Back to the Homeland

I spent the majority of the past week in my hometown of Ennis, and it was wonderful to be home on the ranch and to give a couple of programs to boot.  My trip home was a little scary, as I ran into some freezing rain and black ice around Bighorn.  Following a semi down the hill into Custer, I white-knuckled it watching his trailer try to beat him down the hill, first on the left, then the right.  I promptly got off the freeway and took the frontage road all the way to Billings.  However, all the good gas mileage I got from going 35 in 4-wheel drive was cancelled out by the gale-force, tornadic winds from Reedpoint on.  Yes, I just referenced hurricanes AND tornadoes to describe Montana wind.
On Tuesday, I spoke at the Madison Grazing Seminar, where we had a great turnout of 60 people.  This also happens to be the occupancy load of the Ennis Fire Hall meeting room where the seminar was held.  So of course my question was, “What happens if you break the fire code at the fire hall?”
But no one busted us, so we went ahead with our meeting. I spoke about cow body condition scoring and the impacts of cow condition and nutrition on reproduction and colostrum production and quality. We passed out my audience-response clickers, and folks worked in teams since I didn’t have enough.  It was a lot of fun to give a talk at home, although there were lots of people who didn’t get all my red cow jokes.  I realize that not all of you reading this will get it, either, and I’m totally okay with that.
We started feeding a little cake to our 2- and 3-year-old cows while I was home.  The 3-year-olds know what it is, as they were fed it last year, but the first-calf heifers are sometimes a little scared of it at first.  There’s really no good way to describe the hilarious sight of half the bunch running full-speed toward you while the other half runs away when you honk the pickup horn.  Soon enough the whole bunch will have it figured out!
On Thursday, I went to Ennis Elementary School to give a program about Montana agriculture.  I was invited by the local Farm-to-Fork group, who have been featuring a local food at the school each month, and January was beef month.  So I went back to the very same grade school I attended and spoke to kindergarten through 4th grade students.  This experience, and others like it, re-affirm that it was a good decision for me NOT to become an elementary school teacher.
The kids completed an activity that helped them identify agriculture plants, animals, and products that are grown in Montana.  When you grow up in southwest Montana, you probably know about beef cows, hay, and maybe potatoes.  So it was fun to teach the kids about pinto beans, lentils and sugarbeets.  Even though the activity was the same for each grade, the students really determined what direction the discussion went.  Here are a few of my favorite moments from the day:
·         Parents of 4th graders must have had a fair amount of state pride when their children were born, judging by the names Jordan, Kinsey, and Madison.  There could have been more, but those girls in particular wanted me to know their names very much.
·         The 2nd graders, after learning that we could grow sugarbeets easily in Montana, but that another source of sugar – sugarcane – probably wouldn’t do so well, went on a brainstorming mission about how we could do it. “We could grow it inside by the fire! And if it grew taller than the ceiling, we could cut a hole in the roof and make a tube for it to grow in!”
·         I ate school lunch with my kindergarten and third grade teachers.  That was pretty surreal.  Then I got to see one of my favorite junior high and high school teachers, who is now the high school principal.  On the flip side, it’s probably pretty surreal for them that I am “Dr. Endecott”
·         One darling kindergartener said to me, “I’m a cowboy. See my boots and my belt?  And I’m even wearing a vest!” I almost died right there on the ABC-123 floor rug.
·         The 3rd graders were particularly grisly.  They wanted to know all about livestock slaughter.  So I told ‘em.  Bet their parents are really thrilled I came to present at the school!
·         Two members of the 1st grade were able to identify, on sight, without prompting, a sugarbeet and a lamb chop.  They both got high fives, just for being awesome.
Here’s a picture of us in action – my lovely assistant on the left, Miss Clark, and I were in 4-H together back in the day.
Next week I’ll be on the road again, leaving Monday and returning the following Monday.  Yes, that’s right, it’s January.  The most glamorous month of the year in my glamorous life. Roundup, Fort Benton, Helmville, Hall, and Helena are on the docket – I’ll keep you posted!  Feel free to make comments, I’d be happy to hear from you!

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune…” —Rodeo Moon, Chris LeDoux

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