My name is Jessica (Gibbs) Mesna, and I was born and raised in Nevada. I have lived on a cattle ranch in Northeastern Nevada, northwest of Wells, my entire life. My husband Wyatt, son Anton, and I help run our family ranch, the Gibbs Ranch. It has now been in the family for 103 years. Our son is the sixth generation on our ranch. My dad, grandma, and aunt also live here. We live 40 miles, most of which is dirt road, from the nearest town and over 100 miles from the nearest, what we consider a city( it has a Costco). Growing up we lived in two houses; one in Wells where we went to school and the other at the ranch. During the school year my two older siblings, our mom, and I lived in town. My dad would come in 2 to 3 times a week in the evenings, depending on what was going on at the ranch. On weekends we would all go home to the ranch. When I was home I usually followed my dad everywhere, because he got to do all the “fun” ranch stuff like feeding, riding horses, fixing equipment, irrigating, getting dirty, being creative, and just being outside. To me all that was way better than anything in the house. Mom worked alongside my dad as well, but she also did all the housekeeping that I did not enjoy so my dad was my excuse to get out of it.
In high school when my sister and brother got in to sports our weekends filled up with games here and there and we didn’t get to the ranch as often as I would have liked. Then I got into high school and got busy with sports as well. I still loved the ranch, but was distracted by all the fun of sports, especially basketball. As a child my dream was to play basketball for a living and if I couldn’t do that, I wanted to work on the ranch. I played basketball through junior high and high school, then I was fortunate enough to make it to the next level and I played two years of college basketball at a junior college in Idaho (CSI). After those two years I was being recruited by numerous four year colleges, but chose to go to University of Wyoming. There I played for two years, then student coached for one year so that I could finish getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business. Then it happened…my dream came true, I had the opportunity to go play professional basketball for two years in Sweden. Believe it or not ranching and basketball have a lot in common. They both take a lot of hard work, dedication, and of course both are very enjoyable to me. My dad used to tell my coaches that the reason I could read where the players were going to move or pass the ball, came from watching cows my whole life. Yes, cows can be teachers too. Two years professionally was all I played, because I met and fell in love with Wyatt. When we married we decided to move to Twin Falls, ID. This is where I became an assistant coach for women’s college basketball, the same place I played my first two years of college ball (CSI). We lived there for two years and had our first and only child. The day my husband told me he wanted the three of us to go live on my family ranch was one of my favorite days. I always wanted to come back to the ranch, but wanted to make sure Wyatt wanted that as well. So, thirteen years later we are still living and running my family ranch.
Our ranch used to be a yearling operation, but has now become a cow/calf ranching operation. We really enjoy the cow/calf operation partly because it is a lot less stressful than when we were running yearlings. My typical day changes based on the seasons and homeschooling our son. We usually have several of our nieces or nephews out to help for the summer, but this summer we only had one niece. In the mornings, I get up and move sprinklers on our one acre yard (we share a yard with my parents and grandparents house as well), I water my flowers that I try to keep alive and make sure the dogs and cats have water. I wake our son and niece up so they can start their day. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, our mail gets delivered so I make sure I have the bills paid if there are any to be paid. During haying season I get my tractor greased, fueled and ready for the day. I usually pick up bales, but I will rake, swath, and bale hay if needed. Some days we hay in the morning and have to move cows in the afternoon. Then come evening time we all sit down and have dinner together. Maybe if needed and time allows I will do a load or two of laundry throughout the day. When school starts for my son, I have to change things around a bit to make sure his schooling gets done in a timely fashion. Of course there is always a few odds and ends the happen during the day as well. In the fall, my day usually starts out with coffee on the porch (or in house if it's too chilly) with my husband, then some breakfast and get my son started on school. I try to do a few house or yard chores, while he works on school. Then in the afternoons when school is over, we help Wyatt on whatever project he has going on. Otherwise we, (Anton and I)ride to move cows closer to the fields for weaning time, unless of course, McKenzie and I have a pack out that day. If so, we leave pretty early in the morning so we can get back by the afternoon, hopefully to try and do a few things we need to get done. On the days I have a pack out, my son is on his own for school, which goes ok for the most part but usually ends up getting the rest done when I get back. Then of course, we have dinner together and watching some baseball to relax in the evenings.
