All manner of mechanical toys are commonly seen in America these days: skis, surfboards, trail bikes, dirt bikes, boats, snowmobiles, ATVs… Town folks work all week to have the time and money to escape the city and enjoy the great outdoors from the vantage-point of these expensive devices.
What are toys to the city-folk, however, have become tools for the rancher. Far more cattle are now handled by four-wheelers than by horses. And the side-by-side ATV is just the tool to check on cattle, ride out to change irrigation sets, haul salt to the cattle, and fix fence. A side-by-side is far more convenient than a pickup, uses far less gas, and is far easier on the land. In addition to trucks, tractors, pickups, farm implements, and haying equipment, we now consider both a four-wheeler and a side-by-side to be essential to ranch operations.
And now we have a tracked side-by-side.
This morning we have 18 below zero and some 2 feet of snow. It’s just too much for a pickup – even with chains on all four tires – so we’re feeding with a big four-wheel-drive tractor and a hay wagon.
But we are just beginning to have new calves, and we needed to get out to check on the calves.
The horses were all out to pasture, and we usually use the four-wheeler to run them in when we need them. The snow is far too deep for the quad. This new Ranger was just the tool to bring in horses.
To get ahorseback, however, I would have to follow the tracks through knee-deep snow to the horsebarn, saddle a horse, and ride a half mile out to the cows.
Eric has his new tool sitting just off his front porch. He fired it up, swung by to pick me up, and we were through the cattle and back in the kitchen drinking coffee in less time than it would have taken just to saddle up.
I’m a bit ashamed. In the old days we’d have harnessed the team and hitched them to a bob-sled, maybe leading a saddle-horse behind. It would have taken several loads. We’d have spent most of the day breaking trail with the horses.
Now we can spend a couple of hours inside the cab of the tractor – stepping out only to flake the hay off the wagon. Then we can drop off the loader and mount the snowblower, to clear away the snow from the trails and the gates rather than just trampling it down.
No longer the clop of the hooves and the jingle of trace-chains in the dead-quiet of a snow-filled world. Now the growl of a tractor and the whine of an ATV engine break the silence.
And this is progress?!?