barbed wire fences must be rebuilt on a regular basis. He felt that fence replacement should be done on a certain footage half mile, more-or-less, every year.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Square baler to Nebraska

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“It hadn’t been used for a couple of years, so the twine-tie square baler was sold on an internet auction.”

Small square bales of hay are a lot of work, but nearly essential for most livestock operations.

Big round bales of hay are much easier to handle and feed large herds. However, when there’s just one cow in a pen, a flake of hay from a small square bale works better.

Two small square hay balers have been used in the ranching operation in the past half century.

The John Deere T14 baler worked sufficiently, with bales dropped on the ground and loaded by hand onto the pickup.

Most farmers had wagons pulled behind so a man could load bales as they came out of the baler. There wasn’t one available here, so additional manual labor was required during hay season. The square bales had to be stored by hand in the barn.

After considerable difficulties with the twine-tying mechanism, and lots of messy untied bales, that original baler finally just gave out.

Replacement was a well-used New Holland 276 twine-tie square baler. Exciting thing about that baler was the accumulator accompanying it, so bales were dropped in packs on the ground.

A tractor with a frontend loader picked up the packs of bales and loaded them on a trailer. Bales were much more readily stored in an open hay shed with not nearly as much handwork.

That square bale handling operation worked well for several years until the old baler developed considerable mechanical problems. Instead of finding another replacement, it was decided to have the square bales put up by a custom operator.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Cows essential for beef

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Beef prices are near the highest level ever in meat markets with exception of certain specials.”

At the rate of which cows are being dispersed throughout most of the nation, prices will go higher.

There must be cows having calves annually for there to be beef for consumers to eat. Despite claimed alternatives, consumption levels continue to prove that most people like to eat beef.

While the over-the-counter beef price increases, buyers purchase beef as the cost keeps going higher.

Increasingly, producers have found enhanced income as they are offering beef direct from the farm to the consumer. While it is initially a major consumer investment requiring long term freezer storage, they appreciate the consistent quality.

Eating away from home is a common practice for many families, and they generally select beef from the menu. Incomprehensible the cost of a hamburger let alone beef steak when purchased at an eating establishment, yet that’s the choice.

There must be a factory to have beef for supper and that begins with the cow. Extensive cow slaughter largely due to producers’ short feed and water supply, cows are helping increase beef supplies now.

Cows provide beef for the table just like other cattle, steers, and heifers, produced for human consumption. Issue of concern for the future is having enough cows to produce calves meeting beef consumer demand. Once a cow becomes meat, she must be replaced and that is not easy.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Lighter calves bring more

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“They averaged weighing less than a year ago but sold for more per pound.”

So, the amount received for this year’s calf crop set a ranch record high.

Objective is for calves to be heavier than the previous year’s weaning weight.

That was not the case for any certain reason. They received required vaccinations, were healthy, looked fresh, smooth haired, and uniform when sold as a group.

Evidently lower average weaning weight was partially due to inferior grass quality late in the season. Although dry and short, native pasture was considered higher in protein rather than slushy.

Genetics were such the calves should have weighed more than the previous year. However, water supplies were not of the highest quality.

Water was always available, but it was sometimes limited and frequently muddy with cattle forced to consume what there was.

Auction market price per pound was the determining factor of the total calf crop value. It is risky when a whole year’s calf crop is sold all at one time.

There was considerable concern about what the market would be, although prices had been going up in recent months. Then fear of a government shutdown lowered prices being paid in days prior to sale time.

Somehow, someway, the market showed remarkable recovery and even increased some for the calves to sell for highest average ever. There have been drastic price fluctuations in the downward trend since sale day and are presently below what was received.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Time to keep quiet

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

Will Rogers said it first, and the quote has often been repeated, usually to ears refusing to listen.

Certainly, qualified to once again make the statement after seven decades of always talking too much.

Few students if any were in trouble for yakking more often in nearly 17 years of attending school.

Little attention was paid to the educators’ reprimands and the talkativeness has continued throughout life.

Awareness of the fact became apparent at meetings of more than a handful of boards on which elected to serve.

It is essential for all sides of any issue to be brought forward to be discussed. Opinions are widely varied on most subjects and can create serious arguments and lifelong misunderstandings.

There are two sides to nearly every decision to be made. In the freedom of this country’s democracy, majority vote determines the outcome of the topic at hand.

Despite disliking the conclusion, there is no legitimate way at that point to dispute the voting outcome. However, the subject can be brought up again at a later date with changing views presented and another voting process taking place.

Some people will not express their opinion on any subject due to being afraid of disagreeing with others.

