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Marginal luck
Dust on the Dashboard

Marginal luck

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

Cows are funny critters. This morning I was on my merry way doing chores and enjoying life when I popped over the last hill before the place where I had the cows out on rye.

It was a good day. I had plans, and things were falling into place. Then I saw them.

There in the road were about five cows and three calves. The sight was all the more concerning because this was only about a quarter of the cows on this pasture.

It has been very wet lately and it was drizzling this morning, so I took the pickup instead of the side by side. I was in the pickup because I was not expecting to drive off road and I get tired of constantly pulling over to wipe the window off. My next side by side will definitely have windshield wipers.

Enough of that, and back to the chase, literally. The cows saw me, and I had my first bit of marginal luck. They turned and went into my brome instead of the neighbor’s.

I say marginal luck because it was drizzling and dewy. One thing good about the wet cold weather is that the brome has done very well. Some of it was well over waist high, bordering on chest tall. But we are in the middle of monsoon season, and in the tall grass I could not really tell where the wet spots were. But when faced with adversity I jumped into action.

I am ashamed to admit it. The right thing to do was to follow them on foot. Doing this would mean wet jeans and socks. Those are two things I absolutely loath, so I decided to chase them in the pickup. Now I am not completely a terrible person I kept right along the trees where the brome was only a little more than knee high. I really need to cut the trees back on this patch, but that is a different topic for another day. The cows saw that I was serious and headed back to the spot where they got out.

To say that they went back willingly is a bit of an exaggeration, especially for cow 116. She decided she was going to eat as much brome as she could on the way back. That in itself was fine, except that when she would stop, I would get out of the pickup get her going, then I would get back in the pickup and she would stop and put her head back down and graze. I may have said some unkind words each time I got out and my jeans got wetter. We kept up this game 20 yards at a time the entire 400 yards of the field.

That was when I looked down and noticed I was driving in standing water in the bottom of a terrace channel. Maybe driving out in the field was not a good idea.

But again, my marginal luck was holding. The water was standing but I was not sinking in or spinning, even with frequent stops to goad the reluctant cow 116. We got to the north corner of the field and the whole bunch needed to take a left-hand turn. All but two cows made the corner.

Those two went into the hedge row and somehow could not figure out how to go through the trees and follow their herd mates. Again, I had to get out and slog through the now waist-tall, very wet grass and show them the way. They also got renamed two or three times.

We finally made the corner and they caught up with their brethren at a fast gallop. The entire group re-entered the field where they were supposed to be and stopped 50 yards in, daring me to make my next move.

The fix on the fence was a relatively simple one. Two or three insulators were off.

My marginal luck was turning into good luck. I found both insulators and the fence were soon up. I tested the fence, and it was hot – or as hot as you could expect it to be with a month of rain and wet vegetation.

For the rest of the day I went by every couple of hours and checked the cows. We seem to have come to a truce. The track into the brome was just superficial. I went home, changed into dry clothes, and I went about my day, all be it a couple hours behind schedule.

The cows were rotated to fresh grazing that night and they were also pacified. I guess this story ends with both parties being happy. Now with any luck, my marginal luck will continue for the rest of the week.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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