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Author Archives: Frank J. Buchman

A Cowboy’s Faith: ‘Cows Don’t Give Milk’

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Lifelong a slow learner, after three people, the last being Richard Strachan, sent the “Greatest Story Ever Told,” now sharing it.

A father used to say to his children when they were young: “When you all reach the age of 12, I will tell you the secret of life.”

One day when the oldest turned 12 years old, he anxiously asked his father what is the secret of life?

The father replied that he was going to tell him, but that he should not reveal it to his brothers.

The secret of life is this: “The cow does not give milk.”

“What are you saying?” asked the boy incredulously.

As you hear it, son: The cow does not give milk, you have to milk her. You have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, go to the field, drive the cow through the manure-filled corral. Tie the tail up, hobble her legs, sit on the stool, place the bucket under her, and do the work yourself.

That is the secret of life, the cow does not give milk. You milk her or you don’t get milk.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Replacing the feed truck

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Feeding cattle puts a lot of wear and tear on a truck.”

Pickups used to feed cattle a few square bales of hay every day have long gone to the wayside. Nowadays, powerful flatbed trucks with added equipment to haul and unroll big round hay bales are common on most ranches.

Of course, the trucks must be four-wheel-drive to get around in mud and snow with two bales loaded on. Stress is heavy on all parts of a truck from the engine to the framework, to the springs and axles when carrying tons of hay. Inclement weather conditions increase the rust, vibration, on every part of the mechanical devices.

Large heavy treaded rubber tires are required to handle the hay weight. Still, no matter how slow and careful the truck is driven on rock country roads, tires often go flat. It’s a major ordeal to change the tires, and sometimes more of an effort to get one fixed. Not many stockmen repair their own flat tires, although many have tried, and found it too much work.

As serious as having a flat tire is the high probability of ruining the tire when it runs out of air. Like everything, truck tire replacement is expensive.

Trucks are not the only implement used to feed hay to cattle, but seemingly more stockmen use them than tractors. Tractors are called into feeding duties when a truck won’t run or gets stuck and must be pulled out. Most tractors still don’t have an unrolling apparatus, so bales are dropped out in the field with considerable hay wasted when cattle eat.

Regardless of how well-built and the amount of attempted careful care given feed trucks, they wear out way too soon. No matter how many times a feed truck is repaired, there comes a point when it just can’t be fixed again.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Older just gets better

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Time flies whenever one is busy and having fun.”

It’s a familiar comment with truthfulness. Yet, even more strikingly in maturity is the question: “Where has all the time gone.”

With another candle on the cake, thoughts of days and now years gone by are revisited.

Years one to four are unmemorable other than photos, but times forward are joyfully reflected.

What’s so amazing is how incomprehensibly great the seven decades plus have been.

Earliest childhood fascinations without exception have come to reality and far beyond. Being a cowboy was always the most important objective.

Of course, cowboy has various meanings, and not “the best,” whatever that means, personal goal has been most satisfyingly met.

Wearing boots, jeans, hat, and riding a horse every day qualifies this definition of being a cowboy.

Along the way there’s been carrying groceries, education, friendships, career, ranching, writing stories, and most importantly family.

With maturity the one thing that stands out above anything else is how little can be completely understood.

When a teenager, everything was known about everything. Today nothing is really known about anything.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Dispersing that unneeded ‘stuff’

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“A lot of stuff can pile up in more than seven decades.”

That’s true for many, probably most, yet others just “throw away” whatever they aren’t using regularly. They don’t have anything around that doesn’t have a present necessary use.

“If something hasn’t been used in the past five years, it’s not needed so just get rid of it.” Such philosophy is also common, yet definitely not always the case.

Financial records are important to keep for years as reference for management, taxation, assistance programs, and other purposes. Impossible to prove much of anything by word of mouth.

While there is generally no economic worth, photos and scrapbooks often have considerable sentimental value. It’s fun to remember and see how people and life change through time.

