RANCH MUSINGS: Special times on the ranch

Columnist David Zirnhelt balances work and play by fishing with his grandson

David Zirnhelt

Observer Contributor

I opened a farm newspaper the other day, and a headline about the mental health crisis amongst farmers in Canada leapt out at me.

That was even before COVID-19.

The bottom line of this story is that you have to know what mental health is, and like physical health, you have to work at it.

This article is really about a rancher and his grandson fishing, which focuses the mind on the good things in life.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be teaching ranching skills to grandchildren. They can be such a help with the heavy lifting and the many chores and repairs. For that, I am grateful.

This touching “aww…” moment happened after a hot day in the field baling hay. This particular grandson is crazy about fishing and has fished in the ocean in Newfoundland and in B.C. in isolated lakes in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. How many lures are there on the bottom of our lake?

He is fortunate to have extended family who like the outdoors on our doorstep, and he gets in a lot of fishing, including an annual fishing trip with his dad. He also has logged hundreds of hours of watching fishing videos!

As dinner was nearing an end, he asked if I would like to take him fishing that evening. I reflected before I spoke. My mind went to the haying equipment which needed servicing before the heat got to us to the next day.

Many times, I have had other priorities, you know the work that never ends and which adds up to another lifetime if you let it. This time, I said yes.

This little fishing trip from the front yard was going to be part of balancing the work with necessary play.

We are fortunate to live on a lake with fish in it.

I ran the canoe with an electric motor. He told me how fast to go. We met a neighbour on the lake who has been fishing a lot more than I have. Grandson and neighbour discussed the speed and depth of trolling for the desirable game fish.

As we circled the known hot spots, fish were rising all around us, raising the excitement level.

But as the moon came up and the salmon pink sunset faded, a wonderful peacefulness filled us.

“This is wonderful,” said the boy, happy even to be skunked. One hard hit on the fishing line made it all worthwhile.

The loons calling and echoing off the hills reminds us that we are in the north and that loons are a sure sign that there are fish in the lake.

If I ever doubt my state of mental health, I hope I always remember that “gone fishing” is a great prescription, like exercise, to raise the level of happiness.

I reflect on the 40-some years here on the ranch and remember the times fishing with my partner, who also loves to fish and the times when our children took me out on Father’s Day for an annual trip.

The old saying about “the child being the father of the man” rings true. In this case, it is “the child is the father of the grandfather.” Thanks, Buddy, for the special time the other evening.

And wasn’t it great that your sister kayaked out to meet us as we were coming in by moonlight and you told me that the fish would be biting all night long?

READ MORE: RANCH MUSINGS: What is a rancher doing writing about pigs in the middle of haying?

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.


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