I survived our vacation/wedding road trip. It’s funny how taking time off and traveling is often harder than a day of work. In our case, I guess it is so rare that maybe we try to pack too much into the day, and we work too hard to stay on schedule. It might lead one to the idea that it might be good to take a vacation more often than once every 20 years.
I did find out one thing about myself on this trip — I have become an old farmer. I like driving and looking at pastures, cows and crops, and I cannot turn the ag side off in my brain even when I am not on duty. My poor, long suffering wife had to do most of the driving so I could watch out the window and gawk at the landscape going by.
Sure, she prefers to drive, and it saves from me getting grumpy about her critique of my driving. Most of the critique comes from me either slowing down because I am looking out the side window or, worse yet, me putting us in peril because I am not looking ahead. The bottom line is that she is happier driving and I am happier watching the countryside go by.
I never thought I would be the type who enjoyed driving and seeing different country more than the destination, but I must admit that this trip proved otherwise. I wondered how many acres to the cow, what crops were being planted, where they hauled their crops to and how they built that fence. Those were just a few of the ponderings I had.
When we got to the badlands of South Dakota, I mused that it would be hard to find the cows in that country and even harder to keep them in good condition. At Custer State Park, I found myself admiring the grass but wondering how many would get eaten by the bears, and just how would you find the cows in all those trees. We watched the tourists admiring the prairie dogs and talking about how cute they were, and I found myself admiring the Park Ranger controlling those same prairie dogs.
I noted the color and breeds of the cows, how much sage brush was in some pastures and not in others, and how much hay they had leftover in South Dakota. If there is anything I admire right now, after last winter, it is a good pile of leftover hay. I was doing exactly what I do at home every day, but it was new country with new things to look at and observe.
Even at the wedding, I could not turn the cow side of my brain off. The wedding was in a pasture in Montana, the altar was framed with mountains in the background and beautiful flowing acres of green, lush grass all around. There was a river flowing through the middle of the range. The groomsmen rode in on horses and the beautiful bride in the back of a carriage. It was — without a doubt — the coolest, most scenic wedding I have ever been to. Amidst all that awesomeness, I kept having ag thoughts.
Instead of focusing on the scenery or being in the moment and being happy for Hannah and Jared, I had other thoughts going through my beanie little brain. Thoughts like, “when do they turn out,” “how many acres per cow,” “boy, I sure would like to look at those working pens,” “do they have to control brush, and does it look like this all year?”
I also wondered when they calved, how bad is the winter and where do you go for a vacation when you live in a place like this? Instead of watching the wedding, I was looking at the grass and wondering what kind it was.
Yes, I came to the realization right there and then that I was the old farmer/rancher type. Someday I will be the old guy cruising the road at 15 miles an hour, weaving because my eyes are not where they should be. Well, according to Jennifer that is already the case. The worst part of it all is that I accept and embrace it. I am proud to be an old farmer/rancher and I enjoy gawking out the window, and I don’t care who knows.
I would also guess that my condition is universal to all farmers and ranchers and that my new friends in Montana would do the same thing in Kansas. In fact, I may have just answered my question about what they do for vacation. They probably come to the Midwest, have their wives drive and wonder just how many cows us flatlanders run to the acre.
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. He can be reached at email@example.com.