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Saving grace when the cows are out
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Dust on the Dashboard

Saving grace when the cows are out

Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh was one of, if not my favorite professor in college. I learned a great deal from him that I still use on a daily basis.

It’s funny that I was reminded of one of his favorite sayings this week because his memorial service is this week also. He often said, “God protects little babies and fools.” Often, he was referring to something a politician did, but this week it applied to me.

It is that time of the year when I seem to spend a great deal my day either fixing fence or putting cows in. If I am not doing that I am worrying about if the cows are out. That was the case last week.

Jennifer was helping man a booth at the State Fair and that meant I was on my own completely since both kids were in school up north.

No sooner had Jennifer left on Friday than I got a call from a neighbor that the cows next to him were out in the worst possible spot. A feeling of dread came over me and I loaded the dog up in the side-by-side and sped over to where the cows had escaped. It was going to be a tough drive back in because we had to go through the timber and a milo field.

Isaac has spent a lot of time training his dog, and now we were going to see if I could operate her. I pulled up to the neighbor, who was not having much luck getting the cows to move, and deployed the dog.

She took off like a shot, biting and barking at the cows and the next thing we knew there was a cloud of dust and the back end of a bunch of cows. Long story short, she drove them back in by herself in about five minutes. The fence was fixed, and life was good.

Fast forward to Sunday when the dog and I were checking the wayward bunch. Much to my relief they were in. Let me add to the setting and say that I had signed us up for greeting and snacks at church this Sunday only to find out Jennifer was going to be out of town. I am a big boy, I can get myself around and bake some cookies. I had it all handled.

So back to the story. There I was admiring my cows being where they were supposed to be when I got the phone call. Another set of cows were out, and they were the ones behind my “good” fence. I immediately sped over to the scene of the crime and found them spread over a large area. No fear, I would deploy the cow dog.

As well as she had worked Friday, Sunday was not a good day. She went barking and biting into the middle of the cows and immediately scattered them. Looking back, I am relatively sure it was the error of the handler but at the time I did not see it that way and all I could think of was I needed to be at church before 10 a.m.

Fortunately for me this group was mainly older cows and I had not yet fed ewes, so I had a couple of buckets of grain. I called to them, and all heads picked up. To my surprise and relief, they started to follow me. In a few minutes, and with the help of a good Samaritan, I led the cows back to the gate that had mysteriously opened itself. That is another story, but a padlock seems to have fixed the problem.

In any case by the time I had gotten them in and made sure there were no other holes in the fence, it was 9:30 and I was not going to church without a shower. I frantically called our church secretary only to find out she was sick and not going to church. She assured me someone would pick up the slack and to the greeting. That left the fellowship after church.

I ran through the shower, gathered up my cookies and drink. (Actually, I got the cookies and had to make a frantic U-turn for the drinks.) I skidded into church 10 minutes after it had started, parked as close as I could, gathered up the drinks and cookies and rushed in.

When I got in, I found that another couple from church was celebrating their 50th anniversary and had brought a cake and punch for that. I slipped in just in time for the prayer of Thanksgiving (appropriately) and the sermon.

That is when the words of Dr. Flinchbaugh popped up in my head. He was spot on in his assessment of God’s grace, at least in this instance. In case you were wondering which category I fell in. I am certainly too old to be a baby.

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

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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

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It is that time of the year when I do not feel fully comfortable until I have driven past the last group of cows and made sure they are in. I …

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