The most unexpected thing to happen on the ranch for me was the day my mom was killed in a car accident south of the ranch headed to Wells. Not only did I have to learn to live and get through every day without having my mom 50 yards away, but I had to learn to take on all of her responsibilities of book keeping for our family ranch. My mom and I had been talking for probably about 3-4 years that I need to learn how to do all the books for our ranch. Neither of us would make time to sit down and do that though. So when reality set in that it was in my hands now, I relied on a lot of help. Thankfully we have an accountant in the family that helped me a ton, and also our ranch accountant. Still three years later I am learning the ins and outs of everything that my mom did for our ranch.
One of my favorite moments on the ranch was during a branding a few years ago. We always have a big branding with a lot of my family, I am talking 30-40 people, come out and we get a lot of branding done along with a lot of laughs, good food, and great times. One year after a long hot dusty day of branding we were riding back home and came across a pond. My brother decided he was hot and took his horse right in for a swim, clothes, hat, boots, saddle and all. Before long all 13 of us riders (mind you majority of us where over 30) were swimming our horses through the pond. The best part was all of us laughing and giggling like we were a bunch of little kids. Dad was not very impressed we all went in with our saddles, but we had so much fun. I do have to say next time the saddles will come off!!
How I prepare for complications: “WYATT HELP!!!!!” Oh wait… that would be after it already happens! To prepare for them, to be honest, I am a very easy going person so if something comes up to alter plans or stop tasks, my husband and I will go to plan B or C, there’s always something else that can be done or like my husband says,” let’s just have a beer!!” So we do and we take in the beauty that God has created and we get to live in together.
Ahh yes ranch seasons; I love all the seasons to be honest. That is one of my favorite parts of ranching, the tasks are always changing, whether it be week to week, day to day, or hour to hour. You are never doing the same thing all the time and by the time you are tired of it you are switching gears. Calving season: I love seeing the new baby calves hit the ground every year. We love the ones with white markings on them the best. It never gets old watching a mama cow take care of her new baby. Branding season is wonderful time to get work done surrounded by family and friends. Not only do we have wonderful family that comes to help but our neighbors, who are good friends, make branding days a lot of fun. Haying season makes for some really long hours. It does help being in an air conditioned tractor while it is so dang hot outside. Fall is a very busy time for the ranch in general, but I have also started a new adventure. McKenzie, my good friend and neighbor, and I got our sub-guide license four years ago and we pack out cow and bull Elk from the Jarbidge Mountain Range via pack horse during hunting season. It has pushed me to get out of my comfort zone in many different ways. Between all the weaning, school, shipping and wife duties, we fit in all the pack outs people call for us to do. Feeding season, which obviously comes when the snow starts falling is a lot more laid back for our ranch and a lot of fun. Not only do we get to see our cows every day, but we get to enjoy some recreational activities as well. We do as much snowmobiling and sledding as the snow and time allow. We even get a bonfire or two in with the neighbors.
My favorite thing about ranching would have to be working alongside my husband and son every day. I absolutely love working with my family, from the laughs to the tears, from the lessons taught to the lessons learned every day is a blessing. Most people when they come out here they say, “you are in the middle of nowhere” and I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. I love the view from our front porch and back yard!! The hardest part for me would have to be eating our vegetables fast enough they don’t get rotten but not too fast that you run out before you get to town again.
Stress is in everything we are doing, whether it be ranching life or city life. Ranching life I feel could have a bit more stress, just because things you can’t control are a big part of ranch life. Weather and cattle prices play a huge part of the ranching lifestyle that all of us would love to control but everyone knows we can’t. I would still much rather deal with the stress of ranching than the city stress of traffic, too many PEOPLE, or getting to work on time.
The advice I would give young women wanting to pursue the ranching lifestyle would be don’t just focus on one aspect of ranching. There are so many different duties as a rancher that you need to be open minded and ready to learn a little bit of everything. It can seem very overwhelming but remember why you wanted to be there in the first place. Don’t forget to take time and look around at the beauty of ranch life. We wives do joke a lot about working cows with our spouses, and sometimes it’s no joke. My tip would be don’t take it to heart and always smile even though you know he is yelling at you for his mistake or yours. When it’s all over and done with for the day remember to give your spouse a big kiss and know it was just the heat of the moment.