“I don’t want to throw anything away, because I might want it sometime.” Those most conservative who’ve never had much feel that way about certain possessions. A favorite worn out shirt, coat, boots, or hat might be kept for no reason except “I like them.”

Still there are hoarders who keep absolutely everything. Every building is overflowing with what is really “junk,” absolutely worthless to them or anybody else.

Still, what seems worthless to one can have certain value to somebody else. That might be as small as a pair of pliers to as major as an old car or tractor.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Real cowboys wear boots

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear.”

Merle Haggard sang it in his 1969 country music chart topper.

“Cowboy boots are still in style for cowboys to wear.”

Early day and present cowboy pictures verify that’s the way it is.

Styles have changed throughout the decades, with old-fashioned cowboy boots hard to find and cost a whole bunch. This is according to a lifetime wearer of cowboy boots for seven decades with only a few exceptions.

Fortunately, Mom insisted her son wear cowboy boots all the time, which he did without choice or rebuttal. Boots were readily purchasable at local stores with a new pair at least once a year. Regular polishing was required and one set of new heels, sometimes soles too, before boots were completely worn out.

There were square toes, pointed toes, round toes, steep heels, straight heels, stovepipe square tops, short round tops, and more. Black in color for ease of care, with brown or tan preferred, but unallowed by Mom.

Still, there was always one pair of Sunday School shoes for special occasions. Plus, tennis shoes for physical education and to play in sports, which was tried very few times.

During high school, cowboy boots seemed inappropriate for a teenager coming up in the world. Slip-on shoes were purchased and worn intermittently publicly hoping to “make an impression.” That didn’t work, so back to cowboy boots ever since, except when knee replacement swelling only permitted wearing shoes.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Anniversary party plans change

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Golden anniversary celebration of professional employment was scheduled for Dec. 26, 2022. Original plans have been changed, but it’s still a memorable day in personal history.

After graduating from college 50 years ago, job applications were sent several places. Reponses were received with school teaching offers and tentative work for a purebred beef organization. Application to a farm newspaper received a call from the owner requesting an interview.

It was a freezing December morning when the recent graduate with wife and baby remaining in the car was interviewed.

Naivety and low-level applicant knowledge were quite apparent with the newspaper owner-interviewer readily noticing the other family members shivering outside.

Somehow, someway, maybe feeling sorry for kids, the grocery carryout boy-wannabe cowboy was hired to be a professional newspaperman.

It was really a perfect job, meeting people, writing stories, while continuing to develop personal ranching and horse business. Although documented as the “first real job,” working had been just about all that was ever known.

Growing up with parents as grocery store operators, working in every phase of that business was expected and rewarded.

Yet, working for family didn’t seem like a “real job,” compared to employment for somebody else. Not a single regret for the hardworking upbringing with the fondest memories of those “good ole days.”

Newspaper job changed positively through decades as ranching expanded with growth in horse training, sales, and judging.

Then after 36 1/2 years, “You’re fired” came the very surprising announcement from youngblood management behind closed doors. Right or wrong, the truly dedicated farm newspaperman shook hands with terminator, went home, and rode a horse.

High-priced winter livestock feed cost can be managed

Big bale feeders help save hay and lower cow winter feed costs. Courtesy photo.

As cold weather continues with forecasts for increasing blizzard conditions throughout winter, livestock hay needs increase. University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Gene Schmitz has provided thoughts for livestock producers to consider when feeding livestock.

“Test the hay,” Schmitz said. “This is the simplest, most cost-effective practice you can do,”

Sort hay supplies into quality groups and match the hay to nutritional needs of each group of livestock, he advised.

“Then feed appropriate supplement, if necessary, to each separate group based on nutritional needs and hay quality,” Schmitz continued.

“Reduce waste because poor feeding practices can result in hay wastage of more than 25 percent,” the specialist emphasized.

