My plan for the day included moving some cows and fixing a gate up on the hill.
But first, I needed to send my mom off.
Her visit had had multiple purposes. She brought a family friend to see the ranch. She was here to celebrate my daughter’s twelfth birthday and she wanted to offer support on the anniversary of my husband’s death.
It had been a year since he was putting a cow through the gate when he collapsed on the county road. He was dead before his knees hit the ground.
As Mom and I loaded her suitcase and some beef into her car, I glanced down to the barn.
It looked like Proud Paul’s Pickup City down there!
The Mormons had invaded.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
When Steve died last year, people began talking about fixing the roof on my barn.
It needed it.
Most of the shingles were gone. Sunlight – and snow – filtered to the floor. The wind blew snow drifts up against the lambing jugs. Last winter, a friend from my writing class and her husband spent an entire week screwing tin to the south side of the roof. They used more than a thousand screws so the wind would not throw that tin to North Dakota. The sheep appreciated their efforts when lambing season came around.
But the north side, 45 feet by 120 feet, was still in bad shape.
Periodically, someone would mention a plan to help me with that roof, but this isn’t my first rodeo. I would believe it when I saw it. After all, I am not a member of their church and plenty of people have more pressing problems than my barn roof.
You have heard my other stories about my family and friends helping – weaning the calves and lambs, moving cows, helping me feed in a blizzard, doing chores so I can travel overnight, baling hay, taking Abby to piano lessons and many more.
I don’t deserve any of this help.
They do it anyway.
Now suddenly a fleet of pickups brought an army with electric drills. They climbed up and began laying tin. Part of my new barn roof came from a barn that Steve and his nephew tore down a couple of years ago and part of it came off an old barn from my childhood. That tin had sheltered the first calves I ever raised and now it would protect uncountable calves and lambs again.
Even better, so many people came that we divided into two crews so half of us could reinforce my corral before I wean my calves in two weeks.
The timing did not go unnoticed.
A year ago, on Steve’s last day of life on earth, the freshly-weaned calves had escaped from the corral. One of his last efforts was to tie metal panels around the outside of the corral fence as temporary reinforcement.
I was completely overcome. As I drove to town for more washers, nuts and lunch for the crew, so many tears streamed down my face that I had to wear my sunglasses in the IGA checkout line.
Some of the people on my barn roof were friends I see regularly, but most were merely acquaintances. I had not done anything for them or their families.
It gets even better.
Two days later, three friends from the Backcountry Horsemen stepped out of their saddles to create a bucket brigade of hay haulers. They showed up with pickups, flatbed trailers and a tractor to move 400 bales of hay from my field to my stackyard. All day for two days, they left their pressing projects to drive back and forth, one on a tractor at each end to load and unload.
Both groups minimized their efforts, calling these service projects. My definition of a service project is bringing spaghetti to someone who is sick, not finishing infrastructure projects and jobs that would have taken me weeks to complete. I can’t pay these guys back. All I can do is pay a little bit forward.
The rest of the world might be swamped in fearful hate and revenge right now, but people in my world are good. I hope they are in your world, too.