It’s been a mild winter. Before the calves start coming, we’re taking advantage of the lack of snow and ice by cleaning up around ranch headquarters. This land has been in Pratt hands since 1904. That’s a long time to accumulate stuff or what Gary would call “treasures.”
I agree with the treasure part. I’m as sentimental as anyone about past generations and the way things used to be done. I love running upon an old piece of farm equipment that was pulled by draft horses, parked once during a busy time, never meaning to be left out in the sagebrush, and now a gentle reminder of how grandpa did it. But time stands still for no one and the present and future trump the past every time. Mark said he could feel the yard “free up” as we cleaned.
There was a pile of steel odds and ends behind grandpa’s garage. Every farm needs one. It was slowly being buried by sand and leaves from the elms and box elders that line the yard. We sorted most of it to take to the scrap dealer, tossing the keepers another direction. Angle iron over six inches long, steel plate over a foot square, solid steel tubing, etc. will be stored in a central location for repairs or the odd job that needs a piece of scrap. The other goes to town.
Mark put the sides on our old 1977 Ford truck and took a couple of loads into the metal recyclers. He got a nice check and found out we’d need the money to pay the county to recycle our used tire collection!
We thought more than once as we worked about the burden of ownership when operating a farm that’s been around for a hundred years. If our place were ever sold, the old stuff would be pushed in a pile and hauled away or burned. For us, each item is handled and carefully considered. We don’t take this lightly.
During an open winter like this one, Mark’s grandpa would have been scraping sand with a Ford 5000 tractor, enlarging the irrigable land between the sandhills for planting crops. The 5000 replaced the tiny 8N Ford which back then looked pretty big compared to a team of horses. Winter also meant Eldro and a younger Gary would be repairing farm equipment for summer-time work. They did what they had to. They made do. Repair, reuse, recycle wasn’t a catch phrase for them. It was life.
Things have changed. We don’t farm much anymore and we hire most of our large equipment work done by others. Farm machinery has gotten too big and expensive for a small operation to own anymore. The custom hire operators specialize, and when they arrive they make quick work of what grandpa would have taken a month to achieve.
We may clean up behind them, but our forebears are not forgotten. We appreciate the same view of the mountains out the front door. We tend our livestock with the same careful eye. The winds that blew our sand in from the Snake River many eons ago still blow. They still rattle the house at night when sleep won’t come and thoughts of the future roll around in our heads.