Cone-type hay feeders or tapered-bottom feeders greatly reduce hay waste, especially if they have a bottom skirt.

“If unrolling, limit the amount of hay being unrolled at a given time,” Schmitz recommended. “Unrolling more than one day’s feeding will substantially increase hay waste.”

It’s a bit late for this now, Schmitz said, but another substantial source of hay waste is how the hay is stored.

If covered hay storage is not a possibility, at least take measures to break soil-hay contact, the specialist urged. Building rock pads or storing bales on pallets, tires, or other surface reduces waste on the bottom of the bale.

Producers who have pasture or crop residues to graze can divide fields into smaller areas with temporary fencing, Schmitz said.

“These are easy to move and can greatly extend the number of grazing days from a given area,” he continued. “Fencing to provide one to two weeks grazing is acceptable.”

There are limit-feeding options. With adequate-quality forage, limiting cow access to hay feeders can reduce waste while achieving acceptable performance.

“Twelve-hour access seems to be a good compromise between performance and waste reduction,” Schmitz said. “Do not attempt this without a hay test.”

Cows can be limit-fed a high-grain ration to meet energy needs with less feed, he noted. “Compare the cost of grain to hay on a per-unit-of-energy basis when considering this option,” Schmitz urged.

Some producers graze standing milo as an effective, lower-cost way to feed cows through the winter.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Horses promenade for Christmas

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“There’s no parade quite like the Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade at Lawrence.”

Annually the first Saturday in December, the parade was started to highlight Lawrence’s historic Eldridge Hotel in 1993. It has grown to a nationally recognized all horsepower event kicking off the holiday season.

Managed by dedicated volunteers, the parade pays tribute to the contribution of horses in the nation’s transportation heritage. Only horse drawn vehicles and horseback riders can participate in the hour-long parade officially started by a five-airplane flyover.

Massachusetts Street is packed several layers deep with spectators of all ages clapping as the parade passes by. “Merry Christmas” greetings are smilingly, loudly expressed continuously throughout the route by both participants and those watching.

Nearly every size, shape, and color of equine were present with no shortage of mules and donkeys. Some of the most historic horse drawn carriages were intertwined with many quite uniquely designed horsepower vehicles.

Riding groups from a wide area were decked out in matching attire with plenty of red and green throughout the parade.

Anybody who ever believed there is just one Santa Claus was proven wrong. Uncertain the count, but dozens of Santa’s in every body shape attracted lots of applause for their “Ho Ho Hos.”

This was the fourth year of participation this time riding with the Kansas Horse Council, one of 55 parade entries. Sun was shining as temperatures just at or slightly above the freezing mark made for a brisk fast-paced ride.

Christmas is an important birthday party

Area churches host live nativities for Christmas, Jesus’ birthday party. Courtesy photo.

“Remember the reason for the season.” The comment has often been repeated, but in reality, who has given much thought to what it means?

Christmas is supposed to be a birthday party celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, savior of the human race. That is readily forgotten by way too many, and more concerning not even known by perhaps the majority.

Oh, there are plenty of parties this time of year for enjoyment, relaxation, often excess carousing. Gifts are given and received creating appreciation, twinkling eyes especially of the little ones and usually everyone attending.

Yet, at how many of those fun times is there ever consideration of why the family and friends are together. How many said a prayer before a meal, or during the affair? Were there any Christmas carols sang about reason for the season?

Of course, there’s discussions involving Santa Claus. They’re really unimportant, unless knowing about Saint Nicolas, who the fairytale character is fashioned after.

Decorations in the community and homes are bright giving all feeling of joy, but little about the real birthday party.

How many churches displayed public nativity scenes this year? Were there any nativities set up in homes beside Christmas trees and stockings hung on the chimney with care?

Not that long ago, manger scenes were common during the Christmas season. Today they have often become a political issue and target of attack against Christianity.

