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RANCH MUSINGS: Thank goodness the land line phone still works

We, the minority in the “developed world,” sometimes resort to older ways of communicating

We, the minority in the “developed world,” sometimes resort to older ways of communicating and entertaining ourselves. To prepare for this article I reviewed some events during the beginning of the new year.

A number of incidents stand out. First there was our phone call to the eldest member of our generation of cousins, now living in Alberta. She is not on the internet and doesn’t have any digital device that I know of. But at least we can talk on the phone.

She reminded us how, as a child living here in the valley, she never knew boredom. While too small as a young child to work machinery or ride a horse far on her own, she undertook to put some pets to what I call “play work,” imitating the adults around her.

In those days teams of horses were more common than using a single horse to do work.

She undertook to rig up or hitch up a team consisting of one goat and one dog. Why not, since two draft animals are better than one? Somewhere there is a picture of this invention/creation.

Picture this now: two pets harnessed with various straps and pieces of horse tack and the child’s wagon hitched to this gentle team, she was ready to go, so she thought.

It was a hot day if I remember correctly so as soon as the dog found a puddle it wanted to lie down in it. Now goats aren’t quite so fond of water so it sidestepped the puddle and probably kicked over the traces.

With inexperienced horses this can be a bad situation. Probably this was frustrating for the young teamster but she never forgot the learning experience and most likely wanted two goats and/or two dogs.

The moral of this story could be that it is hard to find a perfectly balanced team, but that is the objective when selecting animals to put in service pulling farm machinery together.

For me the moral is more that when toys or devices fail a child by their absence, the child will, if left to her/his own imagination, create better experiences which teach the skills to manipulate their environment and stimulate the imagination.

In other words, they learn to “do” or “make do” with what they have.

One dictionary (sourced digitally), Merriam Webster, defines left to one’s own devices as follows:

To allow (someone) to do what he or she wants or is able to do without being controlled or helped by anyone else, often used as be left to one’s own devices.

The students were left to their own devices when the teacher failed to appear on time. (Merriam Webster)

Of course, this dictionary was written before what we commonly call our devices – cell phones, laptops, Ipads, ear buds. etc.

“Social” media which sometimes is “unsocial,” is a symbol of technology which is best controlled by reasonable and caring humans, lest it control us.

Addiction to our modern devices can be very antisocial. We have to be guarded to not allow devices at the dinner table. Good person-to-person communication can be good for the soul.

Having said that, early in the morning when I was getting inspired to write this column (drinking coffee), I heard a “ding” across the room. It was a notification from Facebook on a new iPhone.

It was an alert to Atlantic Monthly including a story about recent research lauding the behavior of bison in Yellowstone park stimulating plant growth as they grazed early in the spring on the prairie. Rather than setting the plants back, it stimulated the growth of the grasses.

If I can find the research paper, I will try to report on it. In the meantime: god Bless the internet.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.


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