Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Was Born to be a Rancher. No, I'm Not Kidding.

My husband laughs at me whenever I proclaim, "Let's buy a farm! Or a ranch! Yes! Let's buy a ranch, live on it, teach our kids how to work, grow our own food, and live happily ever after as we rock in our rockers on the front porch. Doesn't that sound lovely? Ooh! That farmhouse looks good!"
He laughs. Or rolls his eyes. Or checks my head and asks if I'm having delusions.
Harumph! (but only a tiny "harumph")
Anyway, he just doesn't get it. And that's okay, because people, this Ranching gig isn't for everybody. But it's in my blood! It is! You, dear reader, might find this all kind of strange, these Ranching confessions, but stick with me, and I'll tell you why I should have had myself some Horses and Cattle:

1. Today is Pioneer Day. Most people around the world probably aren't aware about how important this holiday is to the residents in Utah. On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young led the first Mormon Pioneer company into the Salt Lake Valley. For the next 15 years or so, the LDS people continued to pour into Salt Lake City, many of whom walked the entire 1200 miles it took to get there! For Christmas a couple of years ago (2006), my mother (a wonderful family historian) presented her children with a binder called "Our Faithful Ancestors Who Crossed the Plains." This is part of the letter she presented to us:
...This book contains stories and pictures of the people who came across the plains. Every line in our family history came across the plains and I have total admiration for their dedication. I hope you will enjoy reading about their lives...Every day I thank my Heavenly Father for the opportunity of belonging to His Church. I love the Gospel and my family ----all of them past and present...
This book was just a glimpse into the heritage I have; and it amazed me. And did you notice that every line of mine crossed the plains? Drove cattle? Pulled handcarts?
Of course, if I'm going to be fair, it needs to be said that many people had Pioneer Ancestors (not just LDS) who crossed the plains of the United States, including Brandon. Nor does that mean these Pioneers settled down on farms and ranches --many were musicians, authors, teachers, artists, etc. So, the whole Ranching thing isn't necessarily related to having Pioneer Ancestors, capische? It's just a piece to my crazy mind puzzle.

2. About 10 years ago, my maternal grandmother gave me the personal life-history of her Mother-in-law (my great-grandmother). I have read this personal history (it's very journal-like) many times. Around the year 1908, she and my great-grandfather settled in Southern Alberta (by that time, my father's grandparents--both sides--and my mother's grandparents had already been settled in So. Alberta as well). They had come from Utah (like all the rest of my great-grandparents), and settled on some land near Glenwood. They were cattle ranchers, and the plains of Southern Alberta were perfect for cattle ranching. See the picture?

As I read about the life of ranching through my great-grandmother's eyes, I was intrigued; so I asked my grandmother for my grandfather's personal history, and she sent it. I learned that my grandfather, at the age of 16, quit school and ran his father's ranch in Milk River. Like his mother, his love of ranching was evident in his descriptions. I relished in his stories of life on a ranch; the hard work, the horses, the pranks, the activities, the disappointments, the successes, the entire Pioneer "spirit" of living, etc.

3. My grandfather lost his ranch is 1966/67. A blizzard of incredible proportions ripped through Southern Alberta, and the cattle got lost; they missed the shelter and the entire herd froze to death. Because so many other ranchers lost their own cattle, the banks refused to extend any loans. My grandfather was only one of several who had to relocate their families and figure out what to do; my grandfather went into real estate. So, I never knew my grandfather as a rancher. He was always the nice man, with the great smile --but I always kind of sensed some sadness in his eyes. When he died, his casket had a beautiful embroidered scene: Cattle at the watering hole. Sounds funny, but it was beautiful. They had his saddle on his casket, but I'm not sure if they buried it with him...
Let's just say that my grandfather missed his life on the plains of Alberta when he had to move to the city. As far as I know, he never complained, but I think he truly missed the life of his youth.