Court cases and laws demanding the elimination of nativity displays seem an attempt to remove Christ Himself. Still, they cannot erase impact of Jesus’ life.

Humble setting of the baby in a manger doesn’t adequately convey significance of the most important birth in human history.

Mary’s newborn was God, Creator, Pre-eminent One, Sustainer, and Firstborn from the dead through resurrection.

Christmas is not about presents, eating, or fun, but about the coming of the Savior. Without the baby in the manger, there would be no cross, no resurrection, and no hope for eternal life.

Even a small child can understand and respond in faith to Christ’s offer of the gift of eternal life. Yet it’s beyond comprehension.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Teeth essential for chewing

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“The dentist is one person most people really don’t like to visit.”

Yet, everybody agrees if he prevents wearing false teeth, “the pain is worth the gain.”

No shortage of dental appointments throughout the lifetime, with first memories for examination of “black” teeth. Grade school pictures verify the teeth really were black. Must have been rotten baby teeth because the next year those teeth were gone.

Mom followed dentist recommendations requiring regular checkups always too often. Every time, a cavity needed filled, and remembering that jarring tooth grinder brings cringes six decades later.

Crooked yellow teeth embarrassed a teenager, so appointments were set up in a city miles away. Every month for a long time, Mom took her son to have his teeth straightened. Uncertain how much it all must have cost, but for sure a big bunch. Worse thing other than painful procedure was the teeth weren’t straight and were still yellow when finished.

Dentist visits were infrequent until that wild stallion went over backwards and the trainer had two front teeth knocked out. It was Sunday, but the hometown dentist came into his office and put in “temporary” teeth. Hard to believe these days, but the replacement work lasted 30 years until the city dentist insisted they must be replaced.

That was a major out-of-pocket bill fortunately reduced somewhat by workplace insurance coverage. At least the “bridge” teeth were straighter and whiter than the cowboy’s teeth had ever been.

Obviously proud of his work, that tooth doctor stipulated regular checkups and cleanings were essential going forward. Grudgingly, his recommendations were followed to a point.

A Cowboy’s Faith:Rerun that didn’t run

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“All decked out. Sure, look sharp.”

“Doing the farming today?”

“Going to work for the railroad, huh?”

“Oh, Howdy Doody. Haven’t seen him in a while.”

The lead comments for a column written exactly 12 years ago, but never submitted for publication.

Going through office stacks, typed paper came to the top and seemed to merit a rewrite. Longer than modern-day media have space, exceeding limitations for expressing the point.

Back then, still new at that job, walked into the boss’s office, scowl quickly spread across his face. “What’s that you’re wearing?”

Somewhat taken back, cowboy’s innocent response: “It’s supposed to be “Jeans Day.” Cowboys wear jeans every day, so decided to wear overalls today. Is there anything wrong with that?”

Despite higher expenses, net farm income predicted to set record high

High commodity prices will propel the United States’ net farm income to a record $160.5 billion this year, despite a steep climb in expenses.

The United States Department of Agriculture has predicted farm income to be 14 percent higher than last year. That’s twice as high as three years ago.

Value of farm assets would climb 10 percent this year, following a 10 percent increase in 2021, second highest year. Farm debt will climb more slowly, USDA said. The debt-to-asset ratio will drop to 13.05 percent, its first decline since 2011.

Crops and livestock will generate $541.5 billion in cash receipts, up 24 percent or nearly $106 billion, from last year. Almost all of the increase, $96.8 billion, would be the result of higher prices, calculated USDA economists. Corn, wheat, and soybean will make an additional $37 billion this year compared to last.

Higher broiler chicken prices would boost receipts by 55 percent. Revenue from cattle, hogs, turkeys, and milk also would climb. “Cash receipts for chicken eggs are expected to more than double,” USDA said.

Commodity prices boomed with the return of China to the U.S. market in fall 2020, USDA said. They surged again after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.

