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AMY KIRK: Becoming a Lucille Ball of twine

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AMY KIRK: Becoming a Lucille Ball of twine
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Amy Kirk, Daily Republic Columnist  Cutting twine on a round bale and gathering it into a wad may seem like a task any idiot can do, but at the start of a new winter cow-feeding season I have all sorts of problems removing twine.


Twine removal is a skill similar to an artist getting back into watercolor painting after a long hiatus — if I don’t use it, I lose it. My twine cutting, extracting and wadding skills apparently get rusty over the summer and fall.

For some reason I can’t seem to get my twine together. Until I get back into managing twine with high efficiency, the first few times I feed round bales by myself I end up in a Lucille Ball moment with twine.

I recently carried out the annual tradition on my first solo cow-feeding day for this winter when my husband had a morning appointment in town. I did such an excellent job of honking the horn to call our cows to feed, that when I got out of the pickup to cut the twine, I had to wade through a sea of black fur to get to the back of the pickup. Cutting the twine took a while as cows jostled me around worse than an overcrowded rowdy rock concert.

I tussled with the mob in getting the twine strings cut while they mauled the tightly bound hay with their heads to loosen it for a bite. This caused the bale to rock back and forth on the bale grapples while I attempted to cut the twine. Strings were cut at different heights and I couldn’t gather them all easily from one side.

Next, I tugged and pulled and yanked on the strings to get them to come off. Some were frozen to thick layers of hay and I had to follow one hard-pulling string that lead to a cow’s mouth. She and I had a little tug-of-war over the twine, and I had to follow her around briefly until I could pull it all out of her mouth.

I also had to back the mob away from strings that ended up on the ground and had to quickly wrap them into a ball after one cow stepped on some knotted twine and got it tangled around her dewclaws — a development that occurred while I was trying to pull twine from the other cow’s mouth.

While walking around wrapping loose twine strings as fast as I could before another cow stepped on or ate it, I tangled my own feet in snarled twine not yet part of my badly misshapen twine ball. Out of impatience and aggravation, I went to yanking and winding twine hard and fast until my foot jerked like a puppet’s foot on strings, and I nearly face-planted myself in snow.

Once I was confident I’d gotten every twine string away from all mouths and feet and into a twine wad, I hastily headed to the pickup door to proceed with my original task of unrolling the bale.

This is when I discovered that I couldn’t open the door because I’d managed to wrap my gloved hand into a twine club so tight that I couldn’t get my glove or my hand out.

By now I was getting mad and spent another 5 minutes retrieving my hand and glove out of the twine club I’d crafted before I was finally able to get the bale unrolled.

It’s usually after having a Lucille Ball moment like this in which I’m reminded that in order to avoid making things worse, I shouldn’t get all wadded up about it.

— Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at

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