As I enter the last two weeks of my stay here at Rock Hills Ranch, I can’t help but look back on all that I have learned from the Perman family. It has been a truly unique and special summer for me and I would be lying if I said that it has been anything short of life changing. While RHR is far from a school of hard knocks, it has afforded me the opportunity to better myself not only as a cattleman, student, and employee but also as an individual through mistakes, long hours, hard work, and Lyle’s lectures of course. If RHR was an institution for personal development, the diploma it bestows would be one of the most coveted and respected around the nation and perhaps the world. It pains me that only a few short days stand between me and a few lonely plane rides back to the place I call home. However, it helps me to think that my leaving will provide an opening for future interns to partake in this once in a lifetime opportunity that I have grown so fond of. It is this thought process that has led me to the topic of my last blog post. Without further adieu, I give you (in no particular order): 5 Pieces of Advice for Future RHR Interns. Enjoy!
- “Never look down the barrel of a gun.” – Lyle Perman
If you were lucky enough to grow up with a military grandfather like myself, then you know that this is one of the first topics of fire arm safety and marksmanship. What you might not know is that it makes for a great analogy when castrating calves. While we were working calves, my job was to hold the hind-left leg of the bull calf steady to prevent Luke from getting kicked as he operated. It only took one time of getting covered in bowel excrement from chest to toe for me to figure out that the proper place to stand while restraining the leg is closer to the calf’s front side (away from the barrel of the gun) as opposed to the back side (directly in the line of fire).
- Develop sound orienteering skills before arrival.
Out here on the prairie, or at least Lyle and Luke’s piece of it, the directional terms “left” and “right” don’t exists. “Turn north at the sign.” Not, “Turn left at the sign.” Should a perplexed and disoriented intern accidentally use the term “right” or “left”, the terminology will be met with a confused facial expression that I personally perceived as a bit ostracizing. Just practice your “Never Eat Stale Wheaties” and you’ll adjust.
- Always check the Diesel Exhaust Fluid before you take the Kubota out.
This lesson was learned the hard way. It was a warm Saturday in June. I was the only one left on the ranch as the Permans had gone to a wedding. I was tasked with cutting approximately 75 acres of winter wheat for hay. I quickly learned that the Kubota was running low on diesel exhaust fluid which Luke happened to be out of. No big deal, right? Well it wouldn’t have been but for the next 12 hours a piecing alarm would sound in the tractor promptly every 2 minutes. That was a long day.
- Pack your coat.
Despite what South Dakotan’s tell you, It DOES get chilly in the summer time. Due to the typical low humidity of the region, even when the daily high is in the 90’s, it is not unheard of for it to be in the 50’s when you wake up. Also, if at all possible, try not to let the Permans see you wearing your Carhartt in the morning or you will catch a lot of grief for being the intern who wore his Carhartt in July.
- Get ready to learn.
This one may seem like a no brainer but none the less worth a mention. Between Luke’s thoughtful competence as a manager and Lyle’s years of experience, the Perman men are a gold mine for information for those interested in beef production as well as management of the prairies. Whether its pouring concrete at the perfect time to avoid cracks during the drying process or cutting a hay field in a particular pattern so that you don’t unnecessarily expose pheasants to predators, I have found that there is at least one thing to learn with every task you are given during the day. Most things here, no matter how minute they might seem, are done for a reason. So, I implore you to stay observant, ask questions, and absorb as much as you can!