(Nolan Brunner and his wife, Melissa, and their two children live north of Lost Springs. He helps his father, Kent, operate the Brunner Ranch. Brunner wrote the following piece for a high school English assignment. It was submitted by permission by staff reporter Rowena Plett.)
When I was 4 or 5, I remember having many small implements. I would always play with these toys. No matter where I went or how long I would be there, I had my implements.
I always kept my implements in top condition. I kept them stored in a safe place and kept a close eye on them in case one might decide to disappear. I had two or three tractors, several semis and trucks, and all the necessary field equipment to prepare the crop land for planting and sowing. I also had all the haying equipment to harvest the hay fields. I would say I had at least 25 or 30 implements total.
However, there was one problem. I needed hay bales. In order to have hay to feed my profitable cow herd, I had to find something to use as big round bales. As I was walking to the house one day after being called in to dinner, it hit me, like a right hook to the jaw. That’s it! I would use rocks for bales. Having figured out what I was going to use as round bales, I ate dinner as fast as I could and headed out to find 30 or 40 small rocks. Once I had bales, I had everything I needed to operate a farm.
My farm wasn’t made just to stay in one place. I took it everywhere — even church. I didn’t always set up a new farm wherever I took them. Usually I would pretend to be farming some land I owned that was very far away, unless I stayed at Grandma’s house. If this was the case, I’d set up a smaller farm that didn’t take long to clean up. Another place I would take these implements was to fairs and cattle shows. I would set up a farm for the two or three days we stayed there. I also had a hired hand. He was always at the same fairs. He would come over and help me plow and disk my fields. I usually got my fields plowed, disked, field-cultivated, planted, and harvested before we packed up and went home. Then once I got back home, I’d set up my farm again.
As I began to get older, these small implements got a little too small for me. I began to move on to bigger and better things. I decided to get bigger machinery, still not life-size, but closer to it. However, these were not as portable as the smaller size. I had to leave these at home. They were still lots of fun.
To start out, I had two tractors, a disk, a plow, and a planter. It was a small start, but I was building. I still farmed numerous acres of my parents’ yard. As my grandparents, parents, and other relatives began giving me more medium-sized implements, my operation became bigger and bigger. I began building more fences for my medium-sized cow herd, farming more and more yard space, and putting up acres and acres of hay.
Now here I was again with that pesky old problem of hay bales. What would I use for hay bales? One day when I was farming my wheat fields, my mom was mowing the lawn. I started walking across the yard, kicking up mowed grass as I went along. Then again it hit me! This time more like a rock! That’s it! I would make clumps of mowed grass into hay bales. At that very moment, I ran to the garage and got my wagon. I began collecting the cut grass and forming it into hay bales. Man, was I excited! I must have made at least 60 bales, putting them into piles and storing them for my herd. Then at that very moment, I heard the words that every kid my age hated, “Time for supper!’ This meant I had to close up shop and put my machinery away in the new machinery shed I had gotten for my birthday. It was red with a white roof and two white sliding doors that opened and closed. I then drove my tractors and trucks into the shed and shut the doors.
Every morning as soon as I got up, I would go out and farm with my medium-sized machinery. This routine continued for days, months, and years until I decided it was once again time to move on to bigger and better things.
My dad decided that I was now old enough to drive a real tractor, in a real field, and work on a real farm. It was in the fall and we were trying to get our wheat sowed, among many other tasks. I was riding with my dad in his 4750 front wheel assist, dually tractor while he field-cultivated the wheat ground. I had ridden in a tractor many times before but I had never driven one. We were circling the field going round and round with the tractor and drill close behind. On the second and third round, my dad started explaining to me how the tractor worked. After a couple rounds of this, Dad thought I was ready to give it a try. We switched seats in the tractor and I began to work ground. I thought it was rather easy for my first time. I went a round or two with ease. Then dad needed to go do some other work. He left me with the job of finishing the field. This I did well. After the first time, driving this tractor was a breeze. I then began to chisel, disk, and do many other things with the tractor.
As I got older, I started working full time for my dad’s feedlot in the summer. I helped work cattle, buck bales, and many other things. I most remember the summer I spent hauling bales in one-by-one. I hauled from many different fields. I would say I hauled hay on about every piece of land that my dad owned or rented. Overall, I figured I hauled 650-700 bales that summer, earning myself a heifer to start my own cow herd.
Over the next few summers, I took on more challenging tasks. For example, the big round baler was one of my challenges. It was probably the most dangerous of them all. Using this piece of equipment includes taking extreme caution of all the little gadgets and chains, but nothing is too much of a challenge for me. After all, I’ve been doing this kind of stuff for years. It became my job to do all of the baling I could, which was not as hard as hauling the outcome that this machinery produced. I had the air conditioner and the radio now. It suddenly became lots of fun for me instead of a bunch of hard work.
So maybe I don’t use little toy implements now, but I still keep them all clean and in a safe place, and I still reflect back on the days I had my own farm.
(Postscript: Brunner’s 4-year-old son, Noah, now plays with those toys.)