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About Mark Wilsdorf



A Man Possessed?

His eyes are bloodshot, dark and grim.
They seem to tell the story
Of a man who plays the zombie part
In a B-grade horror movie.

He hasn't shaved in days or weeks,
His boots are soaked and spattered.
Was he stranded in a gale somewhere?
Or maybe, bitten by a rattler?

A whirlwind must have dressed him;
An egg beater combed his hair.
His jeans are crusted with mud and blood
And bits of cattle hair.

The sweatshirt he is wearing
Smells of sweat, blood, and manure.
And when's the last he changed it?
Well, he really isn't sure

No bath, no shower, just "washin' up";
Like life out on the trail,
'Cause the clock ticks fast—he has no time—
In this, his self-made jail.

To him it seems he's never slept—
Not since he was a babe—
Nor that he'll ever sleep again
Until he's in the grave.

The preacher will not see his face,
Not this Sunday, nor the next.
And worries, in fact, that the man is lost
And never will be back.


His thoughts hang heavy like a funeral wreath,
All colored with despair.
He mutters something about the ones he's lost
Because he wasn't there.

You see..

He keeps a running mental score
So he knows just who to blame.
"Was this one Mother Nature's fault,
Or chalked up to *my* name?"

More often than not the tally's his.
It's a game he just can't win—
For the score is kept by his three harshest critics:
He, himself, and him.

His aching, furrowed, tired brow
Tells volumes...pages...reams:
Of the sleet and mud, the endless nights,
The worry and restless dreams.

He's like a spirit wandering the Scottish moors
Alone in the dark and the rain.
This spirit wears a cell phone and pliers
On a belt that bears his name.

His soft Missouri drawl's gone hard—
Like a man who's given to drink.
But that's OK, he doesn't say much now,
Just stares in silence and thinks.

What could make a man this desperate?
Could unhinge his happy life?
I decided then and there to ask him, though—the way he looked—
I feared some for my life.

Are you zombie? A man possessed?
One of those "Ghost Riders in the Sky"?
If not, why do you look so much
Like you wish that you could die?

Were you the victim of some tragedy?
Did you lose your kids? Your wife?
Or did you make a deal with the Devil,
and now you're paying with your life?

Oh, you'll never guess his answer
If you haven't walked his path.
And if you think it's funny when you hear it, well,
For your sake, best not laugh.

Nope, you'll never guess it—
Not in a hundred years, if ever.
"D'ja sell your soul to the Devil?", I asked.
He said "No, I'm calving heifers."


You probably thought that this story was over,
And maybe it ought to be,
But he peered over glasses with sleep-deprived eyes,
And kept on talking to me.

He said "The work is hard and the hours are long,
I can surely tell you that.
And I just keep doing this...and getting older...
But if I didn't I'd be old and fat."

"And yes I get cranky when I'm losing calves,
And all that I try gets no traction.
But if truth be told, I wouldn't change very much—
Because I'm in it for the satisfaction."

"Satisfaction!!!" I said, "How can that be?
Looks like all that you do's at a loss—
You've got a mountain of bills, an old junk pickup truck,
And a cow herd with no teeth to floss!"

"Well, why does any of us do anything," he asked,
"Besides sit in a soft comfy chair?".
I paused a minute to gather my thoughts—
Because well, I guess he had me there.

But he went on...

"Satisfaction's about trying—and doing your best—
Even when nothing goes right.
It's about giving your all and working your hardest;
It's the love of the chase, and the fight."

"If you're luckly, you'll save a few calves from the mud,
Or from freezing to death in the snow,
Or from new moms who'd just as soon kill them as feed them
And when you do, that's when you'll know..."

"That you're the king of the world—that you did it all—
You're hard working, good looking, and smart.
In fact, any minute you expect Hollywood to call—
No audition, they'll just *give* you the part."

"But I hope in the midst of kissin' up to yourself
You'll remember to give God His due.
Because the glow of your 'brilliance' makes it hard to see
That the world don't revolve around you..."

"That's when you're set up for a lesson about life—
The way a windshield and bug get in touch.
You'll soon learn that life's about God more than you,
And what you do only counts for so much."

© 2012, Mark Wilsdorf, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.


