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March 8, 2017

Grueling Travel to a Warm Welcome

Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana USA – It was a grueling 26-hour flight, air time, from my home in Kuching to when I landed in Billings, Montana. I travelled from Kuching-Kuala Lumpur-Dubai-Seattle-Billings, and then a three hour drive to Malta.


I was dead. I guess I am too old for these long distance flights. It took me a week plus a case of the flu to get over the trip.


On arrival at Billings, I looked at the announcement board and picked up a courtesy phone for a hotel in the area. It turned out to be way, way out of town at $149/ per night, but I was so tired I paid it.


My daughter came and picked me up the next day. And was it ever cold and snowy! The temperature was minus 15 C (that’s 5 F above Americans) a far cry from 32 C (90 F for Americans) for Kuching just a day ago. Heavens, it was so cold to my unadjusted body. I was barely able to balance myself in the snow in my Nikes.


My son-in-law quit his job in the bank and decided to work the family ranch. The ranch is like a corporation. It owns three houses plus the cows, and the grazing land, plus the rights to feed their cattle on government-owned land.


The cows are bred in the fall, drop their calves in the spring which are sold to feed lots in autumn. In the summer, hay and peas are grown to feed the cows over the winter.


The ranch will hire my son-in-law. He will work on the concern. There are three others who also depend on the ranch for their livelihood.


The most critical times is the calving process. The cows must be checked every two hours to make sure the birth is going well. The loss of a calf means a loss of $800-$1200 in the fall. Although rare, they did lose a calf three months before the scheduled birth, just a few days ago.


In exchange for his labor he earns a salary. He also receives two houses to live in and a $750 monthly stipend for food. Gas, car payments, health and auto insurance are included. Heat and air conditioning are also provided.


One of the houses is about 35 miles from town over gravel roads while the other one is in town close to schools. The houses are similar to ones in Middletown MD, or other middle class suburbs. Because of the inclement weather, meaning bitter cold and snow, the family will move to town for the schools and back to the ranch house in the spring.


The cows have to be fed every day and other vet required inoculations given. The stud service is provided by a bull which is rented from a neighboring farm. The mounting of the female is quick, about 15 seconds, and I wonder how the sperm could travel the long voyage to fertilize the egg. The calves are sold in the fall and the money from the sale is reinvested into the ranch for the next season.


There seems to be very little time for vacations or departures from the ranch for the rancher. One is before the haying season and the other is just afterwards. There must be somebody, however, to take care of the feeding chores while the rancher is away.


I wish my daughter, Cody and the family well on this new venture. It is something I could never do, but it is fun watching in this remote part of America.


...Life is good. . . . .


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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