I met “Sweet Sugar” Smith about 15 years ago when I first bought the farm. I liked him immensely from our very first encounter. He was short on talking and long on listening, college educated in agriculture science and honest to the core. However, as I have learned over the years. When he does speak, you might want to prick your ears up and listen closely.
Our rock home is what first drew my wife to the place. It is very pretty and quaint. For me, it was the land. I would have taken the place if it had a tent on it. We drove all the way from Colorado to look at it and bought it the same day.
When Sugar came driving up our driveway to introduce himself, I was walking around inspecting the house. He poked his head around the corner. His tall and lanky frame was covered in well-worn clothing that had seen lots of work. There were a few holes in the shirtsleeves from welding and the elbows were worn thin. I could smell the dried sweat of a man that was no stranger to hard work.
“ My name is Sugar Smith. I farm the country across the road” he said as he extended his hand.
The hard work analysis was proven quickly when I shook his bear paw of a hand. It was leathery and calloused. He did not crush my hand but probably could have.
There were not many more words that came out of his mouth as he walked with me other than a few comments on his longtime friendship with the previous owner. “ He farmed all of this with a popping Johnny” he said.
I finally asked him what he thought the economics were in remodeling an old rock home versus building a new one back in the corner of the place.
“What does your wife want?” he asked.
“ Well, she wants this rock house. Loves the fireplace and likes to hear the floors squeak.”
“ Well, I’d say that is your economics case . You spend what you need to make her happy.”
Still steamed over the political happenings of the day, I asked him what he thought about the politicians in Washington D.C. He thought for a moment. “ This sure is a pretty place you got here.”
And that was that. He cast no aspersions on anyone or anything. He was simply a wheat farmer and also took care of a large herd of goats. His adversaries and friends could be summed up into a few words. The weather, moisture, varmints and market prices.
And so, it began. Our friendship is now into its sixteenth year. I have learned to admire his practical advice. He offers it only if I ask for it, which in the farming and sheep and goats raising business, is quite frequent.
I smile to myself at some of the questions I have asked the man.
“ Sugar, what is the best way to herd goats? They scatter like a covey of quail in the pasture.”
“ Push them down a fence line into a smaller trap and keep funneling them into smaller ones until you get them into the working pen.”
As I watched a goat run through the arena with a tomato cage on its head he laughed and looked at me. “ Those two don’t mix. Five-gallon buckets with handles neither.”
Then there was the time we were looking at something hanging from a string of double stacked round bales in the arena. I had taken great pains to bring all the hay into a safe animal proof storage area. However, one nanny and her two kid goats managed to squeeze through a gate that was not pulled tight enough. She had managed to climb on top of the double stacked round bales. Somehow, her foot became entangled with the hay wrapping string and then she fell a full ten feet to the ground. What we could see was a nanny lying mostly on the ground with her rear left leg in the air firmly entwined in the hay twine. The leg was hyper-extended in the joint and she was obviously in a lot of pain. Her two kid goats were happily nursing but she could not move. We cut the hay bailing twine off of her foot and carefully loaded her onto the bed or the gator. We slowly moved her into a barn and placed food and water at ground level so she at least had a chance to eat and drink. Utilizing a sheet and a little rope hoist twice a day, we were able to slowly hoist her up and let the kids nurse. After about three weeks, I walked into the stall one morning to find her on her feet nursing her babies. Astounded, I called Sugar.
“ That nanny we found that fell off the bales is up walking. What do you think of that?”
He laughed a little before he spoke.
“ Them things can sure climb, can’t they? Might want to keep your gates closed a little tighter. If you can pour water through it, they can get through it. If it is stacked up, they will climb to the top. Just like a mountain goat”
Sweet Sugar always thinks any equation through from a range of practical standpoints and always leans heavily on the moral and ethical side of things when making a decision.
I was searching for some Dorper- St. Croix rams to put with our herd. Sugar called me and said he had found some up the road a few miles.
I could see them in the pasture as we approached. The rams were better than average, un-registered and range hardy. As I studied them, Sugar turned to the rancher.
“ What are you asking for these rams, Sam?”
“ Well, I have not sold any in a long while. I was kind of thinking about $125 dollars apiece. Do you think that is too much?”
Sweet Sugar looked at the rams for a minute or two and turned back to Sam. Well, I’d say you start at $165 dollars each at a minimum.”
“ Gosh Sugar, you really think they are worth that much?”
“ Yes. I believe they are.”
Sweet Sugar’s word is his bond and honesty is built into his DNA. It is admirable to know a man like that and to be able to call him your friend.
Practical advice for the day
“ Make sure your ranch truck is in park before you get out to check the goat herd.”
Until next time