There are lessons to be learned, if you're willing.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day events and never take time to sit and think about the blessings we’ve been dealt. I know this, because I am just as guilty as you are about ignoring those details.
It’s also easier than ever before, to compare your life to another person’s. Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? The highlight reel… see what I mean? Let me just say, for the record, that when winter rolls around in the Basin, I am probably the first person to start wishing I had the vacation schedule that some of my social media friends have. It comes full circle in the summer, when they wish they had my weather. So I don’t feel too guilty pining for sunny beaches in January.
Anyway, I’ve been reflecting pretty hard for the last few days about where we are and what we do. I saw a comment from someone that said “we live a life that people write stories about.”
That comment really struck home to me. It got me to thinking about the reasons I appreciate and value this way of life.
So, lucky for you, I’ve summed up the highlights into 5 things ranch life has taught me, from growing up on one, to raising kids on one and I’m sharing them with you. Just in case you hadn’t already learned most of this stuff.
You can’t half-ass anything. Well, you can. But, if you do, you can be 100% certain that whatever you spent half of your ass on initially, you’ll be busting your whole ass later to fix it. If a job is worth doing to begin with, it’s always worth it to take the extra time to do it right. We’ve all got “that one thing” in mind that we didn’t do a great job on and it came back to bite us at some point. These kinds of things always do.
Dirt roads are cleansing. For the mind and the soul, not the truck. The best ideas, the deepest thoughts, the future plans, always come to mind when you travel the dirt roads. Something about the crunch of gravel and the trail of dust gets the ideas flowing. Sometimes they get written down or voice memo-ed, and sometimes they are as fleet in the mind as the dust is on the wind. But the dirt road always has a way of bringing them out. When someone asks if you meditate, just tell them you drive a dirt road and it's basically the same thing.
Patience is a learned trait. One word: cows. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one, but I will for your sake. It never fails whether you own 1 cow or 1000 cows, they will jack with your plans and your things. If you have scheduled events, do not say them out loud because a cow will hear you and right as you are getting serious about following through with your plans, a fence will break, a gate will open, a calf will get sick or a bull will be where he shouldn’t. If you happen to flood irrigate there will be at least one instance that you’ll have the perfect dam built and a replacement heifer or yearling steer will just have to check it out. By that I mean, said critter will have your dam scattered in the middle of the meadow, the mud trampled so it will leak water where it doesn’t need to go and your rocks will be in a perfect line down the ditch, doing nothing productive. (I wrote that one for a friend…)
There are lessons in every day. It doesn’t matter what you step out the door to do in the morning, when you come in for lunch or dinner, you’ll have learned something. It might come at you the hard way like a gate in the face or it might come in stages like the colt you’re starting, either way, it’ll happen. You have to have a bit of an open mind about it, because these learning experiences can be pretty humbling, especially if they are attached to cows or horses. None of us have a cow figured out and some of us are slower to learn from our horses than others. Equipment you think you know the ins and outs of, irrigation systems that worked perfect last year, old dogs with new tricks, puppies just coming on, kids who learned something on their own…all of these things and a thousand I’ve left out, have something to teach you. The trick is to be willing to see it.
There may be better ways to make a living. But there is no better life. The market goes up, the market goes down, and down and down. But you keep living it anyway. You find a way to make it through, because in the long run, if you can hold out, it’s worth it. There are few who get to wake to the sound of silence and end the day with skies as far as you can see that fade into night with the colors of energy, life and love. There are fewer still who can raise a family that learns the value of hard work, the precious gift of life and the full cycle of the things we rely on to survive. Front porches were invented for ranch life and they make the site of horses grazing in the meadow, fresh hay stacks, sage brush and mountains even prettier.
I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating; ranch life is always different and always the same. The differences, these learning experiences, are part of the challenge that makes this life unique. Yep, people write stories about ranch life and sometimes they romanticize it a bit too much, but the tough stuff that we learn from makes it more romantic than any poet, producer or author could ever explain.