The invasion disrupted grain and fertilizer exports from the Black Sea region. Ukraine and Russia are major wheat exporters, and Russia leads in fertilizer exports.

A Cowboy’s Faith:Turning back to business

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“The horse business has many definitions and can go a wide variety of directions.”

Horses are an addiction for certain people who feel they can’t be without them. Sometimes, it seems an inherited trait as children often have parents with deep fondness for horseflesh.

People can become enthusiastic about horses at any age in life. But most others wanted and enjoyed horses from early childhood.

Studies have long proven therapeutic benefits of horses physically and mentally. Working with horses is exercise for the body and the mind improving health.

Today, horses are generally a hobby and often a very expensive one. Still for others and a much smaller number, horses are a lucrative profession.

Breeders raise horses to sell, and trainers teach both horses and riders. Cattlemen use horses for checking, doctoring, and gathering cattle.

Rodeo competitors ride horses in their professional sport. Traders buy and sell horses as a fulltime enterprise. Occasionally, hobbyists participating in horse shows have profitable returns.

A Cowboy’s Faith:Healing for limping horses

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“A horse is generally unusable if it is lame.”

Throughout decades, many horses have become lame. With numerous reasons for such issues, generally there is recovery and horses become rideable again. Often, resting a limping horse is all that’s required, because it has been overused in adverse conditions.

Riding Cody the ranch-raised speed horse on concrete at the sale barn several hours made him stiff and ouchy. Within a couple days, he walked normal and even won four horseshow races later that week.

The gray ranch-raised yearling filly, ZaneEtta, was lame in her right rear foot. Swelled such she wouldn’t put any weight on it, the filly was limping around the corral. Without treatment, in a few days she was completely sound. Evidently, ZaneEtta, caught the foot under the fence causing slight injury.

New shoes can cause horse severe lameness if the farrier does not properly place a nail. Generally, the shoe can be pulled, or just one nail removed. Most horses become completely sound even though it might take a little time for soreness to leave.

Laminitis, scientific name for founder, is a common cause of horse lameness. It has various causes, typically overconsumption of feed or water, speaking from personal experience.

The black stallion Dennis Good was foundered after drinking excess water following a show but recovered. Often foundered horses will be sound enough for use, although some remain permanently lame. Once a horse has foundered, it is easy for it to founder again.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Helping others with horses

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Rosie was most influential directing a wannabe cowboy’s involvement with horses.”

Induction of Rosie Rezac Clymer into Dodge City’s Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame as a rancher/cattlewoman brought memories.

The first person met at the first show ever participated in was Rosie Rezac. Smiling, she proudly rode her sorrel mare Cindy in every class often taking the prize.

Young riders watched Rosie closely, anticipating her “good job” acknowledgement. Thereafter, Rosie was at all area horseshows, helping, encouraging everybody.

Rosie Clymer, Kansas Cowboy Hall of Famer

Wherever Rosie was riding so was her best friend Faye Peck. They rode in the pair race and invited young riders to be on their relay team. At an Emporia show, the cowgirls asked a wannabe to ride with their team. The foursome won and the young team member received his first blue ribbon.

Trade learned from her dad; Rosie was a skilled farrier, shoeing horses over a wide area for years.

Fate in action, Rosie started teaching in local schools. Everybody knew Miss Rezac, usually just “Rosie,” who met area rancher-farmer, Earl. Soon after, she became Mrs. Clymer, still typically “Rosie.”

Rosie and Earl were in the cattle business, farmers, known as “toughs” in the rodeo wild cow milking. Athletic Rosie roped, big Earl mugged, Rosie milked, ran, and they usually won.

Arabian horses appealed to Rosie’s giddy-up-go, although she took jovial flak from certain cowboys. Still, Rosie on her homebred Arabians beat them whatever the competition.

An excellent marketer, Rosie sold her own horses, helped others sell horses, and located suitable horses for friends to buy.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Calf sale economically important

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Not more than five minutes at one evening’s cattle auction determines the total ranch income.”

