Amber Waves of Grain

Amber Waves of Grain

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Everything Old Is New Again: Pasture Proceedings

The frost crunched under my tennis shoes as we arrived at the Ninnescah pasture. The air seemed to shimmer, too, with the particles of frost almost hanging there to touch.

It was time to round up cows and their calves from their summer vacation spot. As Randy unloaded the 4-wheelers, I looked at the sky and contemplated life's questions: Is the sky bluer on a cold morning?

Once upon a time when I was in charge of state fair coverage for The Hutchinson News, I was stopped by an encyclopedia salesman as I walked through the Commercial Building. He was the quintessential salesman. At the time, Jill was a toddler. He asked the question, "If you don't have a set of encyclopedias at your fingertips in your home, how will you answer when your daughter asks, 'Why is the sky blue?' "

His question wasn't motivating enough to have me fork over my salary from all those overtime hours at the fair, but I've thought of that question many times in the 30 years since. Who would have thought I could eventually type a question like that in a search engine on a computer and come up with an answer more quickly than I could walk to a bookshelf and open a book?
For the record: Yes, the sky can be bluer in the colder temperatures of the fall and winter. And here's the long Google explanation as to why:
Back in the 19th century, John William Strutt (also known as Lord Rayleigh) discovered the equations governing the scattering of light by the molecules of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. To simplify his very technical equation, the intensity of Rayleigh scattering is inversely related to the wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the more it’s scattered. And the more its scattered, the more it reaches our eyes from different directions, dictating what color we perceive the sky to be. In the autumn, the sun is no longer directly overhead and more of the sky is significantly angled away from the sun. The Rayleigh scattering directs more blue light towards your eyes while the indirect sunlight decreases the incoming levels of red and green. So the sky does appear bluer.
With the drying grasses, the cattle seemed ready for a change of scenery, too. We had brought three 4-wheelers (and three people) to gather the cattle from the 320 acres they can roam on during the summer. However, the cattle came running as Randy started to throw out bales of hay.
Randy says we probably could have accomplished the round-up part with only one 4-wheeler this time. It was  the easiest gathering I've ever experienced. I'm not complaining, even if I didn't get a scenic ride to the Ninnescah river.
Once we had the cows and calves corralled, Randy and our neighbor who was helping walked back to get the other two pickups and trailers. And I took photos. Big surprise, right?
We don't use this old loading chute any longer, but it still stands as a testament to decades of rounding up cattle on these lands. (We do still use the attached corrals.)
Even as the sun burned off the frost, the sky and the unusual clouds made for a pleasant "office."

It was a picture postcard fall scene with the leaves starting to turn and the fall colors contrasting with the bright, blue sky.
Even with three pickups and trailers, it took several trips to transport all 66 cows, 65 calves and two bulls back to the farmstead.
Those old cottonwoods at the pasture gate have witnessed a lot of cattle round-ups.
On Wednesday, we'll round up cattle at the Rattlesnake pasture - what Randy has always called "the big pasture." It's been in his family since 1900 and is owned today by Randy and his cousin Don. The ground was purchased for $4 an acre by a great-great-uncle, August Brinkman. Originally in a tract of 1,040 acres, today 560 acres of it remain in the Fritzemeier family.

It is a Farm Bureau Century Farm. Back when Randy was a child, the pasture located along the Rattlesnake Creek was owned by his grandpa Clarence, Don's dad Ed and their two brothers. Today, Randy and Don are the remaining owners.
L to R: Clarence Fritzemeier (Randy's Grandpa) Milton Giedinghagen, Ben Fritzemeyer, Melvin Fritzemeier (my father-in-law) & Harve Fritzemeier. Yes there are two different spellings on Fritzemeier - it's not a typo!
Years ago, the extended family would gather in the spring to take the cattle to pasture and then round them up in the fall. I think this undated photo would have been taken in the 1950s.

While the guys were rounding up and sorting the cattle, the women got together to make a big meal.
My mother-in-law Marie, Jean Newell Fritzemeyer & Marjorie Giedinghagen on a cattle working day back in the 1950s.
For the first time ever, there will be a woman helping with the cattle tasks on Wednesday. So if the earth stops rotating on Wednesday, you'll know it's our fault. (I think I'm just kidding.) Randy says the round-up never goes as planned "or the same way twice" at the big pasture. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

I've been a part of round-ups at other locations for many years, so I don't know why I'm so nervous about it. (Maybe it's little tidbits from Randy like, "Oh, something always gets by someone." I just don't want it to be me!)

But I will endeavor to do my best. I suppose that's all anyone can ask. This time, the meal will have to be ham sandwiches and fixings in a cooler. (And the woman will still have to make it - just sayin'.)


  1. Hard to imagine it so frosty already. I'm sure the 'woman' will di a fine job on both accounts.