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Fodder for Thought

Plans Gone Awry Turn Into Blessings

Plans Gone Awry Turn Into Blessings
I'm learning to savor life more and worry less about my preconceived expectations.


This past Saturday I took a trip to the Sieben Live Stock here in Montana. I was accompanied by my friends, Grahame and Roslyn Rees, who are visiting the US on vacation from New South Wales, Australia.

Grahame is a teacher of low-stress stockmanship and sell-buy marketing in his home country, an enterprise he does as partner in a consulting firm known as KLR Marketing. Grahame learned much of what he knows from spending time with the late great stockman, Bud Williams.

Worthwhile conversation: A simple visit to a Montana ranch at work actually yielded an opportunity for invaluable conversation. Here you see Whit Hibbard (left) myself and Matt Barnes.

The purpose of our trip was two-fold. We were meeting up with Matt Barnes, Rangeland Stewardship Director of Keystone Conservation and Eric Sauerhagen of Montana Meat Co., both collaborators on The Rodear Initiative, an innovative grazing management research study spearheaded by local Montana rancher, Garl Germann. In addition, we planned to spend some time talking with Whit Hibbard, founder and editor of the Stockmanship Journal, whose family owns the ranch. Sieben Live Stock recently joined The Rodear Initiative and is acting as host for the project.

We set off early Saturday morning for the ranch driving northwest of Helena, Montana. Once on the northwest side of town, a few miles out, we picked up a gravel road that led us over a mountain pass and finally opened up into a large alpine meadow on the west side of the slope. We pulled up to find three cowboys, three horses, and a late model Ford pickup and stock trailer surrounded by a herd of spayed heifers lulling in the sun.  They were ready to ride if need be. But no one would have guessed the day would go the way ours was about to.

Eavesdropping heifers: The herd of spayed heifers at Sieben Live Stock stood nearby, their presence appreciated but their purpose changed by the evolution of the day.

As most do when they are going to meet with someone for a specific reason, there were some preconceived expectations for how the day would unfold.  Matt Barnes had expressed hopes that Grahame could give him some insight on placing cattle using stockmanship techniques. Hibbard hoped to discuss Grahame's thoughts on stockmanship and his past experiences with Bud Williams. And going in we all thought there would be some form of cattle handling demonstration at some point in the day.

The funny thing is things didn't go how anyone had really thought they would. Sure, we talked about the topics that everyone wanted to address. But it was how we talked that really surprised us all. We got there around 10 a.m. We didn't leave until almost 6:30 p.m. We spent nearly six hours of that time sitting in a pasture by an old pickup and stock trailer with three horses tied to it surrounded by a herd of sleepy, lazy spayed heifers. We lost track of time. The day just flowed.

I can't tell you the last time I remember sitting in one place for so long just talking and being content about it. Our conversations ranged from the obvious of stockmanship, grazing and ranching, to discussing the rise in gluten intolerance, Australian agriculture and society, and the future of the ranching industry. It was truly a mentally stimulating day; as Grahame described it, a Great Minds Symposium.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, it's mainly because I realized there's a lesson in all of this that most of us too often forget or take for granted. We become so wrapped up in the goings-on of our lives, we forget to just be ... whether it's just being present in our own lives or present at the moment at hand.

A quote sent to me by a friend the other day said, "We can't plan life. All we can do is be available for it."

That is exactly what we all did on Saturday. We were available. We were open to opportunity. Because of that we all experienced something meaningful and gained value conversing with each other freely and openly. It's meetings like this where you will learn things no book or college course will ever teach.

We're all looking for more meaning for life, for answers. The thing we don't realize is they are often right in front of us. We need to start paying closer attention to the seemingly chance coincidences in our lives and appreciating them more because it is in these moments the real value lies. I truly believe each and every coincidence, no matter how small, holds some purpose. It's up to you to be willing to listen and learn during the process.

Be present. Listen closer. Remain open to opportunity.

You might be surprised what you learn.

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