4. I'm a city girl, really. I was raised in a small town, though; lots of farms (it was Idaho, you know) and opportunity to work (my brother's moved pipe; I used to help a boyfriend haul hay), but nothing like what a real ranching family has to face. I'm not very good at riding horses (as my MIL can attest to) even though as a child I dreamed of owning and riding horses all day long. I've never had to harvest anything, let alone fields of alfalfa, and I don't have any kind of Calf-wrestling talent. Go figure.
In fact, as I read about ranchers --like the Pioneer Woman! --I feel conflicting feelings. Part of me is glad I can sit at my computer and hear the lawn service outside taking care of my yard. But the other part of me --the deep, deep part --is morbidly jealous, and feels quite out of place.

5. Because of all the work that has to go into a place that only thrives as well as the weakest effort/worker, I think Ranching would have been the perfect antidote to my Depression. I wouldn't have time to sit and think "Oh, poor me. Life is so sad." because I would be outside, hauling hay, moving cattle, castrating calves, branding, growing gardens, raising chickens, washing manure-covered jeans, and cooking for my brood. I'd be raising my children to work, work, work --from sun-up to sun-down --and I wouldn't have the time to get depressed, let alone stay depressed, you know? Sometimes I wonder if that's how the women before me got through everything and were so laid back about it --that Great-Grandmother of mine? Dude! Even though she was nursing her young son (and had like 5 other kids), she started nursing her neighbor's twins because they were born prematurely and caught pneumonia. So, there she was, a Rancher's wife, nursing three kids, taking care of the sick babies, and all of it with this very "Yeah, I did that. No big deal." type attitude. What the?
See? They didn't have time to be all depressed. No time. No time!

6. My children are pansies. Yes! They are! What type of work do they have to do, hmm? They pick up their rooms, put away toys and books, fold some laundry, clear a few dishes, and TV. Or play with their toys. Or color. Or run around outside. When I ask them to do a few dishes, fold some laundry, or throw away some garbage, they Freak. Out. Spoiled, is what they are, and I (along with that other handsome man who lives in our home) have spoiled them. They need to learn how to work! I need to teach them! But how? How? If we lived on a Ranch, that answer would be easy-cheesy, you know. Instead, I have to think up ways to teach them the importance of work. Hard work.

I honestly believe that there is a part of me that wants to be a Rancher. That I was born for something hard, for working the land by the sweat of my brow. Does that seem strange to you, dear reader? To feel such an affinity for something so drastically out of place with my life? Ah, well. It's okay.
I guess I could have done it if I really wanted to, you know. I could have married a Rancher if I really, really wanted to. But I didn't. I married the Right Man instead, so how can I ever complain about that? Exactly. And I won't complain.
But I'll still imagine and dream about living off the land. Perhaps driving cattle on a cool spring morning. Maybe riding my horse along the wide, empty plains, with the wind in my hair, and not a cell phone/computer/ipod in sight. Watching sunrises as I sweep my long front porch, and hearing a silence so beautiful you can feel it.

And maybe I'll write a book about it all.

Do you ever dream about something that ties you to your ancestors? Or about something that you wish you could do and sounds nice but is realistically impossible?


Anonymous said...

I think castrating calves sounds depressing. But I love your dream and hope that someday you'll get to live it in at least some kind of small sense.

Oh, and I'm living my dream. *snicker*

Never A True Aggie said...

I keep threatening Don that we need to buy a sheep farm and produce wool...There is definitely and appeal to it. Which is weird because I am like the laziest person in the world.

flip flop mama said...

I want to own land but not too much...I love the feeling that you get after a hard days work. I rode horses as a kid and would love to do that as an adult and give my children that experience. I don't think I could do a whole ranch though...

I am Michele said...

I am right there with you. I tell my husband that all the time, but so far he hasn't agreed with me. I am lucky though, that my ex's family lives 20 min. away and they have 14 acres and about that many horses. Along with chickens, cows, all sorts of things. So I can go riding, or take my kids over and offer them up for free manual labor, whenever I want. Someday I will have my own though. I have wanted it for a very long time, and I am determined. No matter how long I have to wait.

A Well Behaved Mormon Woman said...

This must be Zion?

What a fabulous blog you have going here. So glad I found you.

Keep writing:-)


Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I am the same way. I've always wanted to be like the Ma on Little House on the Prairie. :)

Last summer I sent Ethan to a camp on a 1920's farm up here entitled "Life on a Farm". He got to milk the cows, collect eggs from the chickens, make homemade bread, wash laundry by hand, etc. The whole time, I could almost hear my ancestors saying "She's PAYING someone to have him do chores?!"

