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Author Archives: Frank J. Buchman

A Cowboy’s Faith: Modern machinery still better

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“The days of tossing four small square hay bales out the south hay mow door to the bunk are gone.”

Morning feeding chores would be finished by pitching two more bales down the chute to the barn manger. Sometimes a harnessed draft team was hitched to a wagon for distributing hay to other nearby pasture critters.

Those days when a family was raised on a quarter section farm have become hindsight. Now it takes big trucks and tractors to get the livestock chores done hopefully before noon.

Instead of a couple dozen head of livestock fed in the barnyard, it’s several hundred if not a thousand. They’re spread out over a section of ranchland or sometimes several miles away.

It was sorrowful for some farmers in the past century when they replaced horsepower with tractors. Several families have talked about tears shed when a farmer replaced his team with a tractor. The horses had become almost family as they were handled and used every day.

Small tractors became essential for field work and handling livestock with pickups filling in for feeding and hauling. Like all agriculture, technology changed rapidly, and bigger, more powerful equipment was deemed essential for growing enterprises.

An established routine makes choring relatively easy for the operator with livestock soon becoming accustomed to feeding time. Problems are part of farm living and equipment breakdowns are quite frequent always increasing when the weather becomes inclement.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Optimism for better days

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Cold weather rapidly multiplies problems on the ranch.

Exactly how much is too complex to figure for one who barely passed his college algebra course. But some people say it doesn’t have anything to do with algebra, rather it’s a math equation, add, subtract, multiply, divide.

Whatever, freezing temperatures day after day add up to more and more “confuedalties.” Now that isn’t a word, according to the dictionary and knowledgeable editors, but a “made-up” term Mom said frequently. As appropriate description as one can give of the turmoil everyone across the nation faced in record winter conditions.

“The water won’t run” is typically the first alarm heard, warning that pipes are frozen because of freezing temperatures. There is not adequate insulation to keep water thawed as cold air leaks through the tiniest crack.

More hay bales around the home are the first step, while heaters blow on every visible in-house water line. When water runs, it is best to leave the faucet dripping to help prevent freezing.

Electrical power is often taken for granted until there isn’t any and then it becomes very important. Hard to do much on the ranch without electricity nowadays, and it’s often difficult to restore.

Ice in ponds and creeks can be chopped to provide livestock water supply unless it’s frozen solid in shallow areas. Pumps must start and stop frequently during the cold, causing damage so eventually that water won’t run either.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Writers have their dilemmas

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“A writer is a person, who has to expose their deepest thoughts and bare their soul before unknown people.”

Somebody else said that, but it is the truth filed away among vast reference information compiled throughout a lifetime.

Writing came readily in elementary school, although not usually receiving highest marks from teachers. Reports about specific events were generally well received and rewrites of stories or encyclopedia feature summaries always found favor.

It wasn’t until high school that a personal interest in developing writing skills developed. Acknowledgement was received for the minutes written when serving as secretary of different clubs.

Elected reporter of the Future Farmers of American chapter, writing expanded as stories were printed locally and beyond. Heavy preparation for statewide newswriting competitions yielded awards leading to being selected coeditor of the high school newspaper.

College years saw additional writing opportunities serving various publications, with agricultural journalism one of the favorite college classes. That somewhat limited experience led to a lifetime professional journalist, not an affluent one but an enjoyable career.

Another has further accurately best defined what it is to be a writer: “A writer pens his thoughts and intellectually becomes naked before the world’s people, as he writes what he thinks.”

“When we are exposed before people, we become vulnerable to their opinions and criticism.”

A Cowboy’s Faith: Fewer hours on horseback

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Maturity takes its toll on a wannabe cowboy’s horseback riding enthusiasm and already limited abilities.

Never a world class horseman, ample ambition and plenty of guts brought success training young horses.

Starting untrained horses to ride for many owners throughout the Midwest kept a calendar filled more than four decades. Notable “real cowboys” bought their horses for initial breaking and spread the word about the humble service to countless others.

It must be emphasized that the horses were not “finished” show, working, or ranch horses. They were “30-day horses” requiring additional riding when owners got them home.

