Monday, October 25, 2010

Black & White

Ranch life is colorful, no doubt. There are so many elements to it that city people never have the privilege to experience, but in spite of its color, the time and rhythm of life seems often suspended.

We still do things the old fashioned way for the most part. Work is still a 24/7 obligation, as cows, and horses have to eat, drink and be doctored, regardless of the time or day. Brandings here are still done the old fashioned way, by gathering a hundred or so pairs at a time, and roping, doctoring and checking calves throughout the summer. It’s a family affair, but neighbors often step in and participate, both because its fun, and through goodwill. Neighbors are still like that out here, even though the nearest are over 20 miles away. A big feed is always put on afterward, a little fellowship, then the work commences again.

Winter brings more serious chores. Food and water sometimes need to be provided, and the herd monitored for sickness or calving problems, even in a blizzard. Calves may need to be pulled, or rescued, fence fixed, pipes repaired.

Family and crew work together for their common benefit. Not out of a sense of duty, it is just a way of life and the right thing to do. Kids are up at 4:30 every morning, and work just like the adults.

The kids here could all pull a truck and trailer full of horses at 11 years old, drive tractor, backhoe, and the youngest daughter, now 15, was operating a huge excavator yesterday. These are the modern concessions.There are no couch potatoes or video game addicts here. Kids learn very quickly that if you say you are ‘bored’, that situation is bound to be corrected.

They possess more maturity than a lot of adults and a strong work ethic. Compassion and consideration are learned young, through working with the stock and each other. The family unit is strong and healthy.

Life holds lots of risk. Injury can come quickly and without warning, to both ranch hand, and livestock. Occasionally there are disagreements, but they are usually resolved quickly, without too much ado. There is a wild element to life, yet it is oddly peaceful and serene at the same time.

Designer clothing, fancy cars, the newest electronics hold no appeal, and no meaning in this setting. A good horse, saddle and rope are more important and satisfying. Most everything goes back into the operation of the ranch, not consumerism. Keeping the animals and the land healthy is top priority, both domestic and indigenous. The land here is shared with deer, antelope, a variety of birds and wild horses. There must be adequate grass and water for all, or the ranch itself will fail. Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land, not because it is stylish, but because they have to be. Their life and the future of their families depend on it.

The houses look pretty much the same as they did 50 or 100 yrs ago. Dogs congregate on the porch. There are no granite counters, no fancy floors. Everything is utilitarian and well worn. A pile of muddy and manure laden boots set by the doorway, along with jackets and hats, while stocking feet make their way to the long, homemade farm table, where an abundance of food is served buffet style.

With the exception of occasions when the kids go down to the hot springs at night, bedtime comes shortly after dark. Coyotes howl, owls hoot and there is an occasional barking of a dog and the lowing of cattle. The life and land settles, and with the breaking of dawn, the rhythm begins again.


  1. Hi, I'm moaa from AR....great blog & pictures!

  2. nice to meet you moaa! Thanks for stopping by!