Julie said...

Ranching is my immediate heritage and I miss it so badly I can taste it. I loved the branding, the Rocky Mountain Oysters, the riding horses and driving cows, the driving trucks at 6 years old and helping dad haul hay, the simplicity of life, the running through acres of pasture without mom coming looking for me. I miss it so badly. I often tell Stanton if my hometown (not in Idaho, the other one...the real one) could support a pediatric dentist, he'd have no choice -- we'd be living there. Not going to happen, though, there're only 150 people there...
I love my life in town. I love that the grocery store is 5 minutes away. I love that the school is in my front yard, practically. I love a lot of the town life. I know it's where I'm supposed to be. But I miss ranching. And I will send my kids to the hometown every summer to help out on the family ranch. And that means I have to raise (somehow. somehow. somehow.) very hard workers right now. Because you better believe I'm not sending sissys out there that have to be prodded and babysat the whole time.
Everything in your dreams is totally accurate. I know there are tremendous stresses that come with ranching -- finances, dependency on weather, equipment, etc. But the life is simple and fulfilling and rich. And I miss it. And I was really only a child when we left it, but those memories and lessons were burned deep in my soul from that young age.

Emily & Co. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tamrobot said...

I totally feel the same way. I would love to live off the land, have cattle and chickens.

I'll have to settle for a cat and a rooftop garden for now.

Cheryl said...

Emily & Co. said...

Cheryl...I've been thinking about your family lately (probably because we just had #4) and wanted to say hello to you! comment on the "memory post" I will have to admit that I really don't know you very well. However, I was touched that you and Brandon were at the temple when I went through for the first time and that you took the time to come to my wedding reception years ago. You are both amazing and wonderful people! It's a shame that we don't live closer because you seem like such a fun and interesting friend to have!!!

I have to admit that I have a similar dream...not necessarily a ranch, but a farm w/animals and a HUGE garden and orchard...chickens and cows and I don't know what day! Probably not if we stay in So Cal, though!

FYI, our blog is:

Cheryl said...

Sorry! I had to delete your comment because you mentioned our last name. I'm trying to keep this site fairly anonymous; but I reprinted your comment under my name.

So glad you came! So good to hear from you!

The Motherboard said...

My Dad and his brothers had a cattle ranch. It is a lot of work. I did the hay thing and all sorts of fun cowboy things. I wish I had something like that for my children--to teach them the value of hard work. They are spoiled, and have it way too easy.

My dream is not so much a ranch as it is an apple orchard. I want one so bad I salivate over them. I want to have an orchard, and a big red craft barn that sells fudge and people can taste all the varieties of apples I will grow. I will have a lovely petting zoo for the children and a playground for them to play on. You can come, sit a spell, eat some BBQ and apple or pumpkin donuts and enjoy our country life.

In the fall you can pick a pumpkin or too. Maybe some strawberries as well.

Thats my dream. Jefe thinks thats a grand idea--- but we have to win the lottery first.
So, until then, I will be happy with my pathetic apple trees in my backyard that do not produce fruit.

I think the same thing about "the olden days" and depression. I think if my life were work work work --hard physical labor work-- there would be less depression. I think depression has evolved because we use our physical bodies less... Does that make sense??

As usual, this was a brilliant post.

Amanda D said...

Every time I read Pioneer Woman or look at fields as we go drive past, I think about what an interesting life it must be. I dream about owning a ranch too.

However, I know that it isn't reality. And, my parents did not own a farm or ranch but all of their children are hard-working responsible people so there is hope for your kids. I think as long as children have chores and are required to help, it works. :)

Jeanette said...

My husband and I really want to get out of the suburbs and get some land and a few animals. Nothing large scale. Just some chickens (mmm-fresh eggs), and maybe a few other animals. I think it would be wonderful for us and the kids. Even if we never get the animals, I would still like more land for my kids to explore and play in with out me having to worry that they are going to run into the street and get killed. (I'll just have to worry about them drowning in a creek or something instead...)
I think it is great that you have so many of your family history stories recorded.