Boots on the ground

Here at High Plains Journal, we strive to keep our boots on the ground. My boss went home and cut wheat with his dad. Publisher Holly Martin walked pigs and mixed individual rations for a week so her son could go back east to a show. Me—I headed to “The Farm”—my son’s place South of Pratt, Kansas—104 miles east of Dodge City.

As I drove Friday night, I marveled at all the corn—vast acres of corn. I also went by a loader as it built a long, tall alfalfa stack. (There were two long stacks, four bales high, when I came back Sunday night.)

There was lightning in the east, and by the time I arrived, lightning was all around me. I prayed for a rain that would hover over The Farm…a good, soaking rain that would come gently. We were thrilled the next morning when my son read the gauge—2.9 inches! In July! Thank you, Jesus.

Quickly, I got three loads washed and hung. Happiness is a four-line clothesline.

Then, I attacked the garden and picked, and picked and picked: zucchini, okra, yellow squash, the first watermelon of the season, a couple tomatoes, and buckets of cucumbers. Thank God, I did not have to water; but the grasshoppers are now 2 ½-inches long and the squash bugs are out—so I did give everything a good dusting. And, all weekend I pulled weeds and stickers.

I decided there are three things I absolutely hate: gophers, bag worms, and grasshoppers. My son found a dead gopher in the trap his neighbor loaned him. Joy!

Soon I raced to get taco salad ready. Later, as requested, I knocked out a juicy meatloaf, with the new watermelon and cucumber slices and a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. There were leftovers for the week—tall cotton for a single man working in the summer heat.

Twice, I made the milk replacement and mixed creep feed and oats for the bottle calves. My son runs a starter yard and these are heifer calves—out of heifers that accidentally got bred. We tried to save two earlier this year, but it can be a disappointing venture.

When my son got home from his Saturday night ranch rodeo competition up at Great Bend, he couldn’t see anything different in his kitchen. I didn’t get rattled, but gently reminded him I needed to pick before starting the pickling process—“the” reason he wanted me home for the weekend.

He’s a hand with a knife; and he sported a new carving knife with a curved blade that allowed him to slice cucumbers in an uninterrupted motion. We’re a team. I peel the cucumbers and start the onions and peppers; and he slices and dices. He wanted me on the road by 6. We were pushing it. “Mom, did you add ice?” I’d forgotten, but it wasn’t too late to fix my error. We got 13 quarts knocked out, PTL!

It’s now Monday morning. My son is keeping a sharp eye on the new cattle that arrived Friday night; and they’re still trying to put up hay. I’m back at my desk, grounded anew with the reality of farm living. I’m talking about all the dry land cotton I saw south of Pratt—to me it’s a wonder, like no-till.

By the grace of God, next weekend will be a repeat—there’s a rodeo at Ashland; and this mom is free to help.