The good Lord is watching

The pens are now empty. There’s no more bawling calves or cows looking after their babies. The leftover bales of hay sit in the farm yard. The round top shed is a little emptier. Our souls are a little emptier too.

If you would have told me five and a half years ago this is how it’d end up I wouldn’t have believed you. But this is what it’s came down to. The cowherd is at the livestock auction as I type this. Some probably have already been sold.

There’s been an agreement reached and now we have to move on. We have to depend on ourselves more than we ever have. I took some photos on Sunday because the light was so very beautiful and I wanted one last reminder of the day. I posted them on social media and had more than a few people reach out with encouragement. One comment from a dear friend read, “This may not be the day you want, but the good Lord is watching.” She is so right. We have to pick ourselves up and do the right thing. We have to do what is right for us.

Nearly 3 months ago the ugly wildfires on the day I buried my Dad was the worst thing I’d been through in my 38 years on earth. Sunday when we hauled those cows, calves, bulls and heifers to town is squarely situated in second place for worst experiences of my life. I’ve hauled cattle to town before because of the drought, not knowing if Dad’s pasture would ever have momma cows and scampering babies in it. It did.

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago covering it for my day job. The speaker helped attendees gather the tools they needed to make hard decisions and remain profitable in ranching. One thing he said was, “those cows will be dead in 15 years, but that land will be there forever.” How true and it really struck a chord with me. It’s hard to look at life that way when the cattle who have been the center of my husband’s universe since 2012 are being loaded into a truck to be sold.

As we prepare to move on and become the people we want to be, I look toward the future. I can’t help but wonder how things will eventually turn out. Another good friend told me yesterday if this door you’re seeking doesn’t open, then maybe there’s something better coming. I sure hope so. I’ve had enough of the bad.

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The Lord will provide

I haven’t written in some time. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. I now have a tiny bit of time so I’m going to take it to write something about what we’ve been doing, and what has been on my mind.

My Dad, Valere Orebaugh passed away early on March 1. He’d been in and out of the hospital and was moved to a nursing home where he was supposed to get better and go home. He had days where he was better, but the bad days started out numbering the better ones. The day before he died Mom called us all in and I secretly hoped my boys being there would snap him out of it. But it really didn’t. I do know he knew we were there and he was surrounded by his family at least for a few hours.

This morning I was helping Chance get dressed and he said, “that smells like Poppa.” I’m not real sure what he smelled, but I didn’t catch a whiff of it, so I wasn’t for sure. I was telling an acquaintance at lunchtime about what he’d said and she shared her own wisdom on the subject. Chance and my Dad spent a lot of time together the past 2 years, and I’m not real sure how much a 3-year-old can grasp about death, but I do know he misses his grandpa.

When I was coming into the office this morning, I paused to gather my things and make sure I had everything and realized the song I heard the morning my dad died was again on the radio. I don’t know if I’d heard it since the day he died on the station, but there it was My Old Man by the Zac Brown Band.

And while I was working on pages this morning, I had my normal Pandora radio station playing and it was Stoney Larue’s “Forever Young.” That was the song I had played at my wedding for the Father/Daughter dance. When it was time to choose a song for the dance, I really couldn’t decide on one. A friend suggested one to me, and at the time it just fit. It still does. I think I chose it because I always wanted him to be forever young.

For as long as I can remember I thought of my dad as young, even though he was one of the older parents of my classmates. Maybe it was because he was tanned and strong, spending his days on the tractor or outdoors. Maybe it was because he liked new things. More than once I remember Mom cussing him because he came home with a new pickup or a new pair of boots.

But these last few years have been hard with his health. In 2007 he had a quadruple bypass surgery and even then they told him his time was limited. His heart was pretty badly damaged and they told him he wasn’t a candidate for the transplant list because of his age and health. Admittedly I was shocked we had him for 10 more years. I’m thankful for those extra years. He got to meet my two boys and become a part of their lives.

While planning Dad’s funeral we came across his wishes for the memorial and he wanted to be buried in a small country cemetery. The land around it was farm ground he used to rent and farm when we were kids. I remember helping him switch out anhydrous tanks at this particular place and watching the hose come off, spraying the noxious gas everywhere. He yelled at me, “get in the pickup!” It was a pretty scary situation, but we were both lucky to come out unscathed.

On the day of his funeral it was terribly windy. Gusty, nasty wind. But it was also nearly 80 degrees so it was almost tolerable during the graveside service. Once we’d returned to the church we all noticed heavy smoke clouds in the south part of town. It was not a good situation. After we’d returned home my husband’s phone rang. A family friend alerted him to a fire very near the Scott farm. It wasn’t good. In fact it was awful. The farmhouse, the barn, hay stockpile and grass all burned. The cows and calves managed to survive, but there have been a few that had to be culled because they weren’t going to have the quality of life they deserve.

I work for an agricultural publication and was asked to write about my experience. You can read my post titled, “The worst day of my life” on the High Plains Journal website. After I’d returned home after seeing the devastation with my own eyes, I called my mom and said, “I don’t know if I can even write it.” She said just do it.