It is impossible to have change, hopefully that being progress for betterment, without different philosophies. None might be right or wrong, but hearing all sides is essential in a democracy for which blessings are many.

So, there is generally a time to keep quiet and as importantly when to share an opinion based on experience.

Nobody likes it when one person rattles on and on dominating any conversation. Typically, there is no way to congenially ask or tell them to please be quiet so somebody else can talk.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Land values can decrease

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“They aren’t making any more land.”

The true comment has been repeated uncountable times throughout history.

“Land only comes up for sale once in lifetime, so purchase must be made when there is that opportunity.”

Similar statements have also frequently been quoted, but there are many exceptions. Certain land parcels have changed ownership numerous times in a few years.

“Cost of land will always be higher.”

While sometimes true, it is a misnomer verified in research of land sale prices throughout the century. Prices paid for all types of land have skyrocketed comparatively in current times. However, a slowdown has been reported by financial institutions, with predictions for further decreases in prices.

“While land prices might continue to decline, they can’t go down to levels of 40 years ago.”

Comparable comments have often been made by the younger generation of agriculturalists and landowners.

It’s not said by the ones who remember earlier sharp land price deterioration. Generational family agriculture operations were forced out of business largely due to extremely high interest rates.

After record agriculture prices, producers became overly optimistic believing they would forever receive such high income. That was far from the way it happened. Those paying record land prices found their purchase was valued at a small percentage of what they’d bought it for.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Near record water shortage

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Water supplies are the shortest in memories of more than seven decades.”

Land has been extremely parched several times in that period, but not severe as now.

Wells, springs, ponds, creeks, and many other water sources are waterless. Those who remember the “Dirty 30s,” and the intense drought conditions, claim now is approaching that dangerous level.

Several ponds went dry or had very low water levels a few years ago, so many owners had them rebuilt. Now, some of those ponds are short of water and more have gone completely dry.

Farm and ranch owners are planning to redo the previous pond cleaning jobs and doing considerable renovation of other ponds.

Shortness of rain has made wells with limited water supplies go dry and the best wells have inadequate water.

Those who promote “witching wells” to locate ground water are in demand but have little or no success. No use digging a new well if the water isn’t available.

Rural water districts have been developed to provide water when there are no other sources. Underground rural water district lines were established when water became in short supply.

Now, additional rural water lines are being considered. It is not an easy process as costly underground pipelines must be created with added charge for the water.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Better days without computers

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.A young man asked his grandfather, “Grandpa, how did you live in the past without technology …

Without computers, without internet connection, without television, without air conditioners, without cars, and without cell phones?”

Grandpa answered:

“As your generation lives today …

There are no prayers, there is no compassion, there is no respect, there is no real education, there is no personality, there is no shame at all, there is no modesty, and there is no honesty.

“We, the people born between the years 1940-1980, were the blessed ones. Our lives are a living proof …

While playing about everywhere and riding our bikes we never wore a helmet. Before school we played and then again after school until dusk we played and hardly ever watched television. We played with real friends, not virtual friends.

If we were thirsty, we drank tap water, or water from the hose, not mineral water in a plastic bottle. We never worried even when we shared the same cup of juice with four friends. We never gained weight by eating plates of pasta every day.

Nothing happened to our feet despite roaming barefoot. We never used food supplements to stay healthy. We used to make our own toys and play with them. Our parents were not rich, but they gave love, not stuff.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Payoff will eliminate debt

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Incomprehensible the volume of scam calls received in one day, let alone a week and month.

They are all aggravating with most promising something that is too good to be true.

Most upsetting and biggest rip-off to the economy is when the caller touts an opportunity to “eliminate your credit card debt.”

The only way to do that or abolish any financial obligation is to pay it off with hard earned money.

When a commitment is made to buy anything, it is the purchaser’s responsibility to pay for the acquisition.

Never have forgotten the message of a field day speaker: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.” That applies to everything in life of material value.

The nation’s economy cannot continue to operate positively if people don’t meet their personal financial obligations.

Everything has a cost, and somebody is taking a loss when it is not paid for. It is impossible to operate any business without positive revenue for continued economic cash flow.

Credit accounts are a generous way for owners to assist buyers in extending time for payment. But, when payment is not immediate, interest on the purchase continues to mount, decreasing profits for the sales firm.

Seemingly, many people don’t understand that debts must be paid and jump on promises of eliminating monetary responsibility without payment. It sounds good on the forefront frequently even creating optimism for a person to “be out of debt.”

Most people do not want to be in debt, but the only honest way out is to pay the bill. Generally, that is far from easy and requires lots of time and dedication to do what’s right.

