How is everyone doing?
I was in a conversation this weekend with a friend of mine who was talking about our current situation with coronavirus and stay-at-home orders. It was pointed out that it’s been about a month since a lot of lives have been turned upside down. I guess it kind of took me aback because, in a way, it seems a lot longer than that, and in another way, it seems like it’s been just a week or two.
I know in rural America it’s a busy time of year with planting and calving. There are a number of farmers and ranchers who are very similar to me. Unless I’m in town for a quick grocery run or on social media, I would probably not have a clue what was going on.
I got thinking the other day how my life has changed since COVID. Has it improved? Has it suffered? What have I learned? Where do I see opportunities for change?
I realize that my experiences in rural America are nothing in comparison to some of what even my brother and sister-in-law are experiencing in Omaha. Sure, the local grocery store was out of toilet paper for a couple weeks, but I don’t have kids that are all of a sudden cooped up in the house trying to be homeschooled on a daily basis. And considering I’ve been “working from home” for the last 18 years, that really hasn’t been on my radar either.
There have been some inconveniences, but most center on efficiency when I go into town. It’s not “snappy” when you have to wait outside a business in a line to get service or when you don’t have free roam around the vet clinic. There there’s my own personal challenges of not being able to refill a coffee cup or trying to figure out the one-way aisle stickers at the grocery store.
On the other side, I’m not getting glared at when I pull a trailer through a restaurant drive-through, and for an introvert who appreciates personal space, 6 feet spacing has kept my blood pressure down.
I’ve sat in a number of Zoom meetings that would have been significant time commitments in both driving and in-person interaction from the comfort of the shop office, wearing ski pants and — unbeknownst to me — my trusty piggin’ string that I wear on my body crossways. It is broken-in perfectly to weigh newborn calves.
I also really appreciate the multitude of online church services to choose from throughout the week. And who doesn’t like to-go margaritas?
Yes, we have had cattle on show in the feedlot now for a couple of weeks and have no clue when they are going to be moved and when we are going to be able to stop paying the feed bill. Yes, I’ve had to get creative and utilize a lot of resources to figure out what I’m going to do with a background lot full of yearlings that need to move May 1. Yes, I’ve had replacement quality females available for sale for over a week when usually they will move in under 24 hours. Yes, there is a lot of uncertainty going on right now in the futures and the outlook look is rough. Yes, I’ve seen multiple individuals who are taking the opportunity for their 30 seconds of fame without bringing real solid solutions to the table. Yes, I’ve seen pure hatred and falsification of facts. (My personal favorite is the one that people believe we ship live hogs to China for processing and then ship the meat back to the U.S.)
But there has also been some great discussions and ideas that have been brought forth once people get past the emotion and start thinking about making a change.
I bought lunch a week ago for a group of individuals who have been working around the clock seven days a week to try and help producers out during this time of struggle. They were incredibly grateful, which to me was incredibly sad. There have been some great, heartwarming stories that have come out of quarantine, but they have been overshadowed by our own behavior.
Our lives are going to be different after this experience. There will be some good things that come out of it, and there will also be some not-so-good things. But the country will survive, and hopefully in the end we will be better for it.
And if they want to continue to-go margaritas, I will be just fine with that!
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.