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Baumgarten: ‘Don’t tell Dad’ moments

Did you ever do something as a child that you knew you were going to get in trouble for? It was the kind of thing that made you go to Mom first and say “Don’t tell Dad.”

I had one of those on Monday. I went home to help my parents work cattle. This included chasing them out of their green, thick-grassed pasture into a corral across the road.

Keep in mind what was going on Monday. The wind was gusting upward of 50 mph. Rain was coming down in sheets. The grass sometimes reaches up to your knees.

Needless to say, if you were outside you were going to get wet.

Jake and Dad had their trusty mounts, the four-wheelers, and I got the service pickup. It was a nice place to stay dry, but eventually I had to step out into the storm. After running after the cattle every which way my pants were soaked and my hat was dripping wet, literally. And the darn heifers still hadn’t crossed the road.

We did finally get them over the hump. The next step was getting them into the corral. While Dad and Jake drove away to put the heifers enroute, I went ahead to get to the gate. My plan was to park the pickup against the fence so I could use it as a blockade. The cattle would see it and turn into the gate.

The problem is that the pickup is tall, and it is hard to see in front of it. I knew I had to go slow because I didn’t want to hit the fence, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave too much space for the cattle to get through. So I eased my way toward the old, wooden fence.

I apparently was too easy. The pickup stopped, and I felt I hadn’t gotten close enough. I gave the pickup more gas, too much gas.

That’s when I heard the thunk. I got my “oh crap” look on as I went out to inspect. I had knocked off the top plank of the fence. I looked for a hammer to pound it in, but Dad and Jake were approaching with the cattle. I gently placed the board back and pretended like nothing had happened. Dad didn’t say anything and we went on our merry way.

It reminded me of all the other “Don’t tell Dad” moments. When Jake and I were playing ball in the house and broke a mirror, I had threatened to run away. One time I lost a spring for the hay rake and never told him, thinking if he didn’t find out I would be safe. Another time we were unloading something and I was directing Jake into the barn. Jake claims I wasn’t watching good enough, and I told him he was the one behind the wheel and should have watched his side. The end result was that the driver-side mirror got torn off the pickup.

We weren’t fighting over whose fault it was so much as who would take the blame and endure Dad’s wrath. We were kids. We didn’t want to get in trouble. The person that did get the blame was in for a chewing out harsh enough to make us cry.

It wasn’t that Dad was mean. He was just stern. Besides, if someone backed the trailer into the side of your barn, you would be upset too.

This time I did tell him, in a nice way.

“Dad, do you have a hammer?” I asked.

“What for?” he asked.

“So I can fix the fence I ran into with the pickup,” I replied.

“Yep, it’s in Jake’s pickup.”

And so I went on my merry way, grabbing the hammer and pounding the board back in place in the rain. Good thing I was already soaking wet.

I can’t help but laugh at it now. Everyone has their “Don’t tell Dad” moments. It seems like we had a lot of those incidents on the farm. While ranching, there is a lot that can happen.

You can either be scared of them or accept they will happen, grab the hammer and fix it.

Unless if you leave the tailgate on the pickup open while pulling a trailer. Then you better just run when that thing gets torn off.

Baumgarten is the assistant editor of The Dickinson Press. Email her at Like her on Facebook at Follow her at

April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, as the news editor. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.