This past week its been read and shared a number of times. I got to speak with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts about my experience and he even read my words on the floor of the Senate in Washington DC. Yesterday, I received a letter from Kansas Senator Jerry Moran. Both were moved by the strength in my words. I’m not real sure how much strength I do have, as it’s really a trying situation. But one thing I do know is farmers and ranchers are some of the best people on the planet. We’ve gotten truckloads of hay. Offers to help us pick up the pieces. All of it, we are so grateful for. Words cannot express how much we are thankful for these people. I thanked a few of them in my second blog for work, “Only thing I know.”

At the Roberts fire tour, I overheard a woman from Englewood, Kansas who lost her home and all her belongings. She told the senator, “the Lord will provide.” And I believe her. Ask, and He will provide.

 

Funerals

It’s not often I walk away from a funeral feeling good. That’s even if I go at all. I sometimes just can’t deal with the people, the fumbling of words and trying to remember who the guy in the blue shirt by the window is.

I think I got a heavy dose of funerals as a kid and it turned me off. I have a vivid memory of my grandparent’s funeral as a 9-year-old girl, and from that moment on, I just go through the motions when it comes to them. I don’t often cry at them, instead I have my tears on my own time. And I for darn sure don’t go look at the person lying in the casket. I get absolutely nothing out of it. Instead, if they have photos I focus on those, and remember for myself who the person was and what they meant to me.

I recently attended the funeral for my great aunt, Bonnie. Although I didn’t spend much time with her, she was one of the kindest, sweetest women on the planet. As a bit of a tomboy I admired her attention to personal detail. She always had a “big” hairdo and was always wearing makeup—even when she was riding the mower or working a farm field. I got a chuckle out of the memory the pastor relayed, saying how Bonnie regretted going to drive the tractor for the first time because she never got away from it. But she made it her home. I drive by their farmstead about every day and miss seeing her in her pickup.

I also got a chuckle at my mom’s expense on the way to the cemetery. I hate seeing people “done up” lying in the casket. I avoid the line like the plague. My parents and sister don’t see anything wrong with it, and chat about it afterwards. Mom said on the way to the cemetery that she only wanted a graveside service when it was her time. “Why?” I asked. “I  don’t want people looking at my lying there!” Ok, Mom, but you go look! We all laughed.

Before the funeral, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of family there. Then my cousin made the comment, “There’s sure not many left on Mom’s side.” And there’s not. Especially the ones I’d known. I also couldn’t help notice all the age in the congregation. With the exception of myself, my cousin’s children and a few others around my age, those in attendance were mostly of the older generation. It happens when the person being celebrated is 80 years old.

Mom and Dad’s neighbor passed away the week following my great aunt’s funeral and they had quite the obituary. I shared it on social media, calling it a biography and not an obituary. It definitely was the story of his life. From his days as a custom harvester, to meeting his sweetheart on horseback, to him going to nursing school all while continuing to farm – it was a perfect tribute to a colorful man.

In one of my college journalism classes we were tasked with the assignment of writing our own obituary. I pined over mine and made up a few things that were probably pretty far-fetched, but for a 19-year-old the accomplishments were probably something she had wanted. I need to dig that out and see if I have hit any of my marks yet.

The tone at Bonnie’s funeral really made me think about how I want to be remembered some day. I don’t have a plan per say, but I know I sure don’t want a stuffy church funeral and people crying over me. I want it to be a celebration. A remembrance. And the last thing I want people saying is, “Oh she looked so nice.” There won’t be any of that at my funeral! I may not even have a casket. But there will be photos. Lots of photos.

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January 21

Amidst the music, people talking and the normal sounds of a Friday night concert at a local bar I heard my husband say to a friend he hadn’t seen in quite a while, “everything I’ve done in the last four years hasn’t been by my choice.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, and have to agree with him.

Four years ago today his dad, Steve, died. Our lives were forever changed. I’ve started to dread this day simply because it’s such a hard day for me to deal with.

I’d known Steve while my husband and I were dating in high school and later when I was in college. After graduated college my husband and I got back together after being on again and off again. We lived together for 7 years before we got married in 2009. So it’s easy to say I spent a lot of time around my father-in-law. Probably more time than around my own parents just because we lived close together.

He helped cultivate my love for red beer and sitting in the shed shooting the breeze. I’d like to believe he understood my horse obsession more than my own husband because he’d go watch me run when he had time and he cried right there with me when she tried to cut her foot off and had to make a trip to the vet with his pickup since my new-to-me pickup hadn’t gotten fitted with a gooseneck hitch yet. (He later bought me a B&W turnover ball and helped install it.) A few years later her rescued my sister and I when we’d broken down in Ashland and needed some diesel fuel and help getting my sisters truck started. There wasn’t a time when he was not around. Hell, I still have his cell phone number saved in my phone and I’ve had two different phones since he’s been gone.

Even though I still miss him every single day, there are good things that have come from him being gone. My husband has had the opportunity to have a cowherd, managed the way he wants to and have produced some pretty nice heifers and steers. He’s also got to raise a wheat crop that was one of the best the Scott Farm has ever been able to – even after three years of ugly drought. He’s also gotten to show his boys what it’s like to be a part of a farm – both the good and the bad. And for that, I’m proud. It may not have been our choices to live without him, but we’ve been able to deal.

This quote popped up on my social media feed this morning and it helped get the tears out of my eyes and the lump in my throat. “If you don’t leave your past in the past, it will destroy your future. Live for what today has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away.” As much as I don’t want to leave him in the past, I have to.

Until we meet again, you old fart.

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Steve at the farm with his dog Dolly.