The four-legged holy terror and I were able to escape this last weekend down to Lake McConaughy for some pre-birthday celebration. She had a great time sunning on the boat and being the center of attention as she rode around on the Jet Ski in her new pink life jacket. I’ve always been one to take or leave the lake lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I sink instead of swim, or I think the real reason is that we have so much water on the ranch right now I constantly feel like I’m living my own lake life.
Our water table is out of control right now. I’m never one to complain about moisture as we all know what the alternative is, but come on. The hilarious-but-not-so-hilarious part of it is that we are still digging fence posts that are pure dry sand.
My water escapades started with moving a group of cows across the river at the North Place. I thought I’d push them across some late evening when it had cooled off. All I had up there was an UTV, but the older group of cows had crossed the river a number of times, and were pros at it.
As soon as they saw the open gate, they took off plowing through the other muck holes and vegetation before they even reached the river, no problem. I followed them with the UTV, until I reached the spot where I had to get my waders on and continue by foot.
All would have been fine and dandy except there was a little tree row that had been fenced off, and of course the fence was missing a couple of staples. Instead of going through the first muck hole, I had 12 calves that thought it would be more exciting to jump into the tree row, where there’s no gate.
Jemma and I worked and worked trying to get the little buggers out, and of course, since I wanted them to do something, they were adamant that they weren’t going to. I realized in the process I was too out of shape to be running around the lot on foot trying to chase calves in full waders. Sweat was dripping everywhere — down my back, down my face, I was even sure by this point my ears were sweating — and the self-inflicted fat suit wasn’t helping one bit.
It took an hour, and all was well except for three little black-hided amigos that decided “the crazy lady and dog have been chasing us around long enough, let’s go back to the place we came from, but let’s not cross the concrete bridge that spans over the large irrigation canal, we will just keep going down through the canal where she can’t get us unless she’s on foot.”
My language was improving by the minute, and finally I just stopped and admitted defeat, as it was almost too dark to see. I had to come up the following evening to bale some alfalfa and just decided at that point I’d bring a better vessel than the UTV.
Fortunately, the following evening, the calves had made the trip across the river by themselves as I think at that point, they feared me, or at least that’s what I told myself.
Unbeknownst to me, somewhere in the whole calf debacle, my favorite pair of waders received a couple prominent barb wire scratches.
Fast forward a couple of days. The Boss Man and I were visiting in the shop prior to grabbing some lunch, and he asked what my plans were for the afternoon. In Boss Man speak that means, “I have a really crappy job to do, but I don’t want to suffer in my own misery by doing it by myself so I’m hoping that if I pull this guilt trip, you will join me.”
He wanted to pull an old propane irrigation engine out of the lake it was sitting in, to see if we could get it running enough to maybe lower the water table in our valley since our pivot foundation was starting to sink, along with a couple other issues. I said “sure,” pulled on my favorite pair of waders and took the tractor and tow rope down the road to see what we could get accomplished.
The first trip out to the engine, I realized my waders leaked, and not just a little leak, but a pretty significant one, and this water was not the type that you wanted to be in leaking waders.
There I am, up to my waist in water that has too many floating things in it to identify, thinking I’m going to have to shower with Clorox in order to get the stench off of my skin, with a big enough slit in my waders that I’m pretty sure a leech family is going to be able to get through, and all I can think about is, I’m positive I’m going to contract a flesh-eating skin disease.
Long story short, I didn’t fall down, we got the engine out, it took two days for me to get the lake stench off of me, no leeches or flesh-eating disease, and it rained again that night. But … at least I was able to dig a wet post hole.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.