A pocket knife & lip gloss--tools of the trade

Today was another overcast, muddy day in Kansas and on a cattle ranch, there is no avoiding the sloppy stuff, so when I finished treating a few calves for an infected naval, infected ear, and snotty nose (one illness for each calf) I looked at the sorry state of my coveralls and decided it was time to empty the pockets and throw them in the wash! They were starting to stand up on their own, there was so much mud caked on the legs of the pants! As I pulled out items from each of the pockets, I realized there was a story to tell about why I carry it every day.

Now that my dirty work clothes are in the washer, I have a cup of hot tea and a space heater at my feet, let me tell you about the tools I carry in my pockets.

First and most importantly, I have the red pocket notebook, lovingly referred to as "The Red Book" in our house. This is the master copy of all information of what goes on at our ranch during a certain year. We have at least 3 copies of this book each year--one each for me, my husband and the hired man. The Red Book contains information on every calf, including date of birth, sex, actual birth weight, sire and dam (daddy & mama) and notes on any calves I had to treat with medicine for any reason. In the calendar section in the back, I keep a record of what I do each day. If I put a bull in with cows, or get him out of a group of cows, I write it down on the date I did it. If a cow is in heat, I write it down. I note the date of snowstorms and sunny days, broken water pipes and frozen livestock waterers, and the date that cattle were taken to a different location. This book is not the final storehouse for this information, as it must be put into the computer record keeping program on a regular basis, but it is easier to carry this book than the computer in my pocket.

Next, you can see my cotton gloves--warm and easily washed--and my silk neck scarf. Cowboys have been wearing this neck scarf for years and you will easily understand why when you've worn one! It simply keeps your neck warm and it is soft! From October to March, I do not go outside without one!  Of course, I can't leave the house without my cell phone. It is a blackberry these days, but I have to admit, my old Motorola Q was pretty much indestructible. I had even run it over with the tractor, and it didn't skip a beat.  But I do like the blackberry for better applications and the calendar is much easier to navigate. I do carry an iPod, too. I like to listen to audiobooks when I'm alone, and feeding or checking cattle is a great time to get in a chapter or two on the current book I'm listening to.  Right now, I'm working my way through the Outlander series. It is about a woman who travels through time from 1968 back to the mid 1700s in Scotland and then to early America.

Next you'll notice my pocket knife for cutting the twine on hay bales, cleaning fingernails after working in mud and manure, cutting my cow dog loose from the rope that she has tangled around trying to get to the cattle, and scraping mud off boots. Also, I found a package of Laffy Taffy--in case I was hungry--and a pop tab. Yes, it is a pop tab...I am totally addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper and the Kansas Jr Angus Association (of which my children are all members) is collecting pop tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Also you'll see two new hypodermic needles and one used needle. I just finished treating some calves and we use a new needle every time we give a shot, so I always have new needles in my pocket and old needles to be disposed of in a safe way.  There are also a few quarters to stop at the one gas station in town for a Diet Dr. Pepper, a set of keys to the new barn that I need to hang on a peg somewhere in the shop before they get lost, and a lip gloss and ponytail holder!

The cattle don't really care if I wear lip gloss or not, but a lady is never without her lip gloss! A ponytail holder is also an important tool, especially on day like today when the mud is flying as the ATV slogs through the muddy ruts to get to the calving area where the baby calves are snuggled up in the deep straw to keep warm. You'll also notice that I have many more calluses than the normal 43 year old woman. I have worked on a ranch my entire life, and I used to want soft, pretty hands. I am finally resigned to the fact that my nails will always be short, my cuticles ragged, my knuckles grow bigger every day and the cold, wet weather dries my skin so that my hands are always rough. I can apply lotion, wear gloves and sunscreen every day, but I will always have the hands of my grandpa.  That is a blog post in itself!  For now, the wind is biting, the mud is deep and I just never know when I might need my Ginger Fizz lip gloss!


  1. It looks like all the neccasary stuff!I just keep a credit card,key's,and a phone in my pockets.It does look like we are going back to the country very soon!I can't wait.I'm not much of a city person.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I've been around cattle all my life, but watched from a distance as the 'men-folk' tended them: Grandpa, Dad, uncles. Reading your reality feels a little bit like home.

    And you're so right about the lip gloss, that item is on the shopping list this week!

  3. Hi Debbie,
    Great post! Thank you for shareing and thank you for what you do everyday!

    Have a great one!
    Wrenn Pacheco


  4. Awesome post! I have pulled out many of those things from my pockets before as well. Gotta have the lip gloss, never know who might be stopping by the farm. We refer to our calving book at the bible.

    Love the new layout by the way.


  5. Hi Debbie - I love this post. Educational and entertaining all at once.


  6. At my folks place the world could come to an end if the 'red book' is lost. We've been late to school, church, etc. because "No one is leaving until we find the book."

    Great post.

  7. Farmers make everything in world thank you

  8. Ha! I thought I was the only one that wore lip gloss when working cows. ;) We need a good shade of "cowgirl pink".

  9. Looks/sounds like my pockets too. I try my best to leave the knife in the pickup 'cause I'm just clumbsy!

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