A Cowboy’s Faith: No place like home

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“The ranch home is a cowboy’s castle.”

While there are various sayings about homes being castles, nothing is more important than a good, safe, secure home.

The home is even referred to as a mansion, but it’s not of size and elaborateness to fit such definition. Even when a home isn’t that fancy, it still feels like a mansion because everything of personal importance is there.

People enjoy being rulers in their own homes, and others have no right to enter without the householder’s permission.

“A man’s home is his castle” was referenced in a 1500s’ proverb as well as the Bill of Rights. “The right of the people to be secure in their houses against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”

Disagreement over the extent of personal privacy and over interpretation of unreasonable has brought many cases before the Supreme Court.

Some people live in one home their entire lives, where they were born and where they die. They have no desire to live anyplace else.

Contrastingly, other people have lived in dozens of different homes as their professions call them to various locales forcing relocation.

Changes in life and philosophy also find people having home diversity whether location or structure quality. Even a tent or a pickup camper can become home.

A Cowboy’s Faith: ‘Old’ farmer gives advice

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.When a farmer’s wife previously provided advice, a number of readers men and women nodded in general agreement. It seems only fair to let the man of the farm share a lifetime of wisdom, give his two cents worth.

Again, unsolicited but received several times on the computer, here’s one “old” farmer’s tidbits for improved living:

  • Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight, and bull-strong.
  • Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
  • A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered – not yelled.
  • Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
  • Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
  • Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
  • It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
  • You cannot unsay a cruel word.
  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Purpose for detour signs

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Detours are a common aggravation for highway drivers, seemingly more commonplace today than ever.”

As much as drivers dread seeing a detour sign and attempting to follow confusing directions, no detour sign is worse. That became apparent when major highways were barricaded off to and from the ranch headquarters.

Signs indicated “No Through Traffic,” but there were no detour signs. Drivers were given no directions on how to get from the main highway to other locations. Hundreds of vehicles, including semi tractors pulling heavily loaded livestock and grain trailers drove right around the barricades.

They were sorry for doing so when realizing through traffic on paved highways was impossible. Cars and pickups were able to make U-turns and head back to figure out some way to find their destination.

For the 18-wheelers, getting turned around became a major ordeal. Several truckers jackknifed their big rigs and spent considerable time and effort getting turned around. There was damage to certain trucks which remained stranded for extended time with their hoods up.

When headed back in the direction they came, drivers still didn’t know how to get where they wanted to go. While there were gravel rural roads, no signs pointed out which ones to take to get to any certain locale.

In urban areas, there are always detour signs which are often perplexing, but better than no driver guidance whatsoever.

“Why aren’t there detour signs posted several times along the highway before the no through traffic barricades which people ignore?” That question was asked dozens if not hundreds of times before any answer was provided.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Grain bin to texas

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“It hadn’t been used for original purpose in many years and had become a junk catchall.”

When moving to the ranch 52 years ago, the what-then-appeared high-quality steel grain bin seemed an asset.

It served for a few years as storage for the always-very-small milo crop produced on the uphill gumbo land. Before long, farming costs were more than was being produced so the land was planted to tame grass brome.

Hog and horse feed corn-milo mixture was purchased from the elevator, hand-scooped off, and stored in the bin. That became too much work, so a trailer was acquired for hauling feed where it stayed until fed to livestock.

After being empty for a while, the bin became a storage unit so to speak. Soon, everything on the ranch that wasn’t being used was pitched into the grain bin. The grain bin became so full it was nearly impossible to shut the door.

A friend looked in the grain bin and saw something he wanted and asked what it’d cost. “Free, if you’ll take all of the rest of the stuff in there,” was the response.

He agreed and had two pickup loads before everything was cleaned out. But the bin soon filled back up with things “to be used later.”

After a half century, it was decided the bin was in the way and should be removed. Several attempts to sell it locally failed. One farmer said he’d take the bin free if he could figure out how to get it moved.

Eventually, the grain bin was consigned to an online computer auction without much optimism for any bidding. But surprising, it did sell to somebody in Texas.

“Do you know how to move it?” the buyer was asked when calling about getting the bin.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Poison ivy causes misery

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Be careful, that’s poison ivy on the old rotten dead tree you’re cutting down.”

Grant Carson stopped his Ford 8N tractor to advise a teenager about hazards of the green leaves encompassing the tree.

A long time ago, the community garden tiller and weekend town marshal counselled a naive tree saw operator.

The advice was never forgotten, and similar comments are heard frequently every year when people are around thriving poison ivy.

