Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

ZIRNHELT: Learning to deal with age

David Zirnhelt’s column to the Free Press

This older rancher is slowing down.

Notice that I am saying older, not old, as I am not going to give in to the temptation to blame age for a slight change in life/work style! A much younger acquaintance said recently when I said ‘Ah, I am just getting old,’ as an excuse for something I did or did not do. He made the point that if I gave in to it then I probably would forthwith age precipitously.

Think young is what I tell myself. However, I do recognize that I have to change some of the things I do. An electric chainsaw (battery operated) is my “go-to” for small cutting jobs and I try to be sure to put safety gear on, even for a small amount of real power saw (gas).

Then, there is the call to grandkids or adult offspring to help with heavy lifting, anything much over 50 pounds.

And then, there are the repairs of machinery that take longer than it has when more youthful energy got the job done in an evening or into the night. “All-nighters” are a thing of the past. Our age group thinks a late evening out is 9 p.m.

What I like best about the transition going on at our ranch is that quitting time is usually before 6 p.m. I know many people have mastered the work hard for the workday, then quit before exhaustion risks injury.

Every day I say there is only so much I can do today. The job may have to wait until tomorrow or next week.

Now, this is not how many ranchers have built or paid for their ranches will work less hard. I doubt that new ranchers unless they have a small fortune in the bank (from real estate sales or just good wealth management over the years; or have an off-farm business or job which either pays for capital investment or operating costs.)

The inevitable question when I hint at retiring is “what will you do?” Well that is easy, ride a new gentle horse while I can: slow down and teach grandchildren about work and running the ranch, take some holidays, make winter wood, finish a whole lot of the unfinished jobs, etc.

Keep moving seems to be the watchword of aging. While I will do that, I will also take time for friends and acquaintances when I go to town.

I could go on about all the things I want to do and read, but that would sound like no change at all.

My wish for all aging ranchers is to keep doing what you really enjoy.


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