This column first appeared in the July 10-11, 2021, issue of the Kearney Hub. (I said I wasn’t doing this anymore, but apparently this wasn’t true in real life.) You can find it on page 5A of the print or e-print edition.
My husband and I took a couple hours last week to deliver a bred heifer to a pasture.
Such a prosaic line to describe the best two hours of the week. I love the Bertrand Fair and Rodeo and the Fourth of July. It’s a hectic time. It’s terrific. And it’ll plumb flatten a family in eight fast-moving days.
Conveniently, this heifer needed to join her cohort between the party and the holiday.
There’s something restorative about a pasture visit — something that can’t be defined but requires words anyway.
Here in the realm of Holdrege silt loam, today’s humans have relegated grass to the canyonland periphery. Here where crops rule the day, where roads cross on the mile, every mile — here is also where the Pawnee hunted and camped in the midst of prairie grasses, where Pony Express riders and covered wagons traversed the waving plain.
Here is where our jagged edges are still a quiet home on the range for grazing animals.
Golden wheat fields are my heritage place, and open green pasturelands are my place through adoption.
Wheat on its way to the bin signifies hard work and reward. Ripened wheat fields are noisy and busy and transitory — a ready crop here today is gone tomorrow, and it’s pick-up-and-go time for the harvesters.
A prairie pasture is a calm and quiet retreat — away from the computer screen, away from the tractors, away from the demands of five kids and yet another meal to cook. A visit to the browsing mama cows and their scampering, high-tailed offspring provides a reprieve, a pause button on all the to-do lists and the drive to mark one more thing off.
It’s recuperative after good times with good friends and an antidote to long stretches of indoor work.
And yes, the retreat has tasks to be done, working calves, killing thistles, fixing fence. Sometimes there’s a tight timeframe on the task at hand. Sometimes there’s a predator that wreaks havoc, as a hail storm would on a wheat field.
But the character of the pasture is not quick-moving and temporary so much as it’s patient and seasonal; its grazier value stretches from the spring flush of green to the patchy drab of autumn and even to the obtaining of the Christmas cedar tree.
A drive to the pasture is almost always worth it — and this one was no exception. The heifer found her herd, the mineral feeder got a quick repair, the barbed wire got a new staple, and I got a couple dozen photos of wildflowers and some parenting-free time to roam.
Even when we go with kids in tow, it seems like this feeling of calm gets to them, too. They run and climb cowpaths like so many Bambi replicas, and somehow seem to set aside the bickering and nonsense that comes with having a bunch of siblings.
I ponder from time to time whether relocating to a house in a pasture would infuse home life and work with the serene milieu, or if the household craziness would just neutralize all the good things inherent to a visit.
I’d like to think it would be the first, but more likely it would be the second, replete with schoolwork, housecleaning, choring and jobs to be done. And I suppose I treasure the hours at the pasture more because I know it’s separate and different.
If the prairie’s calm could be bottled, stored in a quart jar for later use — oh, a cellar full of tranquility would be such bounty.
Freelance editor and designer Karen Nelson writes from her rural Phelps County home. Comments and discussion are welcome at email@example.com.