Over to you, the next generation ranchers

Columnist David Zirnhelt talks about the wisdom grandparents can share with and glean from grandchildren.

Move over grandpa and grandma, we are smart enough to run this place, say many of you.

Not so fast, I might say, because I think I have learned a little something in the 40 or 50 years I have been devoted to this large piece of land upon which we have built our dreams.

First I had to carefully choose a partner (no one wants really to be alone out there in the bush) and convince her (this case) that the decades of work ahead is worth the effort.

Then you have to get skilled up if you don’t come to the ranch or farm with much more than a strong back.

A good dose of self reliance is a great help—produce, fix build what you can: in your spare time.

I vividly remember how to operate and maintain a chainsaw. It  had cost $25.

But after spending more time tuning it than actually cutting logs for the first cabin, I bought a new one that was my best asset for many years.

Now as I reach what for most is a retirement age I realize how little I really know and how quick young folks are at learning compared to the half fossilized brain.

I digress: once when taking my granddaughter,  Julia, out to help me putting up some temporary electric fence I experienced a moment I will never forget.

She was riding in the dump box of the ATV with all the posts and wire, bouncing, yet trying to rest, half asleep I thought. After a few posts went in at about 13-15 metre spacing, she perked up and said: “Grandpa, I think you should stop.”

She was right. I had gone a little too far. She had sensed the right distance after a few minutes.

On another occasion I had young Tarn (a year and a half old) on my shoulders out moving electric fence. We do daily moves on some of our pastures in the spring.

I had misplaced the hammer and said so.

Now he wasn’t talking yet, but he pointed to the hammer in the grass. Good, he just happened to have seen me put it down.

About five minutes later, I said out loud “where are the pliers.”

I wasn’t asking him. It was a rhetorical question. But again from his superior height on my shoulders he pointed immediately to where they were, as though I was never going to ask.

His reward was my dropping him off my shoulders onto the electric fence. Fortunately it was high tensile and he bounced off it and didn’t ground himself.

When five he could kick up and step on the braided wire (as long as his shoes had no holes in the soles) and proudly walk over the fence.

Now this is the kind of native intelligence we wish we still had at our age.

It really saves on gloves when someone is charged with helping you keep track of where you took them off.

Then there is Ben who gets quite miffed if there is no job for him in the shop. His favourite is greasing machinery. He gets just as dirty and greasy as I do.

Then there’s Kell at four who can keep the tractor, the pickup, and the excavator on the road between the ditches. Teach them when they are young. They learn so fast. And there is a lot to learn, kids.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.


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