Ranch life requires a little ingenuity, often requiring ranchers to think outside of the box using objects to avoid going back to the house for a more specific tool.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Ranch life requires a little ingenuity, often requiring ranchers to think outside of the box using objects to avoid going back to the house for a more specific tool.

The right tool for the job

In agriculture, sometimes you use what's close at hand

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Consider this scenario.

One morning a ranch wife named Mary has to feed a small herd of cattle by herself. It means loading the pickup truck with small bales, fighting off the cows to get through the gate and driving onto the feedlot.

The feedlot is where Mary will make several stops, each time climbing into the back of the truck, pulling a bale or two onto the tailgate, cutting the bale twine and throwing the hay off to the cows.

So this particular morning Mary manages to get through the gate without letting a cow slip by and without having a cow pull a bale off the side of the truck. So far so good. She drives to the spot where she'll start pulling off the hay.

Mary pushes herself through the cows and climbs into the back of the truck. She's thinking how well things have gone so far. She pulls a bale down from the stack of hay and notices that the knife she uses for cutting the twine isn't in her coat pocket.

Mary feels again. She always keeps the knife in her right coat pocket, but it's not there. She checks the other pocket. The knife isn't there, either. Then, thinking the knife might have fallen out of her pocket, she searches around the truck bed, pushing loose hay around with her boot.

No knife anywhere.

The twines are too tight to pull off the bales. What to do? Mary knows if she drives back to the house, the cows will follow, likely right through the gate. It's quite a walk back to the house, and the cows will pull bales of hay off the truck while she's gone. Mary needs a substitute "to avoid going back to the house" tool.

So she searches through the truck's tool box for something else that will cut the twine. First, there's a screwdriver. Mary tries working the pointed end of the tool back and forth in the twine. She hopes it will weaken the twine enough so it will break, but this process will take forever.

Next, Mary finds a hammer. She tries using the claw part of the hammer to break the twine. It's no more effective than the screwdriver.

Mary searches the tool box again. Down under some chains, cans of oil and a bunch of other stuff, Mary finds a hack saw.

It takes a little patience, but sawing the twine works. Mary is able to finish feeding without going back to the house.

This author knows this "scenario" well because something similar happened to her (and she never found the knife).

Three Moffat County ranch wives have their own substitute "so I don't have to go back to the house" tools for cutting baling twine.

Katrina Springer of Craig said that she once used car keys to break the twine on a bale so she could feed the horses. Evelyn Ott, who lives south of Craig, said she sometimes hooks the tine of a pitchfork in the twine and walks around and around the bale until the twine gets tight enough to break.

And Cindy Prather, who lives north of Craig, said she sometimes uses wire cutters (which actually work as well as a knife).

Just think of all the other chores that require tools to finish and the substitute tools that might be used - just so that a person doesn't have to go back to the house.

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