From My Window: Life in farming and ranching takes unique person; local quake happened

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
My windows must be a bit fogged after last week’s column about the Meeker School District, but why on earth would one want to make their living in the agriculture field—as either a farmer or a rancher. Both of those seem like such a lot of hard work…

My first job ever was as an 8-year-old snot-nosed kid working irrigation ditches on a family friend’s ranch near Powderhorn, Colo.
In early spring, my family had cause to go visit the ranch, which I fell in love with. I asked if there was some job I could do there come summer, and I was overjoyed when my parents and their friends worked out some kind of deal as to where I could come up and do irrigating work as long as they wanted me or as long as I could do the work.
I was ecstatic the next six to eight weeks until school was out because I couldn’t wait.
It turns out that I really could have waited. Perhaps a couple of years.
At the age of 8, I must have weighed about 70 pounds drenched. Everyone, including myself, misjudged how strong and how much work this 8-year-old boy could do.
I lasted about four hours on the job before I was crying from having to lift so much wet soil. My arms were burning. I felt like I had arrived in hell.
It was on the second day that my parents and the family friends decided it really wasn’t going to work. That digging in the mud was some tough work for a small city slicker from Colorado Springs.
My next adventure was when I was 13, still living in Colorado Springs and I had befriended a classmate whose parents had a ranch south of the city near Fountain. They had a couple hundred head of cattle.
There are two events that I remember today like they occurred yesterday and I must admit I enjoyed them both.
My friend and I spent a couple of weekends before school let out on the ranch. My friend’s parents lived in Colorado Springs full time, but they let us stay on the ranch over the weekends because, honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot of trouble that we could get into.
There was a telephone and, if really necessary, we could have driven the old ranch truck to Fountain in a case of emergency.
We didn’t really have many duties to perform other than to keep an eye out on the cows and calves since it was calving season.
I won’t go into great detail because if you’ve ever been there or done that, you know what can go wrong. If you’ve never been there, you don’t want to read about it here.
But on one of the Saturday evenings probably in mid-March, one of the cows went into delivery but something went wrong.
To make a long story short, I washed up, went out into the field about 100 yards from the ranch house and pulled my first calf. My friend was trying to calm the cow while I reached right up there, straightened out everything best as possible and pulled like I had never had to pull before. After an arm-burning 15 minutes, a new calf lay curled on my lap on the ground.
That was pretty neat. That was my first real venture into farming, medicine, birth, animal husbandry—you name it. I never forgot it, but I never pursued the occupation.
The other memorable occasion was late summer and my buddy and I were out driving the old truck around the ranch just ‘cuz we had to be doing something. It was a dismal rainy afternoon on the plains and not much was happening.
We got up on a hill to watch as we could see a huge rain cell headed our way from the southwest. As it got closer and closer, we figured maybe it was a good idea to get off the highest point on the ranch as we didn’t want to get hit by any lightning.
We got off the hill and settled back again when we found a good place on the flat. The storm cloud turned black, the rain started up really hard, the hail got about a half-inch in diameter and it was getting a little spooky to two 13-year-old boys who had really not had to deal with Mother Nature in any really harsh way.
The friend left the motor running, so we had the windshield wipers going all-out.
Out of the right side of the windshield we both saw a quite large funnel cloud touch down what we later figured was about 50 yards away.
In the course of 45 seconds, we saw the tornado touch down right in the middle of a few cows and their calves. Almost instantly, the funnel hit two calves, picking one up and tossing it about 30 yards away while it just laid the other calf out flat on the ground. The funnel continued on its trail and after about 20 more yards, it hit a heifer square on. The cow was lifted up about 15 feet off the ground, got caught in the spinning of the funnel but never really disappeared from view and was just as quickly was laid back down on the ground after about 10 to 15 seconds. It was dead.
When we cut up the cow later, there was no question that its neck had been broken and that was at least a partial reason for the death.
Again, the event was a real eye-opener for me. While I saw the tragedy in the event and realized the loss to the rancher, it was really a neat experience for this city boy to see that event take place and to see my first tornado from about 50 yards away.
Again, it didn’t make we want to become a rancher, although I thoroughly did enjoy that summer out on the ranch.
