A Little Bit Western

Pasture Lost & Found

May 26, 2021

If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. It’s a familiar sentiment that stirs feelings of pride and heritage in most farmers and ranchers. It takes an ironic twist though, when we discover – and subsequently have to deal with – the valuable, worthless, and downright weird artifacts and garbage that appear on our pastures and farmland.

Most of our fields are a couple hundred kilometres from the nearest Tim Horton’s, which helps filter out some riff-raff, yet even so we regularly end up dealing with other people’s junk. For others who live along busier corridors, they have found everything from abandoned camper trailers, tires and clothing, to actual people tenting in their pastures. Other unique findings reported include undetonated explosives, a bathtub full of cement, household remote controls, and a couple risqué items I don’t think can be printed in a newspaper.

After cleaning up after everyone else, it would be nice to find the long-lost phones, pocket knives, and fencing pliers we’ve deposited ourselves over the years but we’re still looking.

Balloons & Boots. Helium balloons are a classic pasture find. Where do they come from? How far have they travelled? Watching a balloon waft across a meadow is enough to create confusion among man and beast alike. Our most recent find was a balloon that said “You’re #1!” and while I appreciate the sentiment, the original possessor obviously wasn’t great at picking up after themselves. Another very common pasture find is assorted footwear, mostly in singles. I’ve recovered fairly new footwear in some remote and untraveled spots. These aren’t settler’s artifacts; these are modern day shoes and boots that warrant an explanation. Did a shoe get tossed out of someone’s saddle bag? Did it fall right off someone’s foot and they somehow didn’t notice? Did it come out of the sky? Or were people trespassing and littering?

Obscure trinkets and treasures. Some pasture finds appear to be potentially lucrative. One person found a safe that had been stolen from a small-town watering hole. Thieves apparently dumped it out and it tumbled to the bottom of a coulee. The landowners were left with a mess to clean up and a trail of six or seven loonies for their trouble. Another person came across a jewelry box wrapped in grocery bags, the owner and origin which remains a mystery. Yet another reported discovering “treasure” of a different sort, this time in some purchased bales. Imagine the farmers’ surprise when they found their cows munching on someone’s collection of R-rated magazines during winter feeding. What’s the relative feed value of Playboy magazine, anyway?

Trash. This is the final, largest, and most frustrating category. Farmers find everything from seemingly benign trash like pizza boxes and beer cases to truckloads of construction waste. It takes time, energy, and money to clear these items out. A broken bottle can start a fire, a pile of shingles or batteries can sicken cattle and cause death. I once found a mountain of moving boxes along our road allowance. It took me (plus two toddlers and an infant) a couple trips to pick and dispose of the garbage. Were the litterers too lazy to take it to the dump? Too cheap? Did they really not think about someone dealing with the consequences? Or did they drive three miles out of town, turn down a dirt road, dump out their trash and simply not care?

Our land is an investment, and something we take pride in. As a rancher, I feel like it’s an expensive but important responsibility to manage ecosystems, filter water, provide habitat, conserve biodiversity, and sequester carbon – all things that benefit society. Society can remember something too – our fields are not a garbage dump. Someone has to deal with your sh…belongings, when you won’t.

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