Key to the program was that the horses, often untouched upon arrival, were handled every day. They had to be tied solid and exposed to a rider on their back the first day. Saddling followed as the horse stood alone to become accustomed to the handler’s expectations.

Always moved slow, the saddled horse was led in a pen the next day becoming more accustomed to being worked with. Tied back in the stall, the horse was mounted and dismounted by the gentle trainer voicing compliment for calmness.

Progressing, the mounted saddled horse was asked to turn tight circles both directions inside the stall. After continuing maneuvers, the stall gate was opened, and the horse was ridden at a walk into a larger pen.

Sessions always ended by gently turning the horse in circles and then backing him straight for a few steps. A horse learns very fast with praising gentle consistent calm control.

Within a week, the horse can be urged into a slow jog trot in a large circle. He will soon be asked to speed up into a slow lope.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Collecting toy horses hobby

A new palamino model horse is added to the ranch’s remuda.

“Another model horse has been added to the collection started more than 65 years ago.”

It was a pleasant surprise receiving a palomino toy horse as a retirement gift from the Extension board.

Many people enjoy collecting a variety of items and spend considerable time and investment continually adding to their assortments.

Seemingly salt-and-pepper-shakers collections are one of the most popular, with some numbering into the thousands. It isn’t a costly hobby, but also doesn’t have much end value other than personal enjoyment. Plus, giving an addition to the collection is a simple inexpensive gift that always receives honest appreciation from the receiver. No matter how many “shakers” a collector has, they’re always happy to get new ones.

Matchbook collections are popular among many, even those who don’t ever use matches. The thing about them is they’re typically free from those promoting their products in an inexpensive way.

Cowboys often have collections of both bits and spurs. They can be quite high-dollar and the collectors will go all out to find ones they don’t have. Considerable time is spent attending auctions and searching worldwide locating what they want.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Cattle management complex business

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“What kind of mineral do you feed your cattle?”

“We don’t feed any,” responded the naïve high school agriculture senior interning at Charles Cowsert’s Monarch Charolais Ranch.

Dale Wooden, manager of the world-renowned herd northwest of Council Grove, prodded further: “Surely you give your cattle salt?”

Embarrassed, the student answered, “Yes, they have a white salt block in the pasture all the time. I was confused by the word mineral, not thinking salt was livestock mineral.”

Actually, the initial question was more complex than it came across. Prominent cattle breeders then and more so nowadays have a diligently coordinated mineral feeding program to improve efficiency and productivity.

Despite several college livestock feeds and feeding courses, the importance of meeting a balanced livestock mineral program didn’t soak in. While it still seems like a large cattle investment, the younger highly conscientious ranch manager follows a stringent mineral plan.

Bulk of the ration is sodium chloride, common white salt, plus potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, all in precise increments. Often overlooked but claimed to also be essential are micronutrients, iron, manganese, zinc. copper, and iodine. It’s very complicated for one who barely passed college chemistry.

Thankfully, cattle feed rations do provide some of the minerals, but not enough to meet nutritional needs.

Vitamins must also be supplemented for rations, further increasing herd investment. Vitamin A is most important for productivity and efficiency followed by vitamin E, vitamin D, and sometimes vitamin K.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Portable corral eases workload

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Moving panels from pasture to pasture for penning cattle is a physically demanding task for ranchers.

Looking back seven decades and longer ago, cattle owners did not have steel panels for corrals. Most ranchers cobbled together catch pens in their pastures with wooden posts, woven wire fencing, and homemade wooden gates.

Dilapidated remains of those meager facilities are still in Flint Hills pastures. They get used occasionally with plenty of rusty baling wire helping hold them together.

Not that the idea was unique, companies started manufacturing steel panels in the late ’60s. Varying in design and strength, they were generally available in 10-foot and 12-foot lengths with some 16 feet long.

Before long, most cattlemen owned at least a few panels wondering what they’d ever done without them. The 10-foot panels were most popular for ease of handling as ranchers wired together corrals wherever needed.