In my much-later years, I married a Wyoming girl from a small Wyoming town (Ten Sleep, Wyo.). Almost all her friends and classmate were from ranches with a few others from farms.
For many years in the spring, we would gather on the weekends on ranches in the area and help with the branding. My job was to wrestle down the calf and get the legs in the branding position using my legs. I held on while the branding was done, while the castration took place and while vaccinations were administered.
That was kind of fun too for a city boy, but the best part of the entire weekend was the bull and lamb fries that took place at the end of the day.
The town of Morton, Wyo., had the Stagecoach Inn, where everyone for miles would bring in their fries for a public picnic/dinner and all the bull or lamb fries you could eat. It was wonderful
Also, after my wife and I worked alongside about 50 other neighbors outside of Ten Sleep, my wife, a hairdresser and nail technician, would use her favorite fake metal fingernail to separate the testicle from the scrotum, a practice that did not sit easily with a couple of the more-domesticated wives in the area.
But what has really impressed me with farming and other agricultural hobbies and occupations has been to watch the Future Farmers of America and 4-H youths in Rio Blanco County for the past two summers.
I have watched these boys and girls of all ages in action, and I see a true dedication to the crops, the animals, the jellies, the quilts, the clothing, the diorama-making, the honey gathering and the general displays set up on country-related pastimes.
These kids are the future. They are the ones who will keep the beef, pork and lamb on our tables as well as the eggs we eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are the ones who learn how to make their own clothes, make their own preserves, learn all about corn, wheat, oats and hops, all crops grown in Colorado, used in Colorado and consumed in Colorado.
Working and carrying the news of our ag-interested kids seems to reach its peak of enjoyment during the Rio Blanco County Fair.
Each year the fair brings to mind the question of what would happen to us all if there weren’t groups like the FFA and 4-H and if the kids all said they weren’t interested in keeping these traditions alive.
Think of it. What would we be eating because we’re not sure where it would be coming from.
Think of the fruit and vegetables, the clothing, the meat, the dessert, the arts (photography, drawing, painting, furniture building, etc.) and the other things you see at your county fair, and consider what this world would be like if we didn’t have any of it.
I never did get to the point in my life that as a city boy I want to really live a life in agriculture although there are several segments of the agricultural life I find extremely interesting.
But I sure am proud of those folks who started into and stayed in the various forms of agriculture throughout their lives, intent on making these open lands busy with supplying the food, drink, meat, fabric, etc. a major part of our life.
I do believe this would be a pretty dismal place without them.
And you are darned right I’ve learned it is tough work and that is all the more reason to appreciate our friends and neighbors who work most of the year from sunlight until late at night.
The fair, agricultural competitions and just daily life on the farm or ranch are here for the summer, and I would like to say good luck, congratulations and a big thank you in advance.
These folks are the truly, yet equally, unappreciated heroes of our nation. What would we really do without them?

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I said in my column on April 23 that the word around the Colorado Northwestern Community College Foundation Dinner on April 18 was that two minor earthquakes had been reported near Rangely on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18.
I spoke to several people that evening, asking them if they personally had felt either of the earthquakes and not a single person said yes, while a couple of those folks said they knew of people who said they had felt the quakes.
They said they were told that there were two minor earthquakes, both under 3.0 on the seismometer. Earthquakes, I understand, are quite rare to feel if they are under 3.0 on the Richter scale.
Anyway, it does appear that there was one earthquake of 2.8 magnitude with the epicenter located 3 kilometers (just under 2 miles) north-northwest of downtown Rangely at exactly 2:47 p.m. on Friday, April 17.
The National Earthquake Information Center in Golden recorded the temblor and its occurrence was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Twenty public reports were received although it does not state as to where those reports originated.
Thanks to Tom Suchar for sending me the information presented by Earthquake Track, to be found at
Related info just for your useless information pile: on Friday, April 17, the same day as the slight quake in Rangely, there were 101 earthquakes that same day around the globe.
The largest earthquake that day around the globe was a 5.6-strength shaker with its epicenter at Pijijiapan, in Chiapas State in Southern Mexico.