historical books by author Peggy Sanders
Rocky Mountain Fence Post Greeley, CO

Rural Realities

© Peggy Sanders

Hunting Season

I went to town today and it is such a wonderful feeling having the merchants flock to you.  First they inquire about the health of your family, the whereabouts of your grown children, and the state of your crops. Then they get to the point; they want to hunt on your land.  These are the same merchants who couldn’t give me the time of day last spring.  Neither do they have any use for the agricultural community—until the calendar rolls around to hunting season.  Many of our neighbors are leasing out their places, usually for enough to at least pay the real estate taxes for the year.  My husband won’t hear of it.  He remembers all of the times when he was in high school and college that he was granted permission to hunt.  No one charged hunters then, at least no more than asking for a donation to the local volunteer fire department.  So I took matters into my own hands.

I had 1,800 square feet of sod to lay while my husband combined corn.  Thinking along the lines of Tom Sawyer, I made a plan to enlist assistance.  When a couple of hunters drove in and asked permission to hunt I told them I would make them a deal.  If they would help me with the sod, I would let them hunt.  They looked at me like I was nuts and I went back to work.  Then they talked it over and proceeded to unload sod. A few minutes later my son and daughter-in-law showed up and between the five of us, the sod was in place inside of a half-hour.  All four helpers went back to their hunting and I admired my green yard.

Once in a while we get hunters, especially from the local town, with an attitude.  I have wanted to tell them to buy their own land and pay their own taxes and have the pride of ownership then they could hunt anytime they pleased. They could then experience the joys of inconsiderate hunters.  We had a neighbor who used to say,” Oh, just let anyone hunt.  What’s the big deal?”

Then someone shot toward his house and buckshot hit the siding.  Somehow his tune changed and he could understand why we aren’t crazy about hunters in general.  Our family hunts and it is a great thing to do.  It’s just that we have so much other fall work going on that it is nice to take a break and go out on the spur of the moment.  When there are others all over your land, those moments are lost.

The other side of the coin is in the form of a hunting lodge a couple of miles from here. For only $2,495 per person, you can have 3 days and 4 nights, your meals, lodging, booze, and birds.  Heck, the 21 pheasants you have the opportunity to shoot are even cleaned and packaged for the trip home.

It’s no wonder that helping lay a little bit of sod looked pretty appealing to those hunters.

Use Peggy’s internet latchstring for comments, thankafarmer4food@yahoo.com

Western Livestock Reporter Billings, MT

Rural Realities

© Peggy Sanders

Small Town Businesses

Doing business in a small town has its own rewards, and not all of them can be measured in financial terms. Last week my husband took a broken hydraulic hose to get a replacement. Due to the fact that the hoses require specific ends, or fittings, and the hose itself has to be cut to the required length, they are not made up ahead of time. Instead each hose is custom-made, on the spot. When he got to the local parts store, he found the hose and one of the needed ends was in stock, but not the second end. Did the parts manager say, ‘Sorry. We can’t help you today,’ and go about his work? No, he called a competing parts store and found they had the necessary fitting. Russ picked up the hose end, brought it to the place of business where he started his search, and had a new hose in very few minutes. That is service.

My favorite customer service story occurred some twenty years ago. Our younger son wanted to wear a camouflage uniform for Halloween so he could be a soldier, just like his dad. The task of finding a set that would fit our son’s small body began; I found what he needed in Anderson ’s a downtown Chadron , NE clothing store, but they had to order the pants in his size. I hadn’t paid any attention to the calendar but two days before the costume party, our son asked where his outfit was. I called the family owned and run operation and discovered that the brother thought the pants were destined for lay-away and had dutifully taken care of them. The wise and caring sister asked me, “Where to you live? We will bring them to you after work tonight.” Now, we live 60 miles from Chadron, the purchase price was less than ten dollars, yet she was willing to deliver, just so our little boy wouldn’t be disappointed.

Even a city can have hometown atmosphere. While a college student at the Sorbonne in Paris , France , I frequented a neighborhood bank to change my money. One morning the cashier told me to come back after lunch to do my exchange as the rate was going to change in my favor at noon. That was putting the customer first.

A good friend lives in Little Rock , AR , in an older neighborhood. She has her ‘local’ dry cleaners, veterinarian, grocery store and other services where she always goes. My grandma called it ‘trading,’ from the old days when customers literally traded merchants for their goods. Anyway you look at it, people shop where they are comfortable, whether in a city or a small town.

Money is not the most important thing—service is. Remember that when you buy your veterinary supplies from some catalog, in order to possibly save a few dollars, yet expect to frequently call the vet for free advice. These same vets will be around to help you in the future, if you will support them now—and that goes for other small-town businesses too.