With versatile uses, including patching fence holes or repairing water gaps, panels increased in use. They were quite handy for trapping and loading single wayward critters that needed to be moved to another locale.

There was always a need for more panels as purchases increased and panel-hauling trailers eased transportation.

Still, it was always a major strain on the body moving a dozen panels from one pasture to another. While longer panels are often used to build larger corrals faster, their extra weight is more exhausting.

For young cattlemen, moving panels doesn’t have the negative impact that it does on older ranchers. When panels must be moved to a dozen different pastures four times a year, it becomes a dreaded job.

Several years ago, portable corrals were introduced to ranchers who could pull them behind a pickup from pasture to pasture. Not many cattlemen initially purchased the convenient makeshift corrals, but they often shared them with their neighbors.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Changes in horse business

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Raising horses for profit is a complex business endeavor.”

For a grocery store carryout boy, there were many opportunities, foremost the vast friendships. Knowing everybody in town came from twice daily free home delivery of groceries.

Youth life couldn’t have been better except there was always the desire to be a cowboy with a horse. After continued pleading, parents finally purchased a brown and white spotted mare for an 11-year-old wannabe.

Young cowboy sits astride Buchman’s Queen.

There was never a happier day in his life, but it was unimaginable what that horse developed into.

Spot was mated to the buckskin stallion Peppy Creek, and foaled a filly called Missy Creek. That was the meager beginning of a horse breeding operation extending more than six decades.

Some years only one foal was raised but the operation grew to more than 30 producing mares. Spot was an unregistered mare who had three full sibling foals including Buchman’s Queen.

By paying hardship fees, Queen was registered as a Pinto who has fifth generation granddaughters now in production. Quarter Horses are the most demanded mounts for Flint Hills cowboys, so today’s broodmare band is mostly registered Quarter Horses.

A Cowboy’s Faith: The weather will change

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Farmers and ranchers are never satisfied with weather conditions.”

During record dry days, conversations are always about the severe need for moisture. Possible ways to provide water for livestock and home use are discussed as wells, streams, springs, and ponds go dry.

Hauling water is a major costly effort with thoughts about developing permanent relief by establishing rural water lines. While rural water meters could have been purchased decades earlier for a few hundred dollars, present water supplies were adequate.

With all expenses in an agricultural operation, another initial and monthly bill seemed an unnecessary added cost. Today, getting that same rural water line put in is a complex ordeal, considering time, paperwork, layout and construction.

Most significant though is the price tag, nearly a thousand times what it would have been initially. Still water is the most essential nutrient for people and livestock. They cannot live without it, making development of a perpetual clean water source essential regardless of the expenditure.

Government assistance programs are available in various forms to cover portions of water development expenses. Likewise, financial institutions realize the importance of water and generally cooperate with partial funding. In extreme cases, limited dispersal of farm property may be essential, or material goods required as capital to acquire the support.

A Cowboy’s Faith: Eat, exercise and sleep

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Never the hardest working person, laziness has increased in recent months.”

For more than 60 years, days started at 6 o’clock and went full steam ahead until 10 o’clock.

Not giving it much consideration, the schedule was quite demanding starting with morning chores. Driving from 25 to 60 miles twice daily starting in college and then commuting to and from work five decades.

Back home, there were horses to ride, chores to do, night meetings, supper, and that was it. Weekends were for rest catchup, demanded professional obligations, more horseback time, and doing not much of anything.

Sadly, “doing not much of anything” has become the routine. Riding horses, writing stories, and recording radio shows are about it.

For most of life, doctors were visited quite infrequently, including a couple of required short-timed hospital stays. Now, more than a half dozen different doctors’ monthly appointments keep the kitchen calendar filled so none are missed. Nine prescription pill bottles are opened for ingredients use once or twice daily.

Well into her eighth decade, Grandma saw her doctor annually, took one pill a day, and smoked long Kool cigarettes. She’d always prepare noon dinner for the family grocery store crew of about six.

Too bad that ambition didn’t carry over to the grandson who made three daily visits to her upstairs apartment. Fortunately, that stinky smoking habit did not come this way although it did not seem harmful to her health.

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.

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