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HERd management: Flood or fire: This table is part of the family

Karma Metzler Fitzgerald Published on 31 October 2013


When a substantial section of southern Idaho was on fire last summer, I had to face my yearly recognition of the fact that if there was a disaster in my backyard – and really, it’s not an if, it’s a when – I am horribly unprepared.



If we had to evacuate and just grab what we needed, I’d be in big trouble. I have no idea where most of the important papers are. The family photos are stuffed in boxes in various spots throughout the house – it would take me hours to collect them all.

I have vowed this fall to get our emergency plan in place. I’ve been looking around the house trying to figure what I would need to pack and have ready when the time comes and I have to pack the important things and go.

I have a notebook for gathering the important documents. It will take me a while, but I’m determined to get them all put in a safe spot and ready to grab.

Family photos – well, that will take a bit longer – but thanks to the miracles of technology and the use of scanners, the precious prints and negatives from generations past can be saved and distributed to family members. Someone, somewhere will have a copy, and I will too.

But sitting here, scanning the room, there’s at least one more thing I’d want to save. It’s cumbersome and moving it would be no easy task, but I think it’s made a significant contribution to our family and deserves to be saved.


The dining room table.

I’m not sure that dining room or kitchen tables serve the same role in an accountant’s family, but this is a farm family. That table is every bit as important as the proverbial round table in Camelot. I don’t know its place of birth.

Long before it landed in my dining room, it sat in my husband’s family home. I’ve heard that it sat in my mother-in-law’s front room near a picture window.

The kids used to put a piece of plywood across it and play ping-pong. People would stop and ask to buy the table, but my mother-in-law would never take them up on the offer.

When the family moved to southern Idaho, it became the main table in the house. It was around this table they decided to expand from 20 cows to 40, and then to a few hundred, and then a few thousand and beyond.

It was here my husband and his siblings decided what to do as they watched their father’s health wane. Where they discussed the options when their mother’s cancer returned.


Where they shared the good news and bad. And when it was just them, where they decided that precious table would be inherited by my husband.

In our possession, it then became the place where I told him we’d be parents. Where our children took their first drink of milk fresh from our family farm. It’s the solid surface I gripped when my sister called to tell me our mother would never wake up from the stroke that took her life.

It is the place where friends and family were sitting when my niece brought in a dead mouse from the yard to show her mother “the cat’s new toy,” and my sister-in-law released the loudest scream I’ve ever heard.

Around this table, we’ve had amazing discussions, sometimes about world politics or religion. Sometimes the discussion turns to something more interesting. Wanna hear verbal competition over who has treated the most repulsive abscess?

How about the gangrene mastitis discovered when my husband worked for a dairyman down the road? Hang out at my house when I’m serving mashed potatoes and gravy – because it never fails to bring out the truly bizarre and rather disgusting conversations.

It’s been stacked with dozens of 4-H books on the brink of deadline, and it’s where homework is done nightly. It’s where the college brochures are stacked for consideration, and where plans for the future of this family are and will be made.

I don’t know where other families have these types of discussions. Nearly every farm family I know has them around a kitchen table. Maybe we sit down for meals together more than other families. All I know is that if wooden objects can be members of a family, this table is one of ours.

So when the fires or floods come, I’ll be ready, maybe. I might not know where the insurance papers are, but that dining room table? It will be with us. PD


Karma Metzler Fitzgerald
Shoshone, Idaho