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Recycling, Cattle Ranch Style


Kelley Pounds

    The other day a writing buddy was asking me a few things about ranch life for a book she's plotting.  I told her that most of all, ranch people are independent and self-sufficient.  "One of these days," I said, "I'll just have to make a list of all the uses I know of for baling wire."  So, here it is.  Every ranching redneck knows that monstrous heap of tangled, rusted wire in the bed of the pickup has to be good for something besides ballast in a snow storm! 

1.  The classic, number one use for baling wire has to be as a tool to break into your pickup after you've locked the keys inside.  There are any number of ways to do this, and I've had the opportunity to try just about every method.  I've hooked a loop around the door handle to pull it up, I've tried to hook the keys out of the ignition (or out of the seat) in order to pull them through the crack in the window, and I've even tried to slip a loop around the door lock.  In order to be successful you really need an audience.  The larger the better.   And if you can attract a cop?  Well, that's best of all.  Why get Triple A when you can celebrate getting to go to a "real" town by turning your most embarrassing moments into parking lot parties?

2.  Can't get that favorite radio station because your antenna was struck by lightning or mangled by an angry bull?   The clothes hangers are all the way back at the house.  Do you really want to wait that long when you already have at your disposal--in the bed of your pickup truck--every style and size of antenna imaginable?

3.  You're twenty miles from town and your tie rod breaks.  No need to walk home, just cut a length of baling wire, tie up that tie rod, and drive into town to see your mechanic.  If you've timed it right--and if you paid your last bill--you might even be invited to stay for supper.

4.  Hear a dragging, clanking noise as you're driving down the dirt road that hasn't been graded since the spring of '53?   You've probably lost the bolt out of your spare tire carrier.  Or maybe it's your muffler dragging.  Maybe it's both.  No problem.  Just grab a piece of baling wire and wire those puppies back up.  If you do a really good job, your truck's next owner will be cursing your "ingenuity."

5.  One of your watering tanks finally "rusted through."  You think it's a small hole, so you decide it'll be easy to fix.   Just get some flux and your torch and solder that hole shut using a length of baling wire.  In the process you're bound to discover that the entire tank has rusted out at the base.  Keep torching for as long as you've got propane and flux--you'll never run out of baling wire.

6.  The milk cow keeps working open that latch on your garden gate.  The easiest fix is a doubled length of baling wire.  As talented as she is  with those sharp horns of hers, she probably hasn't figured out the bread wrapper concept . . . yet.  Butting the gate open is another story.  And you thought the Cowboys invented that move!  The Dallas Cowboys, that is.

7.  Those ornery calves insist on getting out of one corral pen and into another by hurling themselves headlong into the water tank shared by the two pens, swimming underneath the fence, and jumping out the other side--slinging moss, soggy tumbleweeds, and water all over you.   Here's the solution.  Using several lengths of baling wire, suspend an old corral board or a fence post from the bottom of the fence until the board or post skims the surface of the water.   This might--repeat, might--slow that bawling calf's desperate bid for freedom, but it probably won't do a thing to keep you dry.

    The fact is, there are scores more uses for common baling wire, the least common of which is to hold together a bale of hay.   I hear most people use twine for that these days.


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