March signifies the start of a new season, new life - plants are blooming, critters are being born, summer is just around the corner and, in our family, we take the long drive North to the in-laws Central Idaho ranch to help brand and vaccinate the young calves in preparation for range grazing.
This year we had a family reunion including ~40 people who were there for fun, family, friendship and f….lipping hard work!
Out of the 900 or so calves that needed to be branded, we only got through about half of them this year due to late snow followed by 2 weeks of sunshine leading to muddy pastures which aren’t good for working cattle. Even so, we had a willing crew of ropers, branders, shot-givers and “supervisors”.
For the kids especially, this is such a valuable and unique experience. One that sadly may not be around for many more years due to the ever-reducing numbers of Americans that have any exposure to agriculture or a simple view of how their In-N-Out hamburgers are produced.
One of the highlights was leading a group of 40 local 4th grades around the ranch, many of whom had never touched a horse/lamb/calf before even though they live in a primarily ranching community. They went through stations incorporating various parts of the farm including: Heavy equipment (semi trucks, trailers, balers, harvesters); a newborn calf; newborn lambs; Horse husbandry; and a unique experience of watching my wife perform a few dental procedures on the ranch horses! My wife and I spent 2 years instructing at the University of Illinois and teaching has a remarkable way of reminding us why we entered this profession and what we love about it.
This year, however, our fun was tempered by a tragedy in my home country that stills defies comprehension. On March 15th A white supremacist murdered 50 of my fellow New Zealand countrymen in a terrorist act that we all thought was “impossible” in our friendly little country. My 2 young nephews were caught up in a citywide school lockdown because of the gun-toting lowlife. Up until this day, the biggest thing these kids had to fear was another earthquake. Now their lives will be forever changed and a piece of their God-given innocence has been taken from them.
Spending time in one of the most remote parts of this country (central Idaho) surrounded by loving family and friends was as close to “home” as I could have been and reminded me how important it is to make the effort to spend time with family – even if it means dragging 2 toddlers and a baby on a 13hr road trip every now and again!
I pray that we can find a way to get past each other’s differences and focus instead on the good that can come from different viewpoints, cultural backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, and political affiliations. The arrival of spring brings with it relief and rebirth. Just as beautiful flowers can bloom from the barren, snow-covered hills, spring is a reminder to us all that out of tragedy and suffering can come hope and unity.
“And to others, I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.” - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern