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The Difference

I am often amazed at how different Danish Cowboy and I really are. I love to verbalize in writing, he in spoken word. I still get a thrill at driving the big pick-up to town (any pick-up, really), and he does so only because he needs to fuel it with the appropriate diesel due to some impending cold weather. I smile quietly at the hoo-hoo of the great northern owl in our yard before the sun has broken over the horizon and he threatens to shoot it because it is killing his pheasants. But the biggest difference and the one that I find the most awesome? I usually see the glass as half-full and he is more of a realist. Except when it really matters and involves the beauty of our natural world. The tables sometimes turn.

"The Waterfall," he calls it. I first heard this phrase when the water started running in the spring many years ago and I heard a dull roar coming from the calving pasture. New to the place, I promptly went out to investigate and came back with my own terminology. "The Headcut," you mean, I said to him, noting the difference between the observations of a dryland prairie farmer thrilled to have running water (any water, really) on his place and the observations of a recent resource conservation graduate.

A headcut is a stream feature with a short vertical cliff and often a plunge pool that slowly migrates upstream as high water flows happen. The velocity of the water causes erosion of unstable surfaces and the course of the stream is forever altered. Headcuts are as likely to occur on managed land as they are deep in the recesses of wilderness. I know that this particular headcut is somewhat stable as it has not progressed towards the fence line that is immediately above it in the years that I have been a resident in this prairie home. So perhaps waterfall is more appropriate (and beautiful) terminology in this situation.

There has been so much discussion in our world lately of the "rewilding" of the west and the need to restore the prairie landscape. I cringe when I hear these words because I think that the people uttering them are not attuned to the life that exists out here where so few find beauty and have the gumption to survive. I don't even have to leave my farmyard to see flora and fauna that prosper because of the care that our farmer and rancher folks take to tend the land. I can go out at dusk and find my great-horned owl friend (which Danish Cowboy would only threaten to shoot because it irritates me so, but would never actually do), I can hear the call of coyotes echoing across the land, I can see the great herds of antelope hustling across the prairie, and I can see way more stars than your average American citizen on any given night because the atmosphere is clear and pure.

The West that I know and have come to love lives on the edge of wildness always. If we didn't live in tune with it, we wouldn't live here.

So the only real difference between Danish Cowboy and I? The only one that matters anyway? It's what we find to be optimistic about. Between the two of us, we've pretty much got every aspect of life covered when it comes to our hope for the future. And that's a pretty good difference to have. I will keep working on having optimism about our society, our community, the world we will gift to our children and he will keep on with his optimism about our ability to live in tune with the land. I'm not sure what else there is to consider.

Waterfalls and Headcuts: terminology boiled down to seeing the world with the glass half-full and the glass half-empty. I like waterfalls better.

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