Day Writing: This is ranching
This. This is dedication to a craft which runs generations deep; which knows no limits based on current fads designed to loosely replicate its immeasurable work ethic and devotion. This path of faith, of rain and of dirt, and also of tangible and intangible growth was placed in the hearts and minds of a few good men and women by the Lord Almighty. This is ranching.
This is a fervent prayer for rain, echoed morning, noon and night. For weeks and sometimes months on end, with nothing but faith and the Book to let you know it will be alright. And then, with little fanfare, just a whisper, crack and boom, followed by that longed for pitter patter on the old tin roof.
It’s counting calves and running columns until blue in the face, trying everything you know to move a decimal place. Watching them go for half what they’re worth. Then shaking the hand of the winning bidder; a man you’re both grateful for and curse.
It’s a first calf heifer acting suspicious and borderline on the fight. Sighing and waiting for her to decide if she’s going to get on with it before morning light. Then she does as she has been carefully bred to do; has that calf on her own in the predawn glow. While watching carefully from the dim sidelines, you fall in love with an animal and way of life, for the first time in almost half a night.
It’s missing school to sort pairs and ship, and feeling mighty big for going with the outfit. Then wondering what the huge deal was, when you’re half frozen and horseback from sun up til dusk. But if asked to go again the very next day, you would happily be up and at ‘em, bright and early.
There is the dramatic circus of spilling the entire bunch, and destroying more fence than you fixed all last month. Followed by taking an entire, long day to accomplish what was scheduled to be over before lunch. Digging in the pockets of whatever you have on, praying mom stuffed something in there you once didn’t want.
It’s also the days that go smoother than silk. Not one hiccup, misstep or a single rebuke. When the cattle work like liquid gold, the kind you dream of bottling and know could be sold.
It’s that one good horse beneath you through it all, who doesn’t quit and is always on the ball. Oh, he has his quirks alright, but none of them show up when a cow’s on the fight. Not the kind you have to switch out at noon, no, he’s an all-day horse, the sort most only wish they knew.
It’s seeing country God meant for few pairs of eyes, and marveling at the beauty the landscape simultaneously showcases and hides. Exquisite displays tucked quietly behind hills and streams. Shown to precious few humans, but known as many a bovine’s preferred summer scene.
It’s kids rolling down the long, dusty road to find adulthood before choosing to come on back home. Telling you they sure learned a lot, but not how to live anywhere but in this special spot. They dream of being their own boss, and of doing the work they knew growing up. Then they ask if it’s alright to find a way for them to stay, and mom and dad are quite likely to respond with, “okay.”
As all that transpires, the legacy of this wide open life takes deeper root and rises higher. While a few will be lost along the way, most will learn to occasionally make the art of raising beef pay. The generations will pass with a raging, gentle flow, marked by good cattle, callused hands and a peace the world longs to know. This is ranching.