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Richard Lackey

I hope this finds you and yours happy and healthy. I can’t say the same for our wallet with the price of gas for a truck that gets 10.6 miles per gallon, and anything from a big box store or the grocery store. I can’t wait for the mid-terms to turn the ship of state around. We got a really strong price for our calves and steers this year at the sale barn but it did not reflect what you pay for beef in the store — there’s a huge disconnect somewhere.

We could have used a large dose of global warming in February when we lost power and the landline for a week or so due to a winter storm that knocked out power to three counties. It is kind of hard to believe in global warming after living through that. It reinforces my denier status. We have no cell or internet service at the farm anyways and to lose the landline just made life all that much quieter.

We normally have maybe a half-dozen vehicles that go by the house on a daily basis but that dropped precipitously to zero. Yeee-haaa! We ran the generator that I modified to run off of propane during the day, turned on the electric blankets on high for an hour before going to bed, loaded the stove with wood, then shut everything down and snuggled close. Life can’t get much better! Now I see why some people move to Alaska.

Our new feed barn worked great. I would go up in the morning and afternoon to pitchfork hay from the large round hay bales up to the steel pipes used in the design to limit their consumption of hay (cows can waste a lot of hay). The gas company donated the heavy steel pipe with the use of our big excavator — interesting that utility companies are pretty prompt about replacing infrastructure when they find it missing. The calves would slip through the pipes and sleep in the hay, the cows, bull and donkey would munch away and I would nestle out of the cold wind between large round bales and reflect on the beauty and solace of farm life.

The grandsons come out when they can and we try to balance learning a new skill and doing the things they want to do — shoot something, ride 4-wheelers, shoot something, and maybe shoot something else. William tries to drive a 4-wheeler like he plays games on his IPad which is stressful for me since I am on the back of that machine. Daddy sent us his Ford F-150 for the boys to use some day and Thomas is batting a 1,000 — equal parts driver training and demolition derby hitting a gate post. I can’t get mad — I hit it once myself. His ratio of accidents per times driving can only go down — I hope. Driving the county roads at 13 might not be legal in some states but from what I can see out here, he is years older than most.

The gendarmes seem to focus on the important crimes not vehicles with no license tags, kids driving, or 4-wheelers or side-by-sides on paved roads which can be unsettling to have a side-by-side pass you in a 55-mph zone going uphill across double yellow lines. We have a friend who got caught with an out-of-date inspection sticker — 13 years out of date. The officer asked why he did not have a good sticker and he told him he knew it would not pass. The officer smiled, suggested he get one and drove off. Probably helped the fellow is a young 86 years-old.

Granddaughter Allie is 3 years-old and has started pre-school or something. Looks like a bunch of masked giggling little ones going in every direction. Also dance class and some kind of drama class too. She has been in 2 TV commercials so maybe a 3 year-old needs drama classes. She had no interest in her Barbie battery powered 4-wheeler at home in Charleston until she got to ride a full size 4-wheeler on the farm. I can’t wait until she can spend some time out here and she can shoot something, ride 4 wheelers, shoot something and shoot something else. As girlie girl as she is we might have to take a can of pink Rust-Oleum and paint her firearm of choice.

Suzanne had a hip replaced and plans to get the other replaced and recuperated before spring hay cutting. All of our surgeries must now be scheduled so as not to interrupt haying.

I have to say a heartfelt thanks to my little sister who handles more stress and family responsibilities in a day than I do in a year. I don’t know how she does it. Thanks to our neighbor Robin who’s in every farm effort whether herding cattle from pasture to pasture, screaming at the red-tailed hawks who try to raid her chickens which supply eggs to everyone in the family, or for lighting up the neighbor cattle farmer when his cattle breech our fencing. Thanks to Angela my boss who I consult for who is as sweet as the day is long and graduated from a prestigious university in Indiana — we’re good as long as Clemson does not play them then I’ll get fired again.

We signed a contract this fall to sell the farm’s carbon credits based on not ever cutting a tree for the next 125 years. These beautiful trees will never face a chainsaw, a sawmill and being made into a pallet. They will live long and die a natural death. If we could all be so lucky. I would not want to be a pallet.

We are all so blessed. Again, Merry Christmas and let’s hope for a new year with full barns of hay, healthy calves, a change in this country’s priorities, that everyone respects everyone, and a COVID free life.

Suzanne bundled against the WV winter during the long power outage, Thomas at the county fair and always with the pretty girls, and William as Olaf, Allie as Maleficent doing her drama bit and Lacy her nanny as Cruella at Halloween.

Guest columnist Richard Lackey can be reached at richard.t.lackey @gmail.com.

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