The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-girl.

25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids to Know

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been living my ideal ranch life lately.   I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in the car and on the computer, rather than my horse.  As a result, I’ve been stumbling around on the ubiquitous website Pinterest.  The majority of the images are absorbingly lovely and the creative ideas that proliferate there are inspiring.  Amidst my internet procrastination research I discovered this blog, Mommy OM, and these loving, humorous, and insightful posts.

They’ve inspired me to compile my own list: 25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids to Know.

1. You have chores, because we love you.

They seem tedious, but they are the building blocks for your future.  Responsibility, accountability, and basic life skills begin with sweeping the floor, scrubbing the toilet, and feeding pets and livestock.  We love you, we want you to find success in life.  Success comes from preparation, so we give you chores.

2. Boredom is a choice.

Don’t let me hear you say you are bored.  Boredom is a choice, when your backyard is the whole outdoors, there are chores to be done, and books to be read.  If you can’t entertain yourself with a stick and a bucket full of calf nuts, we’re doing something wrong.

3. There is magic in watching the sunrise.

Early mornings are hard,  we don’t rise as early and as easily as Dad.  Do it anyway.  The beauty you will witness with the awakening of the world is worth sleepy eyes and cold fingers.

4. A pet is more than a companion.

Your cats, dogs, calves, and ponies are more than friends and playmates.  They are lessons in empathy, responsibility, love, and letting go.

5. Grow your own food.

Our world is increasingly rife with poor food choices, the easiest response to unhealthy options is to grow your own food.  I don’t care it’s a single tomato plant or a garden large enough to feed 10 families, cultivate an appreciation for fresh, whole food.

6. Be open to learning.

In horsemanship and life, you will never know it all, never assume that you do.  A humble open, attitude towards learning will lead to new skills and experiences.

7. Dress appropriately for the occasion.

A cowboy’s uniform, hat, long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and boots, evolved out of necessity.  Protect yourself from the sun, wind and weather with the proper clothing.  I nag and question your clothing choices, because you are precious to me.

8. There is a time and a place for bad language.

Sometimes you just need to cuss; spew anger and frustration in one grand verbal barrage.  Smash your thumb with your shoeing hammer/fencing pliers, massive runback at the gate, ringy heifer won’t take her calf?  Yes.  At the dinner table,  the classroom, in front of your grandmother?  No.

9. Feed your help.

Neighbors, friends, or hired men?  It doesn’t matter, sometimes the best way to show your gratitude for a long day of hard work is a lovingly prepared hot meal and cold drink.

10.  Don’t judge, but if you do, judge them by their abilities, attitudes, actions not appearances.

Buckaroo or cowboy, flat or taco, slick or rubber? In some circles these comparisons can lead to heated debates, more often than not based strongly in personal opinion, rather than rooted in truth.  This is true outside of  the ranching world, as well.  Words have power to create divisiveness, do not use them to speak against yourself or gossip about others.

11. Stewardship.

Dad and I choose to be responsible for landscapes and livestock, this lifestyle defines who we are.  Sometimes that means ballgames are trumped by pasture rotations and dinner time is delayed by cesarean sections, it does not mean we love you any less.  I hope you approach the world with a sense of respect and connectedness.

12. Fake it till you make it.

You don’t have to be confident in everything you do, but taking a deep breath and acting like you are helps you get through it.  This can be applied in the arena, the sorting alley, to horses or people, and life as a whole.  Stand up straight and look the challenge in the eye, as you gain experience confidence will catch up with you.

13.  That said, don’t mistake arrogance for confidence.

No one likes a swaggering braggart, even if he is a competent swaggering braggart.  There is honor in being unheralded, if you enjoy your work.

14. Low-stress is best. . .

. . .for you and for livestock.   Don’t let it defeat your spirit and energy.  Don’t let it impact your livestock health.

15. The only dumb question is the unasked question.

Where is  the gate?  Which calf? Can you help me?  Ask questions, no one will think less of you.  Clear communication helps prevent misunderstandings.

16. Always do your best.

There are days when your best is better than others, recognize that.  Avoid self-judgement, abuse, and regret and enjoy the process.

17.    “There comes a time when you’re gonna get bucked and you’re gonna need to know what to do so you don’t get stepped on.”  -Betsy Swain, 1875

  Do not let fear of pain or disappointment stand in the way of new experiences.  What I regret most in my life are opportunities missed out of fear.  Pain and disappointment are a part of living, learn to take them in stride and keep moving forward.

18. Be polite and kind.

Enough said.

19.  But, don’t be a pushover.

Stand up for yourself.

20. Develop a sense of place.

Wherever you may live, learn the names of plants, rocks, and animals, visit old homesteads (or neighborhoods) and educate yourself about Indigenous cultures.  In doing so, you gain roots, a sense of belonging that will lend you stability in all that you do.

21. Break a sweat everyday.

Pound a steel post or take a jog, whatever you do, break a sweat daily.  Your mind and body will thank you for it.

22. Be present.

If you are mindful of the moment, it is easier to catch a mistake before it happens, redirect a broncy horse before wreck, and have better relationships.  It might surprise you, what you observe and what you achieve when you are fully in the moment.

23. Unplug.

Go to cow camp.  Leave the computer screen, TV, and cell phones behind.  Watch the chipmunks and rock dogs, read a book, or share a conversation with your family.

24. Sometimes the hard decisions are the right ones.

We cannot rationalize suffering and pain to animals.  Sometimes the best decision is the hardest one to make, know when to let them go.

25. You do not have to maintain this lifestyle, but please appreciate it.

I don’t expect you to grow up and follow in our footsteps, the long hours and low pay aren’t for everyone.  Carry these early horseback mornings in your heart.

194 Comments

  1. As an expecting first-time mom who lives and works on a ranch: this is perfect. I grew up in the city life but was always more at home surrounded by fields and animals (especially horses). So when my fiancé and I started discussing kids, I made one thing very clear: I don’t want my kids to grow up in the city. Period. As it turns out, a month after he and I were hired onto a cattle and crop farm (a total acreage of 14,000 spread across 30 miles or so), I found out I was pregnant. I’m ecstatic about the fact that we can raise our son/daughter the way I wish I had been raised. It especially helps that our house on the property has no cable/satellite and no Internet. My child will grow up knowing the value of hard work and being proud of their accomplishments as well as having a respect for nature and all it has to offer.

  2. Perfection!!
    Posted it once,when I first discovered you (and SO glad I did!)
    Gonna post it again…because it is Just.That.Good.

  3. Oh Veronica you are so wise!!! And I’m proud to be Your Aunt! Love YOuLot’s!! Janice!

  4. This is phenomenal. I’m so glad to have found your blog. Love your lessongs.

  5. Love Love this so much! Thank you for sharing! I posted about it and sent people your way to read it!

  6. Thank you for this. Sometimes we all need to be reminded.

  7. Rachel, I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award–you deserve it beyond all doubt!

    B

  8. This was such a great post! I love it! shared it with my boys, friends and family… I added a tag to them.. cause they know me.. that I would change number 15… My boys…. and my husband…
    They stand at the fridge with the door open and ask… “where’s the milk?”… or I’ll say “grab that bottle of water on the counter”.. and they look at me like I am speaking a foreign language.. “where’s the gate?” is a good one.. or which calf.. These are my [duh] moments.when I wanna throw a rock at them.. Gotta love em tho’ Happy Trails… California’s Happy Ranchers…

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