Mark comments: 

After a hard couple weeks of calving, in February 2012, I was at our mailbox one morning when my neighbor drove by. As usual, we talked a bit. He told me about his calving efforts/problems/wrecks of the week and I told him about mine (no real wrecks that year for me, but lots of late night work). Then he said he was headed home for a nap (at 10:00 am.)—a 10-minute "any time I can get it" snooze is something many of us have done lots of times during calving season. That thought stayed with me all day.

Then that night, the main lines of this poem occurred to me while checking heifers at 3:30 am. When I was done with the check I climbed back back into bed too chilled to get to sleep; and besides, those lines kept rattling around in my head, helping to keep me awake. So I got up and spent most of an hour at the kitchen table writing down the main parts of this poem. With my head "emptied" of the poem, finally I was able to get to sleep.

Of the people I've read this to, those who've never been involved with calving—particularly, heifers—think this poem is "weird", "nice", or "funny"...or they just give me strange looks. But cattlemen and cattlewomen understand. It lights up their faces (or brings tears sometimes) and afterward they are eager to tell me their calving stories!


When Heifers Are Bored

They kissed all the mirrors on my old pickup truck,
Like some school-girls out on a lark.
Then they rubbed and they pushed and they wallowed it around
'Till they lurched the old truck out of Park.

One was fiddling around—making that Pepsi can sound—
With a fender where she pressed her head,
When the truck gave a groan and decided to leave home,
Letting gravity take over instead.

The heifers just stared when they first saw it move,
Then they followed as the truck picked up speed.
It was headed downhill—tailgate first, I might add—
They behind, and my truck in the lead.

I only could watch from way up on the hill—
Couldn't catch it, I was just out of luck—
As they trotted along there behind my old Dodge,
And they snorted and frolicked and bucked.

They sure seemed to love the odd noises it made
As it scraped past the saplings and trees.
I was hoping that something would stop its descent,
But no, it just wasn't to be.

All curious they watched as the truck sped ahead
Down a grade toward that deep dug-out spring,
Where it plunged with a splash 'bout as loud as a train—
That would be my last sight of the thing.

They got there in time to see most of the show—
Watched it gurgle and "blubb" as it sank—
And stayed 'til the windshield had slipped out of view;
Those spectators, there on the bank.

But like restless teenagers who aren't satisfied—
And who think that life's unfair and tough—
They bawled and they milled, down there low on the hill,
As if sinking one truck weren't enough.

© 2012, Mark Wilsdorf, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.


Mark comments: 

I was doing repairs on a cattle shed and had to "shoo" cattle away from our JD Gator a couple times, so they'd quit licking and messing around with the tools in the bed. How often have those of us with cattle done that—working on a fence, or whatever? They can't seem to leave a vehicle alone. I also thought of the times a bull would come up and make noise on a truck's sheet metal by pressing it with his head. Anyway, as I worked, the thoughts for this poem began to roll around in my head.

Then too, I remembered a winter back in the '70s when my dad parked a truck on a hump in a pasture and walked 50' or so down the hill to check for ice in a dug-out spring. He left the truck running on that cold winter day, and had just popped it out of gear—the emergency brake was broken, so he hadn't put the brake on As he walked toward the spring, his back toward the truck, he couldn't see when it began to roll. It passed him up on his way down the hill, and nose-dived into the spring! With no tractor close, he ended up calling a wrecker from town to pull it out.


    About Mark Wilsdorf:
provided 2013

Mark Wilsdorf and his wife Debbie run a small beef cow herd of mostly Gelbvieh and Balancer cows, and raise horse-quality hay, along Milligan Creek in north central Missouri. His greatest contribution to mankind is raising two bright and talented farm kids who are each headed out into the world with University of Missouri degrees in Animal Science, an understanding of hard work, and a willingness to work hard.

Long enough ago that he has almost forgotten it he also graduated from the University of Missouri, with degrees in Agronomy and Agricultural Economics. Like the kids, wife Debbie also graduated in Animal Science, so he's a bit outnumbered. But he nonetheless holds his own in family supper table conversations about reproductive physiology, livestock diseases, and the like—topics that no doubt two-thirds of all American families must surely be discussing over supper.

His main goal in life is to build a better place for calving heifers. That has always been his goal—no need to change it now that he's this close to retirement.




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