You know how you are at the wrong place at the wrong time occasionally? It happens to me all the time, but this time it was not me who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was part of the story, but I was not the person.
Like all good stories, this one starts off with us working sheep. We needed to give the ewes their pre-lambing vaccines and wormer. As always, the day was not going as planned. We did not get started in the morning like I wanted to, and I was not very organized. Why my family is upset every time we go to do something because I don’t have my ducks in a row is beyond me. Either they have faith that I will change my habits, or they have not realized that it is a terminal condition.
I had all the vaccine (although not nearly enough), I just did not have my syringes in working order. I am not sure why; the simple answer is that I had two good ones and did not think about needing a third. We have no shortage of syringes, only a shortage of working, non-leaking syringes. The chalk markers we use so no ewe gets two rounds of shots, that was on me. I thought I knew where they were, but I had not physically located them. Never mind I had four extra hours because my help did not show up before noon. In the end, I did have the paint markers and I did find them; however, the search set us back an hour.
When we had finally located all the necessary equipment, got everything in working order and had organized our process it was time to catch the ewes. We had no fewer than three ideas from the four of us on how that should go. Tatum, being the smart one, stayed neutral like Switzerland. My idea on how it should go was quickly voted down by a 3-1 count. The other two ideas were debated and finally a plan was decided upon.
To say that things did not go smoothly in the beginning is a bit of an understatement. Honestly, the working plan was not a bad one and later proved to work with some efficiency. But it did not start off on the right foot. Most of the failure was due to a problem with the facilities and that was quickly pointed out to the person in charge of the management of those very facilities. It was also pointed out that the person was grumpy and not much fun to work with. I probably did not take the criticism with the love and support that I am sure it was intended.
The mood of the crew could be summed up as a little edgy and more than a bit tense. I am quite sure that we had gone past civil discussion, right past raised voices to all out yelling. I also admit that most of it was from my hair trigger, all I wanted was to get this task done and I would finally be semi-caught up.
In my head this task took a couple of hours in the morning, leaving the afternoon to cross other items off my to-do list.
That was when we bent the needle. Bending a needle when vaccinating is not an uncommon occurrence and usually not something to be alarmed about. As I said, things had gotten a bit tense. The needle was bent, and it was going to take a pair of pliers to remove it. Normally, we have pliers in the box with the spare needles and such. Not today. Being senior management and therefore lowest on the chain of command, it was decided by a 3-to-1 vote that I would go get the pliers. As I walked, a son of a friend came walking to me.
He had hunted on our land before and is always welcome to hunt, but my caveat is that you stop and ask every time. That was what he was doing, but at the wrong time. He asked if he could hunt on my alfalfa field, which would have been fine, except I have no alfalfa field. After a series of short questions and answers, it was determined to be a neighbor’s field. He asked where the neighbor lived. I am not proud of my answer, but I said, “In his house” and walked off, leaving him in stunned silence.
After that, the sheep working went better and we eventually finished. In a day or two, the rest of my family even started talking to me again. Before we had even finished, the weight of what I had done to that poor young man set in and I felt bad. That evening, I made the call of shame and apologized for my terse answers and all was good.
While I am not proud of what I did, I took a bit of solace knowing that it is not always me who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least that is what I told myself in my head.
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.