What do cops, fire fighters, veterinarians, medical personnel, military personnel, nurse cows and ranchers/farmers all have in common? It is a significant swath through an array of professions. One thing in particular sticks out to me. Everyone on that list is responsible for another life other than their own. If anyone of them fails, they have cost a life.

Failure can come in lots of forms, wrong timing, wrong place, pure bad luck, not enough information, wrong drugs, no drugs, no bullets, no support, no luck, no break, but perhaps the worst contributing factor is being lacksidaisical, or the lack of personal responsibility and accountability is worse.

Each of these professions requires one to ante up every ounce of strength, ability and wisdom that can be mustered. Given this fact, one can be secure in the knowledge that at some point giving your all, may not be enough. You are going to experience a loss that will haunt you. I can only speak for the agriculture industry, but I have known since I was very young that if you don’t get moving and check on calving cows, and whelping bitches and foaling mares, sooner or later you are going to have an unexcused loss. If you don’t check the water and the salt and mineral and feed stuffs and pastures and fences and a heightened sense of awareness. The list is long and if you get lazy, you are going to have an inexcuseable loss.

We were put on earth to be stewards of the livestock and the land and the inhabitants. We were bequeathed great responsibiliy when we accepted the stewarship of the land and the animals. I recently read an essay which declared that not one among us is more than about two jumps away from some kind of agriculture connection. No matter how high a pedestal your status may be riding upon. Loss of life has a trickle down effect. It affects emotions, and commerce and politics and every facet of every life.

John Odea and his family, his boys and his wife have adopted these kinds of expectations both of themselves and the people with whom they do business. Both boys are the recipients of the American Farmer Degree in the FFA, so hard earned and well deserved. They have a diversity of business in Southwest Nebraska. Their business ranges from production agriculture in hay and livestock to feeding out a conception to consumption beef market, and so many stops in between. They both raise and buy beef to finish and they do the hard work of the record keeping to know which is meerly profitable and which bunches of cattle have the highest return on investment. They are adamant about a profitable bottom line because that is what determines if they will still be in business next year. Bottom line is stewardship. If you don’t take care of what you have, it will not be here in years to come.

My observations also extend to the unaccountable individuals in our society. It would seem that there is a huge following of folks who champion putting the burden on someone else. They are all about holding someone else’s
feet to the fire, but refuse to own any of the responsibility on their own shoulders. I would wish for these people many things, but maybe the best experience would be to lose something living that they were solely responsible for; like bucket calves, or a stray, or a colt that died, and a
plethera of others that you don’t care to relive, but the ones that haunt me are the ones I will
always wonder if I could not have done a little more and that would have changed the scales.

I have a little package of nurse cows. Those little girls amaze me. They adopt just about any stray I drag home. I have one little cow that is mooing and licking on the newest little whether or not it is hers or is going to be. She loves them all up. She talks to the new littles, she waits for or follows them into the pens. If she was a human, she would be the proverbial “cheek pincher.” She cries and looks for the babies if I lose one or one leaves for town. I wish some humans were as compassionate and loving as my little doe eyed Jersey cow named Sophie. She welcomes the responsibility, assumes accountability and for that there is no price.

Families in ag are finding it harder and harder to maintain stability. Difficulties arise in having the renewable resource of young people to come back to the family farms and ranches. We have to take the time and nourish the young minds. I see youth in agriculture as a result of human stewardship. The Odea’s have learned from their ancestors, they are learning from current and previous generations. The boys, John G, and Jake are continuing on with the lessons they have learned. G has an ag shop and Jake mentors kids in the youth organizations. Two very different and absolutely crucial pieces of the puzzle. I am sure their mentorship is a learned skill. Thank you to John for continuing to take an interest, promote and encouraging others to promote and take care of what they have. Thank you for your lessons in stewardship and entrepeneurism and all the things that make agriculture great.

Today I give thanks for growing up on a ranch where the value of life was so important, and the responsibility was so heavy and the rewards of that were too great to measure. Thanks for the “ships” mentorship, entrepeneurship, stewardship. I thank God for the opportunity; because for my life it has been a blessing and a game changer.

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