Confluence Chronicles—Where City and Country Meet

© Peggy Sanders

Feng Shui in the Cow Lot

With the stress on people and cattle during the winter I got to wondering if there isn’t something that could be done to make things go easier.  Then I remembered a Christmas letter I had received from a college friend, an Iowa farm girl turned career Air Force officer.  Now that she has retired from the Air Force, she has purchased a house near Washington , DC and she mentioned how peaceful her home is.  In fact, she had a Feng Shui consultant come to her house and actually pronounce it to be peaceful. To those of you who aren’t up on the latest Oriental philosophy to overcome the United States , let me try to explain it. 

Bear in mind that I learned the basics from the cover of a book called Feng Shui for Dummies.  (There really is such a book.) The theory has to do with peace, harmony, quietness, positive and negative vibes produced in a space.  Things that farmers and ranchers take for granted every single day.  Since we are calving I thought I might as well apply Feng Shui to the cow lot, maternity pen, and pastures so all the cattle as well as we could all enjoy abundant Chi (the Chinese word for energy.) The biggest problem with Feng Shui and cattle is the cows tend to not be stationary objects.  When they move around it changes the Chi or energy force.  And sometimes if they are moving fast enough toward me, my Chi is highly activated. I have tried to explain to them that if the Feng Shui is right, they should not mind that we are trying to get them to line up for vaccinations, pregnancy checking or weaning.

Think about your calving set-up.  Is the entry way open, unobstructed, and inviting?  Or do your cows have to walk through an obstacle course to enter the maternity pen?  (Ice doesn’t count since it is clear and will one day again be liquid and will evaporate by July.)  What you must do is walk the path that the cow will walk.  Does your path of movement flow?  Do you feel like you are surrounded by a stone wall?  (OK, so it’s cement block.)  Perhaps a light would help lessen the tension and allow more energy to enter the space.  But be careful if you choose a light, do not get one that will glare.  Oh, no, that would create anxiety. As you move up that alleyway, do you feel restricted? Maybe the addition of an earth-toned carpet runner would add a warm feeling to that alleyway.  Are you feeling all warm and fuzzy yet?

Now this is not just interior decorating. No, sir, it is vitally important to have a consult when creating a plan for new buildings. Why, if there is no “wealth” area in your barn, you just might go broke. Any Feng Shui consultant can help you to create a wealth area, if you line their wallets with enough money for theirs.

The first thing to know is that when you are changing anything, it is necessary to have certain items face the correct direction or at least be sure they do not block the positive vibes.  I read of a restauranteur in California (where else?) who chopped down a lovely tree that was growing out in front of his establishment.  It seems it was blocking the Chi and his restaurant was going broke.  I don’t know if business picked up after that but it should have due to the massive publicity his stunt instigated.

Just think how much “publicity” you would create in the neighborhood if you tried Feng Shui in the cowlot. Peggy welcomes comments at thankafarmer4food@yahoo.com.

Rural Realities

©Peggy Sanders

War on the Farm

“Lieutenant Colonel Dow called and you are to report for duty at Ft. Riley in four days,” I told my husband, Russ , when he was recalled to active duty for Desert Storm.  We knew the Army would take care of him, but what about us, the farm and ranch?  Our sons, Carl and Neil were 11 and 8 years old, respectively. We worked together as a family on the ranch but suddenly Russ would be 640 miles away in Kansas —if we were lucky and he didn’t have to go overseas.  We had done our official preparations, such as the power of attorney, so I could manage the farm affairs, and our wills were in order. We had “practiced” getting along when Russ had been gone to the Army in the past for as long as three weeks. 

August 2, 1990. That was the day Iraq invaded Kuwait . Living on an irrigated farm/ranch near tiny Oral, why would that event matter to me?  For starters, prior to 1990 Iraq had been the importer of 50% of the United States ’ edible bean crop.  We had beans to harvest and sell.  They became worth nothing in the flash of a gun.

At the time, Russ was a captain in the Army Reserves and he was assigned to a mobilization office, sending other people to their duty stations.

We ran the farm by phone, checking in nearly every night. There was hay to put up, fall cattle work to get done, corn to harvest, and the boys of course were in school. Problems just got handled in the best manner possible.  My brother lived near us and he ran the corn harvest. His father-in-law came from California to drive the farm truck back and forth from the field to the grain bin. My dad and other friends and neighbors pitched in as needed, and others offered. At one point the grain auger broke, repairs were made, and the job went on. The next fall Russ commented that he didn’t remember repairing the auger in the manner in which it had been done. I told him it had broken and someone else had fixed it. And, that he would probably find several things like that as he worked. Because he was not here to fix the problems himself, we just didn’t tell him about all of the little things that happened.  We felt he had enough to worry about without the details.

For four and one half months Russ was gone. He remained in Kansas and did not deploy overseas; he returned to the farm the day the air war started. Right on time, just like the Pentagon promised. Six days later we started calving.


Peggy Sanders writes from the home ranch near Oral where she reflects on the soldiers who are now being deployed, and their families.