Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Moments
I recently read a piece on comparing a ranch job to a regular, 9-5 occupation. A lady read both to her husband, then asked which one he would pick. Obviously, he said, the 9-5 was the only choice on paper. But, then she asked him why he picked ranching, and he recited a favorite moment of watching the baby calves play. It inspired me to do an extended version:
It will be considerable outdoor labor when it is blistering hot and frigidly cold. It’s a 24-7 gig that lasts from birth until death. There are no sick days and most planned days off will be cut short or eliminated. Major life events will be scheduled around it, not the other way around.
You will make between a one and three percent return when all your years are averaged out. When you mess up, lives will be lost. You will have to pay your own wage, insurance, and run the risk of having zero sick pay. Finding help to hire is next to impossible. The weather will make or break you.
Not the rosiest of job descriptions.
But, there will be moments. Moments you will feel more alive than you dreamed possible. When those calves throw their tails in the air and head full tilt away, only to bear hard back around so they can dance and prance in front of you. When the steers come in heavy, and every single one goes on the front-end load. When your calves top the market and the auctioneer tips his hat, and the year that every three-year old breeds back.
When you crest a hilltop on a good horse in that perfect morning light, and witness a scene spill out that took generations to create, and God’s hand to paint. Cattle and riders, both expertly navigating the terrain that’s lost more than a few. Weaving and dipping in and out of view.
When, after staying up all night, you assist in bringing forth a brand-new life. That’s the kind of moment that regardless of how many times it’s repeated, never gets old.
Neither does sitting on the deck in the evening light, watching that grass wave and bend, in shades of green that westerners swear looks just like Ireland.
When you are finally able to purchase a brand-new vehicle or implement, and the banker hasn’t heard a word from you about it.
When those cotton candy clouds float by, on a day after it rained through the night, all to the tune of a Meadowlark, perched nearby.
There is the enticement of independence, not answering to a boss or sitting at a desk. The freedom of the outdoors, and work that sometimes feels resplendent.
Then there is watching a child grow up in this life. If the moments didn’t catch your breath before, watching your children on a ranch will make your heart soar.
Certainly, the job description looks far from fine. It’s a hard life with both valleys and peaks. But, if you’re blessed with the chance to make your life on a ranch, don’t waste too much time on how the job looks like written line by line.
When living it, these moments won’t take long to get through; you’ll soon realize that you can’t beat the work, the help and certainly not the view.