Friday, November 16, 2007

The Hangbelly Ranch

By Kevin Duling

Country life is usually slow to change. For example, the small service station downtown which fixes our flat tires and welds our machinery is still in operation. It has been in operation for nearly 75 years. Every once in a while, something will happen in a small town to give people something to chatter about.

About five years ago, a widely traveled doctor purchased some acreage nearby, which we had been farming. He wanted to keep us as his tenants and continue farming as we had been. Occasionally, he would ask for help with something simple, such as moving a little dirt for his patio. Every time we would help, he would always be grilling us steak dinners and offering drinks. These little chores became wonderful excuses for family social functions.

One day, he decided to purchase livestock. I received a phone call from him letting me know of his new purchase and he was excited. He let me know it was his dream to have a small ranch with livestock roaming through it. Roaming through it they did, as the fences were nonexistent at best.

A couple years ago, I received another phone call alerting me to not shoot the strange creatures grazing his place. The service station was alive with talk of these small, black critters that look like a cross between a buffalo and a gazelle. Some small town folk don’t get out much, so something like this can create quite a stir.

A friend of mine, who takes care of the Hangbelly Ranch when the doctor is absent, wanted me to help her feed the animals one wintry day. She told me to throw the hay off the back of the pickup while she drove through the field. As I sat atop the hay waiting to start throwing bales, a little blonde head poked out of the sliding windows with the following disclaimer: “When we get to the yaks, be aware. They are athletic and sometimes quite friendly. Whatever happens, don’t panic and just keep throwing hay.”

With a slightly devilish grin and a twinkle in her eye, she drove us into the field. The cattle were eager to have breakfast on that snowy day, as they all followed while the hay was being dumped. About a quarter mile from the cattle was a group of yaks.

As we approached, all heads and horns were attentive to us. I started throwing as fast as I could hoping nothing strange would happen. While focusing on the hay bales I didn’t even notice that two yaks were now in the pickup with me. “I have to throw faster!” I screeched.

The pit of my stomach grew sickly as all the hay was out of the pickup, leaving the two yaks and myself. From the corner of my eye I saw my friend giggling, as the sight must have been entertaining. The yaks were coming with me, whether I liked it or not.

Today, the Hangbelly Ranch has yaks, cattle, zebu, llamas, chickens, pigs, goats, horses, guinea hens, geese, homing pigeons, peacocks, and a duck. This spring will be time to take the offspring to the auction. There is one small problem with that. The zebu bull bred a few of the cattle, the yak bull bred the zebu cows, and the beef bull bred the neighbor’s cows.

The auctioneer will have his work cut out for him that day. “Hey, look here folks, we have a great set of (pause)…….. zeebaks with a pen of 10 cowzus next up. Anyone have any idea what these are worth and where the bidding should start?”

Every small town has a story or two to tell. The story of the Hangbelly Ranch has been off the radar for some time. While waiting at the service station for a tire to be fixed, I still find myself answering the question, “Hey, what’s that place up there have out in the field? It looks like a cross between a buffalo, a cow, and a gazelle.”

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, November 2007, Kevin Duling

1 comment:

Casey Applen said...

A funny story that you probably can yak about for a long, long time. (chuckle)

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