Behind those scenes


There it was before me: A sunny pasture scene, pairs lazily grazing on still-green grass, as the river flowed by. A picture of serenity. 

I had my camera in hand, and a rare quiet morning to just breathe in the simple splendor of the place where my husband was raised. 

But that’s the thing—it’s not all that simple. Like so many of the places those who read this column call home, the beauty of this place isn’t just beautiful. There’s a lot to manage and there’s an awful lot of it that’s not very glamourous, serene or splendid. 

I knew it was worth writing about: There’s a lot of good in the hard work that nobody sees. Sure, that’s true in many professions and roles in life, but it’s such a defining characteristic in that big swath of hours cattlemen and women put in each day.

A few people who frequent these parts might see a pasture that’s been cleaned up or other long-term improvements in land over time. Observant neighbors might note a more uniform cow herd in those fences along the road. 

But nobody saw the mental gymnastics you went through to get the hay up before the rain while also making it to your son or grandson’s championship baseball game.

Remember that bitter winter night when you were pretty certain you’d never feel your feet again? But then you saved the calf and its mama. That made the painful, burning warm-up of your limbs worth it in the end. Nobody knew about that either.

There were days you sat down with a calculator and lump in your throat. The worry before a banker meeting or even fear as you thought of what it would take to make it another year in this career and the life set before you.

You feel it every day, and into the evenings, too.  

When you fall into bed still thinking of your “to-do” list, but thoroughly exhausted by what moved over to “done.” That’s a hard-earned consolation that doesn’t come with a flashy award, a documentary or a big bonus check in the end. 

Your whole body of work is largely anonymous—no byline on an article, no citation in a research volume, no credits at the end of the clip. When you have calves that hit all the targets, that do all the things right, there’s only a handful of people sharing your joy. 

But I see it. 

This career gives me a front-row seat. When farmers, ranchers and feeders give honest answers to questions about their toughest days and biggest victories, I get a glimpse.  

I recognize the hard work in the way a gravelly voice breaks ever so slightly when recounting a tale. I see it when I ask about a specific dent in a pickup, or facility design I’ve never seen before. When I hear about improvements in a herd or pastures that are more productive than ever. 

When I get those real answers, it’s obvious. You don’t care if anybody else sees. You already know this simple truth: there’s a lot of good in that hard work that nobody sees.  

Next time in Black Ink®, I will talk about the art of learning. Questions? E-mail [email protected]

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