You only get one youth…

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I overheard a couple of longtime farming friends talking about the weather last weekend. They were complaining about the sub-zero temperatures, the icy conditions, and the deep show covering their operations, but it didn’t stop them from the mantra you hear from farmers across the Wind River Country.

“It’s going to be a dry summer,” one of them said as the other enthusiastically shook his head in agreement.


“Have you seen the mountains?” I asked. “The snowpack is incredible.”

“That’s now, it won’t be by summer,” came their unified response.

Amused at their negativity I finished our conversation with this little used gem, “You guys know the difference between a puppy and a farmer don’t you?”

They did, we’ve all said this to each other at different times.


The punchline was, “A puppy stops whining when it grows up.”

Putting things in perspective gets a little easier as you get older. When you’re young everything is a new experience, and it’s often tempting to think you’re the only one to ever have something happen to you.

Emphatically, you are not, as was written in Ecclesiastes 1:9, eons ago, “There is nothing new under the sun.”


A look back at the most infamous January in the recorded history of the Great Plains takes us to 1887, and the end of the open-range cattle empires of Wyoming Territory, Montana, and the Dakotas.

Here is an excerpt from the journal of Granville Stuart, a rancher who survived this winter nightmare 136 years ago.

“It snowed for sixteen hours straight at a rate of an inch an hour. Then it stayed twenty-below for ten days, and a second blizzard, worse than the first, hit. The temperature dropped to almost sixty below. It snowed all through November, then a chinook came in December melting the snow which was followed by sub-zero temperatures which froze the remaining grass, and then the blizzards hit.”


It makes you appreciate natural gas, electricity, and even a well-stocked wood pile for the fireplace.

But if you’ve stepped outside the last few weeks to feed cattle, plow your driveway, shovel snow for those who can’t do it themselves, or done any work at all in the great outdoors, you’ve stepped right back into the past that Stuart wrote of.

As a young man, my arrogance and strength were ready to overcome any physical challenge. I didn’t get cold, I didn’t get tired, and there was nothing I couldn’t do, no matter the weather. Yes, it was exhilarating to have those abilities at my fingertips. This too was nothing new, young men have felt the innate sense of invincibility since the dawn of man.

Proverbs 20:29, another Old Testament book addresses this as well, “The glory of a young man is his strength.”

The only problem with relying on your strength is that eventually, you’ll lose it, either by accident or through the march of time as you become an old man.

Charles Spurgeon, a man who would be a televangelist today, was a well-known Baptist speaker in the late 19th century, he had a take on the folly of youth.

He penned this phrase in one of his publications in 1874, “You will not have another youth: soon it will not be in your power to offer to God your beauty and freshness.”

That’s it, you only get one youth, one chance to grab the gold ring as you ride the relentless carousel of life, one chance to do things while you’re still physically able to do them.

I came across an image online last week of a young man carrying an inline six-cylinder Chevrolet engine. The caption included this phrase, “My dad warned me to knock this crap off or I’d pay for it someday.”

What struck me the most, was the double-take I had when I saw the photo. It must have been taken in the late 1970s, by the way the guy was dressed, and by the front fender on the car. I had to zoom in to make sure it wasn’t a picture of me someone had found.

Yes, I was that dumb. I carried a few Chevy engines out of the bed of a pickup and set them on friends’ cars back in those days.

Some mornings I still feel the heft of that chunk of Detroit steel when I wake up. If you’re north of 45 years old, you probably feel it as well.

The impetuousness of youth pays for itself as you grow older.

When I built our house back in the summer of 1995, we needed a power pole planted to get a temporary electric panel set by Rocky Mountain Power.

My dad had a pile of power poles at his place north of Kinnear. We loaded a wide-based 28-foot pole into his horse trailer with a front end loader, flagged it with a red handkerchief, and headed to Riverton.

Dad suffered a heart attack a few years before and wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavy. My mom warned him and me both to not let him lift anything over 50 pounds.

This pole was well over 50, weighing something in excess of 300 pounds by my estimate.

I had a four-foot deep hole dug already, waiting to set the pole in.

Dad backed up the horse trailer to about eight feet from the hole and started to help me lift it out. I pushed him aside and said, “Mom, won’t like it if you help.”

I pulled the pole out, pushed it to vertical, then bear hugged it and crab walked the final few feet to the hole before dropping it in.

I felt a sharp twinge deep in my lower right side.

“Great,” I thought, “You’ve given yourself a hernia and haven’t even nailed a single board yet.”

A visit to my friend and physician Dr. Mike Miller proved it was just a muscle strain and not a hernia.

Always a guy with a sense of humor, Mike wrote on my chart, “Don’t lift any more power poles.” I still have the records from his former practice.

There isn’t anything new under the sun. The dumb stunts my friends and I pulled are now repeated by our sons and grandsons. No, we’ll never learn.

It’s just too easy to grab something heavy and move it yourself. Impatience and strength seem to go hand in hand (pun intended)

As for the weather, it can warm up anytime it likes. Just knowing it’s not the worst that’s ever happened, doesn’t prevent you from slipping and falling, or getting a case of hypothermia, no matter how invincible you think you are.

“The glory of young men….”


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