Faith and a to-do list help cowboys stay calm in wary times.
Some folks call their psychiatrist or lace up their shoes for a run when life’s stresses mount up. I grab a manure fork. Stall cleaning is incredibly therapeutic. It’s not typically something I do every day. My horses have a couple of loafing sheds I can’t get a tractor in to clean, and every so often it’s necessary to swap diesel for elbow grease and pitch the manure out.
The 20 minutes or half hour it takes once a week raises just enough sweat, eliminates all distractions and gives me some time to get my head around whatever is troubling me. Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the sheds are spotless.
I suffer from the same doubts as most of the country. Just how serious is this? Will people I love get sick and die? Will I get sick and die? Do I have enough toilet paper? What about the economy? Should I sell that extra generator I have sitting around? No, better keep it just in case. The feeder cattle futures are down again today?!? Is this the next Great Depression? What do these government actions mean for our country’s future? How do I keep my kids calm? How do I prepare my family so we’re comfortable no matter what happens?
Why is this all happening?
And like everyone else, I’ve read news reports, some blogs, watched some videos, and have no good answers to those questions.
But there is one thing that I believe my background of working the land has taught me: I’m not in control. Droughts, floods, blizzards and fires have taught me that the natural world is at once beautiful and ruthless.
In Genesis 3, verse 17, after the Fall, God tells Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you.” When he sinned, he brought all of creation down with him. Not only does man not function as originally created, neither does nature. This is why we have thorn, thistles . . . and yes, viral infectious diseases. Some people have said it’s Mother Nature’s wrath on humanity. But as C.S. Lewis said, nature should not be seen as a mother; rather a sister, fallen along with us into disharmony.
I believe this. So, as I stand with my manure fork in my hand and a clean shed at my feet, I look at my horses. I don’t know a perfect way forward, but I know if I don’t put some time on my 4-year-old gelding, spring and summer cow works will be problem. I know that if I don’t get around some fence in the next couple of weeks, I’ll have yearlings scattered all over the county. I know that if I don’t make arrangements with my lessors and develop grazing plans, no one will be happy when the cattle trucks roll up this spring to unload my charges for the summer.
All I can do is put one foot in front of the next. I will make plans for the future but be flexible if they change. I have concerns for the road ahead, but not in the ultimate destination. In that, I have peace. I will do all I can to keep my friends and neighbors safe, but I will also do all I can to share my hope in the midst of a fallen world.
The hope comes in God’s plan to restore His creation. He began by restoring us to Him through his son, Jesus Christ. He will continue in ways we might not fully understand. And someday, we will dutifully perform our ranch work in the hereafter where there are no blizzards killing baby calves, droughts forcing the sale of cattle at devalued prices . . . and no disease for man or beast.