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Journaling – Another Kind of Record Keeping

This month’s focus is on record keeping, and we’re providing different examples of what is and isn’t helpful. Don Ashford started us off with this month’s Grazier’s Focus, and adds some more ideas here.

Don and Betty Ashford and Great Grand Child

There have been, over the years, many discussions of the importance of records in the livestock business. There are production records. There are breeding and birthing records. There are records of expenses and income and profits and losses. And then there are the records like my wife Betty keeps.

Betty has kept a journal for years. I understand that this is called journaling. As of late I have come to appreciate this more than I could have imagined that I ever would, simply because it is a source of dates and events from all of our yesterdays. It has been used to remember things that at the time were important and have over the years come to represent our history. Now understand I have never been guilty of reading Betty’s journals this is, as far as I am concerned, hers and is none of my business.

When I thought of writing this piece I asked her, “Is there a difference between a journal and a diary?” She was not sure so we consulted Mr. Webster and found this: a journal is a daily record of happenings. A diary is a daily written record of the writer’s own experiences and thoughts. So, to be very truthful, the events that will be described in this narrative will be of Betty’s choosing and with our combined memories it is hopeful that it will relate to the reader what was and is our experiences to operate a livestock enterprise. What follows are just some random dates.

September 23, 1979- two cows down with milk fever.

This one simple fact records the fact, but doesn’t come close to telling the story, but allows us to recall the struggle that morning. Was this the time that Donnie drove the needle through his hand between the thumb and index finger? Recalling this I am sure that both of the cows recovered because I would surely have recorded their deaths.

At the time the first milk herd was bought Donnie was still rodeoing. He was a clown and bullfighter. Betty and I had agreed to milk on the days he was on the road working a rodeo. Well that’s probably entirely not the truth. I had agreed to it and Betty, bless her heart one more time, went along with the deal. Here are some of her journal entries about this time:

October 12, 1979 –  DK working rodeo so I’m helping milk – cooked dinner so when we finished at 7:00 PM we could have something quick.

October 13, 1979 – Well, milking again today since DK wasn’t able to go today.

By now I think it is clear that DK is our son Donnie. Folks assume that since we are both Donnie that he is a junior. But in fact, he is named after one of my best friends in high school, Donald Keith Blades. Growing up he was little Donnie but about his senior year in high school it became apparent that this was not the case any longer. At any rate on the morning of Oct. 13 about the time it was time to get up and go to the barn, the phone rang and it was Donnie and it went something like this “Ma Ma can you milk again this morning? I took a hooking yesterday and my ankle is all swelled up and I can’t walk too good but I’ll be all right by this evening.”

Now to be sure some of these entries are a record of just another day in paradise. Example:

October 30, 1979 –  Cows on rye grass for the first time.

November 3, 1979 – Cleaning a nasty barn all hands on deck but before getting started, fed calves, went to find and fix fence where neighbors cows are getting on our ryegrass, checked calves on gravel road and moved cows off ryegrass.

But some days will never fade from memory:

November 11, 1979 – 2 headed calf born – had to call the vet. 2 heads, 2 tails, 4 feet.

This calf was coming butt first and it did not seem to be a real problem until we realized the cow needed some real help. So we gathered up the come-alongs and all of the other equipment that is usually required in situations of this nature and got down to the business of pulling this calf. It was soon apparent that this was not even close to anything that we had ever encountered.

Donnie went in the cow and turned to me and said, “This ain’t right.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m feeling two tails.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes I’m sure. Come here! You want to feel?”

“No, I’ll take you word. We better call Doc.”

A call was made to the vet and he replied that he had company and that we knew how to pull a calf as well as he did. After a few more tries of pulling and failing we went back and called the vet once more and issued an ultimatum. “Either you are going to come or we are coming to get you!”

He came. By the time he arrived the cow was beginning to really get in bad shape. The vet drove up and said that he didn’t know what he could do that we had not done other than cut her open but he would check anyway. Then he realized that this something different for sure. Long story short we did get the calf pulled and I am sure there will be some who will say we did it all wrong but the cow did survive. But imagine pulling a wedge out of a hole narrow end first the more you pulled the bigger it got. I think it goes without saying the calf did not survive.

Now I realize that all of us in this business can tell similar stories and some are believable and some not so much but they are our stories and this is what and who we are and the stories are worth remembering. So, to Betty and all of the other folks who are dedicated journal keepers thank you for saving much of us that would be lost.

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Don Ashford
Don Ashford
My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.


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