For many years, calves produced annually are sold in a special fall calf sale at an area auction barn. With exception of retaining replacement heifers, all calves born in one year are sold at the same time.

Grain is pretty much essential when keeping calves for other forms of merchandizing. None is produced in this operation, and it’s quite high priced to buy.

Fortunately, the marketing method has worked out satisfactorily all things considered. Yes, there are weekly and even daily fluctuations that can influence the amount of the check received.

Of course, there’s never enough, but year in year out, money received for the calf crop has balanced out. It’s easy to get used to “high priced” calves which help pay debt principal faster.

When the market drops like the past several years, there’s hardly enough to keep up. Market rebounds in more recent times have been beneficial to black side of the ledger, creating more cattle business optimism.

It is a complicated equation when evaluating calf crop income. Of course, objective is always for the calf crop to weigh an average of more than the previous year. Likewise, goal is to always top the market in weight category.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Tax dollars at work

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“It’s all supposed to be done by mid-November.”

That’s what the highway construction foreman has again promised. Work will not be finished any too soon for ranchers putting up with the roadblocks that have continued for months.

Just when it seems there’s going to be reprieve different projects cut loose all at the same time.

Not mechanically minded, everything is a “bulldozer” in a wannabe cowboy’s intelligence. There are all kinds of machinery on the go. Big trucks with bigger wheels, every shape imaginable dirt mover, giant bulldozers, huge dirt haulers of every sort.

Every one going lickity-cut, must be 60 miles an hour, so it seems. Give them the right of way, even though sometimes the mind would like to dare one to see who gives first.

“No way, let ’em have the road, they’re 100 times as big and likely 1,000 times as powerful.”

To make it worse and most nerving of all is the loud always roaring engines. Never one to own or want to have a hot rod, rides with friends who had them five decades-plus ago were instantly refused.

Those agitating big screeching motors are accompanied by very loud horns of every decimal God has created. Not just one but seemingly two dozen all at the same time. Then there are backup caution whistles, sirens, beeps, whatever else they might be called.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Scary to be lost

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Getting lost is one of the most frightening experiences a person can have.”

There are worse things, but it does make certain individuals quite scared until figuring out a definite location.

Growing up in a rural community delivering groceries, homes of everybody in town were known. Every street and alley were remembered from daily travel for two decades, so wasn’t ever lost.

First time lost was after the state fair best-groomed boy contest trying to find the car in the parking lot. Details aren’t remembered, but somehow the 16-year-old country kid got back home in the same vehicle he’d come in.

Returning in the night from a Kansas Livestock Association convention at Wichita, the wrong exit was taken. Driver was lost driving who knows where until main highway was located and got back home safe again.

Judging horseshows in 20 states, many required airflights, and airports are an easy place to get lost. Being at the right takeoff gate at the right time always seemed an issue. Upon destination arrival, it was much better if driven to motel and arena by show management. Driving a rented car in big cities is proven way for a country boy to get lost.

Worst time was being lost in Boston, Mass., going over the toll bridge five times before getting to the motel. How there were enough quarters in the pocket to throw in the toll baskets could have only been God’s graces.

Returning from Seattle, Wash., the airport just couldn’t be found in the middle of the night. Calls to show managers seeking directions were no help. Eventually airport was found with a fast run to the gate just as closing.

Perry, Ga., airport is bigger than many others, always getting lost for a while. Writing down exact location where car was parked at airport relieved pressures when returning home.

Rounding up cattle in four section pastures can be intimidating for wannabe cowboys with grass and skyline in every direction. “Just keep riding and there’ll be a fence someplace.”

Even been lost in the shopping mall parking lot, but never lost permanently, although have nightmares of such.

It’s not a completely unique trait. Mazeophobia is the scientific name for the fear of being lost.

Reminded of Psalm 36:6: “God’s love in his largeness nothing gets lost permanently.”

Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.

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