All that was missing was a single-action Colt .45 revolver when I visited Rite Aid early this morning, my hands slathered in hand sanitizer entering and exiting the drug store. With few customers and all employees wearing facemasks behind Plexiglas shields, and me with my bandana—my hearing aids picked up some distant chuckles, but I felt safe enough.
In our culture of comfort and convenience, Covid-19 is teaching us all how things really work. I caught snippets of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s address to the nation yesterday. No preppie politician, Perdue’s Southern drawl appeared to have a rural, hands-on appeal when he says that there is plenty of food for all and that bare-shelved grocery stores are a result of a demand problem, not a supply problem, as dairymen dump milk and farmers plow their crops. $15.5 billion has been earmarked to purchase ‘milk and other protein products’ to help bolster the Ag markets. An obvious question is whether or not the USDA will take possession of these commodities. Beef and pork producers, and the USDA, have nowhere to go with the livestock as feedlots are backed-up because packing plants for both have been shuttered due to the Coronavirus.
The cattle market has been in a tailspin since the Trump Administration’s trade wars with China and other countries. Now touting billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out American farmers, $62 million has already gone to Brazil’s JBS SA, the largest meatpacker in the world whose owners, the Batista brothers, have spent time in jail for corruption and are currently under Justice Department probes. JBS SA Just how this will shake out is anyone’s guess.
We’ve been busy gathering our Wagyu calves for a second round of vaccinations as required by our contract with Snake River Farms. Normally, this is the time of year that we lock-in a price for the calves we are contracted to sell to Snake River, to be weighed and shipped at least two weeks after their vaccinations. Our calves will be lighter than last year after virtually no rain in January and February. Normally, our feed year ends around the 15th of May, leaving us 30 days to agree on a price. We’re watching the market with nowhere else to go, but nothing is normal, the deck has been shuffled.
Western Livestock Journal, March 2, 2020
Not good news from one of our best livestock publications, founded by Nelson Crow in 1922.
As supermarket shelves empty in the midst of our worldwide coronavirus pandemic, I am reminded of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”, a theory most often likened to a pyramid where food, shelter and clothing are the foundation necessary before fulfilling our innate human needs. Common sense to most people.
This is not the time to forget about American farmers and ranchers, many bankrupt or near bankruptcy as a result of the tariff wars with China and other countries. Furthermore, all of our normal distribution avenues are being disrupted by the virus. Instead, some of the $16 billion in tax dollars intended by Congress to bailout farmers and ranchers have been diverted to foreign countries, one of which is JBS SA of Brazil.
I pray for the sake of us all that USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Congress and the Trump Administration wake up and take a look at the bigger picture as they focus on the virus, because we all, rich or poor, have to eat.
Up early, awaiting
confirmation of the storm
slated to rain out plans
to brand calves
on slick roads
to thin cows
as grass grows
against the cold
Nothing on the news
but red and blue politics,
and fog on 99,
ads for fast foods,
and old age—
not one damn thing
I want. Nothing
I can change
but feed more hay
to hungry souls.
Nine out of twelve days rain—
ground first to turn green
where an errant spark
three months back.
If only most of man’s mistakes
could be as easily erased
by just adding water
to all the bad actors
and their political stage plays.
There are no dreams like this:
old man learning to go slow
without coming to a stop—
hand let run the smooth flesh
of a time and weather-worn
corral-board table top, sanded
and shellacked, splinters sealed
beneath to become functional.
Scars and crooked fingers trace
the deep grain without calloused
insulation, a new sensation saved
for thin skin that bruises easily.
There are no dreams like this
for whip and spur youth, wide loops
and inflated heroics—yahoo mugs
raised to the wild, to the heavens
howling late into black night
when once I was among them.
It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman
Till I started looking for mine.
– Moe Bandy (“It was Always So Easy”)
Young buck with broken horn
on the scent of an acorn-fat doe
and her two blue yearlings
slipped from the bunch
while the boss was busy—
the urgency and wild design
of “cheatin’ songs” plays before me,
lyrics shuffled and embellished
to fit the dim barroom lights
of my imagination
steals my senses away
from the most recent
political intrigue searching
for music—for a tune that might
sell millions on the truth.
all is consumptive
We have grown fat
on the numbers since
we lost our taste
for words that matter.
Like waiting for a rain
to settle dust
and bring verdancy,
the storms will come
to cleanse this earth
and thunder verily.
Little passion in the dry,
hard hills and dust trails—
little fire in the leaves
of sycamores and willows
preparing to undress.
No foreplay sure,
no long-range rain,
we feed more hay
and wait with cows
in the cold,
by growing babies.
We taste the air and search for sign:
manes and tails and moon dog rings—
our annual drama of hackneyed details
we bury our hearts and heads within
instead of the direction of a nation
without honor or integrity—
in God we Trust.
I’m an old time smugglin’ man and I know just what to do
I sell guns to the Arabs
I sell dynamite to the Jews
– Tim Hardin (“Smugglin’ Man”) Verve 1966
Sometimes, the old songs ring true—
clever genius festering a tune
we can sing to our children
before we send them off to war.
Business explodes in the cities
of strangers, in jungles and deserts
we must liberate before we extract
our pound of flesh for the fallen—
and here at home, Dearly Beloved,
just outside the door, down the street
around the corner of the future,
nothing is secure anymore—
not the dollar, not the truth.
I want my old job back: weeding
flowerbeds for two-bits an hour—
knees deep into the rich damp dirt.
On a cool day in hell
they’re sipping lemonade,
holding court, declaring
God to blame for their sins—
for imperfections of soul,
its hollow room filled
with mirrors of themselves
they took too seriously.
The angels rest uneasily
beside Max Parrish pools
looking down on the ground,
even the old cowmen on the ridge
look away from the wreck,
the collision of words, the cloud
of dust that obfuscates the truth
only time will settle.
How long can we be entertained
by delusion, the dissolution
of civility, of compassion
as the planet prepares
for the business of war—
already overstocked with corrals
of houses stacked upon
the fading fruited plains?