AMY KIRK: The true meaning of fall: Dread and missed snacksDon’t you just love fall? I don’t.
The time is upon us. The air at dawn feels brisk. Foliage on trees begins to change color and there’s a thin layer of ice in our dog’s water dish. Don’t you just love fall? I don’t.
Over the last several years these seasonal changes have come to mean one thing: fall dread. The type of dread in which I wake up wondering, “What kind of mayhem is awaiting me today?”
My husband and I split cow checking duties and I usually tend to the replacement heifers’ stock tank unless he has other tasks to deal with and needs me to check the range also. Checking cows on Forest Service involves making a big loop to ensure stock tanks are filling up properly, salt is plentiful, and to note the whereabouts of our cows.
Depending on where I find them, I may not get home before lunch so it’s important that I eat a hearty breakfast. I’ve missed my all-important mid-morning snack time before and felt energetically diminished due to handling a time-consuming seasonal cattle crisis instead of snacking.
I have also learned to brace myself for morning cow quandaries daily in the fall. I head out on high alert for misplaced “Monday Morning Specials.” All that means is I look for signs that indicate herd-related problems normally reserved for Mondays — when I’m not conscious yet and get sandbagged with herd trouble. I always keep an eye out for signs on the gravel road indicating potential livestock issues ahead. These sources of anxiety would be cow pie splatterings on roads where cows aren’t supposed to be.
Another contribution to fall dread is finding gates left open. This may appall you but every year there is at least one hunter who demonstrates that he does not know about gate-closing etiquette and will leave a gate open that was shut.
Previous fall stress has taught me that autumn mornings arrive heavy with anxiety. It is not the time of year for making plans to attend meetings or expressing my availability in the mornings but ideal for scheduling dental appointments. I’ve learned to block off September and October mornings for potential setbacks as part of my daily routine. Anytime I make plans before 1 p.m. Murphy’s Law lets me know I’m not in charge of my own time.
Regardless of how much forage is still available, at the drop of the mercury, cows think it’s time to go home since we move them north of Pringle around this time of year. Every fall our cows forget that my husband is the micromanager of this outfit and has the say-so when it’s time to trail home.
When frost starts showing up, cows try to sneak home early. In the weeks prior to moving our herd home, it becomes a morning chore to look for a cow clique trapped at a corner fence unable to access water or AWOL cows trying to leave the range early. In severe cases of homesickness, they’ll find holes or weak fences to push through and head in a northeasterly direction toward home. Our lead cows and their groupies always try to trail themselves home on their own. By early October pushing stray cows back onto the permit becomes a near-daily routine.
As you can see, the events that occur here in the fall cause me to associate autumn with dread; I really hate missing my snack time.
Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.