Sure enough, the next day back then there were red itchy spots all over the arms with seemingly uncontrollable scratching.

Medicated salves didn’t help one bit, but Dr. Bowers, a story himself, gave the kid a backside vaccination with red serum. The problem cleared up shortly afterward, and the same needle poke was requested on similar itchy occasions years later.

Several people in the area are now suffering from poison ivy and wonder more about the scratchy problem.

A weed specialist said poison ivy has three leaves with the middle leaf longer than the others. Edges can be smooth or coarsely toothed while the surface can be glossy or dull.

One dermatologist said about 75 percent of the population is allergic to the poison resin found in poison ivy.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Cowboy and stallion influences

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Most little boys were inspired to become cowboys decades ago when Westerns dominated theatres and television.

For the majority it was a passing craze soon forgotten as sports, girls, and other ventures dominated lives.

That was not true for everyone as there were a limited number who still “always wanted to be a cowboy.”

There are countless who must be credited for providing continued inspiration for life’s goal.

Foremost were parents who were lifelong horse enthusiasts insisting their son always wear cowboy boots. When they finally gave in to acquiring his own horse when he was 11 years old, the “real cowboy” goal enhanced.

Everyone with a horse was a hero as opportunities expanded through training for and becoming close friends with working cowboys.

Recent passing of world-renowned cowboy acknowledged Quarter Horse breeder-elite Duane Walker brought reflections of his many positive influences.

Tribute to Duane and his gray stallion Jackie Bee are in the syndicated “For The Love Of Horses.”

“Everybody’s friend” is the best description of Duane Walker, yet national notoriety came through Jackie Bee. He was “ahead of his time” in color, size, quality, and disposition carried into offspring.

Jackie Bee did not have showring or performance genes, or even local popularity, but importantly Duane Walker’s insightfulness of potential.

First impact of Duane and Jackie came when acquiring a mare bred to a son of Jackie Bee. The brown foal called Fella was a winner in every competition, climaxing as champion at a regional fair. As a gelding, he was gentle, pretty, and a nice riding horse.

A Cowboy’s Faith: College project trailer sold

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“It hadn’t been used for an extended time, so the tractor hauling trailer was sold through an online computer auction.”

In 1971, college agricultural education construction class students were given an opportunity to build a project for their own use.

With two tractors, a 1965 John Deere 1020 and a 1939 John Deere B, they were used at both farms. It was 15 miles from the headquarters to the other location, so Dad suggested building a trailer for hauling tractors.

Somewhat proficient in welding classes, the college junior jumped on the challenge. Basic plans were sketched out with advice from the class professor and recommendations from Dad and Uncle Elmer.

A classmate didn’t have a personal project, so he volunteered to help build the trailer for college credit.

Axles with wheels and tires were acquired from a local trailer house factory. Very heavy new steel for the framework was reasonably purchased from an area dealer.

Gooseneck hookups were uncommon at that time, so the trailer was designed to be pulled from a truck bumper. A jack and safety chain with the ball hitch made hookup simple.

Shaping steel into trailer form was easy with the college’ saws, cutting torches, and welders. Classmates worked well together with professor’s guidance to assure strength of welds.

Three portable ramps were constructed out of heavy steel to load the tractors which had different wheel and axle types.

With steel work completed, there wasn’t any floor. A local sawmill operator sawed heavy native lumber planks to dimension for that purpose.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Gathering Flint Hills cattle

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“It’s summer roundup time in the Flint Hills.”

Cowboys and cowgirls throughout the area have had alarm clocks going off at 4 o’clock in the morning. They catch, saddle, and load horses into trailers in order to be ready to gather short season yearling grazing cattle at 5:45 a.m.

There were 16 horseback riders, cowboys and cowgirls, along with two mechanical carts when about 600 steers were rounded up. No stampedes or other problems that morning so the steers were penned in steel fence corrals in less than two hours.

A couple steers had been left behind as lameness wouldn’t allow travel at pace of the remaining herd. They were loaded in pickup stock trailers driven out to their pasture location later in the morning. It’ll take some time for recovery from their health issues.

Nine semi tractor cattle trailers waiting a few miles away were called upon penning of the herd. They arrived at the cattle pens within minutes and the steers were loaded for distant feedlots and additional growing.

Grazing programs nowadays are sometimes different than several decades ago. Native Flint Hills grasses are highest in protein for increased yearling grazing cattle gains early in the season.

So, cattle are often double stocked on pastures for half the season to get the best gains possible. However, other cattle are grazed full season for roundup in early fall. They will weigh more at gathering time but will not have put pounds on as efficiently as the short season cattle.

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