The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
How is the end of May already around the corner?
Calving went by so quickly and seemed like one long, stretched out week.
But it was good. It was a good season of two months of hard, strenuous work, long days, and growing and becoming more of a unit within our family. It was two months of having the same routine - wake up, feed the kids, deck them out in their snow gear, grab snacks, waddle out the door, take care of the pets, hop in the ranger and on we go. Jona and Tre grew. I grew as a wife and mother. Our marriage grew.
When I married Tye I had no experience of ranching. I grew up in Lewistown but my dad worked at the hospital and my mom was a SAHM. We had a little over 50 acres, but the extent of our agricultural knowledge was the garden in our backyard and the ducks that I raised in 4-H for a few years. Let’s just say I had little to no understanding of anything ranching when Tye and I started getting to know each other. As my time with him grew, I saw something in him that I don’t see very often, passion. It was this burning love for this lifestyle which, from the outside, didn’t seem to give you a whole lot according to the world’s view. I first thought, wait you raise cows, you don’t make a lot of money, you work too much and you're subjected to the weather’s power. I don’t get it. I don’t get why this is the best? Then it clicked with me one day when Grandpa Bob came out and I saw three generations standing together throwing around jokes and enjoying being with each other. I saw the deepest respect in Tye and Wes’s eyes for this man who seemed to carry this level of joy and contentment that I had never experienced. In those moments, I knew I wanted to learn, to dig my own personal roots deep into this history, and work to allow growth for our kids and their kids and so on. When I married Tye, I told myself that ranching would be my career. I wanted to learn, I wanted to be a part and I wanted to be just as useful as any ranch hand we might hire, if not more.
Flash forward 6 years and I finally got a taste of being a rancher rather than a body just along for the ride, and let me tell you, it was the best calving season yet. Our kids are at the age where they can come along and learn and even be useful so it was very natural to throw them in the ranger and take off. We spent almost every second of every day together. I stocked up on food for the next few months, meal prepped, the quarantine chaos hit, and we prepared ourselves to be home for the whole calving season.
Jona established her roles as gate girl, calving status checker, calf feeder, button placer, babysitter of Tre (yes she’s only 4.5) and mother of all the chickens. She amazed Tye and I constantly with her hard work, her understanding of responsibility, and her absolute, die hard love for animals. This was her first year seeing death and really experiencing it. It’s funny raising kids in the ranching world. They see so much loss and yet find a place where it feels okay and just part of the way the world turns. It was such an important time to go through with her, to show her that grief is very important and good to sit with and then to take those steps forward that only time and healing can help. It was a good time for Jona's and my relationship. She is our late morning sleeper so Tre and Tye would head out early while I stuck back and waited for her to get her day started. We shared a lot of quiet time, breakfasts, and chores, which challenged me as a mom to slow down and take my time so that I could share it all with her instead of rushing to get so much done. She grew in her determination and bravery. We learned as parents that she needs one on one time that doesn’t include work and that pushed us to be more intentional with her. Honestly, that is still a work in progress. Jona got her numbers, letters, reading and writing figured out while we drove around in the pastures. She learned to read by reading all the calf tags and her writing excelled because of a little notebook she toted around and wrote notes in. It was beautiful to see her grow and learn on her own.
Tre was in his element the whole time. Constant going, constant learning, constant chaos is what he thrives on, haha. It’s hard for us not to imagine him growing up to ranch one day when we see him find so much joy and thrill in doing the everyday tasks. Calving season was full of a lot of one on one time between him and Tye which helped Tye learn patience and slow down. Tre had to learn to listen well and be aware of everything that was going on. We were proud of him. He understood that it was important for him to be careful around mama cows and that there was little room to be messing around when he was at work with dad. He spent some time hanging out in the ranger by himself while Tye was out moving a pair or tagging a calf, and he rarely complained. He seemed to be content with just being there even though being there meant a lot of waiting. There was a lot of singing and goofiness. In the ranger there is this perfect spot in the middle where Tre can stand and he’d get up there and just start belting his little heart out. His favorite tunes were, She Likes the Beatles, Get Out of the Way ol’ Dang Heifers – (a Tre original), and Mary had a Little Duck (another Tre original). The amount of joy that radiates out of him is intoxicating and made calving season 10x more fun.
Tye and I became even better friends over this chaotic time. Maybe it had to do with the fact that we were all on quarantine but whatever the reason we had so much fun together. Our favorite moments were after the kids were fast asleep in bed and we’d hitch on our winter gear and go out for our night checks. I can’t tell you how much we laughed and acted like high school kids with little to no care. A lot of refining conversations happened in those late hours. We shared our struggles, our insecurities, our dreams and the ways in which we wanted to grow. It became our safe space. In that ranger we were given moments where we could put parenting aside while our kids were asleep and focus on each other, the core of this family. We allowed joy to permeate our time. Some of our most memorable moments were playing golf with the cow pies in the field, playing cribbage in the ranger, pretending to be ninjas with our sorting sticks and Tye shaving off his calving beard into a beautiful mustache. I love this man with my whole heart and have never felt more proud of him for all his patience and hard work.
This season was huge for me. Not only did I get to step into it full force but my heart about ranching changed. I know I’ve said earlier that at times it can be really hard to not have a normal 8-5 job and have the weekends free. That is still a thing, but over the past year my heart has shifted and has allowed the reality of our life to become a joy. Every chore that had to be done became a gift that I could give to this family. Every meal, every load of laundry, every night spent putting the kids to bed by myself, every toilet cleaned, every errand to run now has this goodness holding it together rather than being a burden. Let’s just say I tried to do excellent at everything that needed to be done in order to keep our lives moving forward. My attitude towards all the energy put into the herd shifted into trust and understanding. My respect for Tye grew deeper and I found myself wanting nothing more than to help him out in whatever way I could.
We were blessed beyond words with this year of calving. As we drive around our pastures and see big, happy, healthy calves running around with little to no sickness we thank our powerful Creator. We were blessed by the amount of work that was put in and how it strengthened our family as a whole. We are blessed by this life.
At the end of the season, my heart planted itself deeply in this land. It brought me to a place where I have no desire to make more money, to excel in the eyes of the world but rather to do what I can to carry on what Grandpa created, what Chief is still creating, and what now my husband and his brother are creating. It encouraged me to build a life that is replenishing for my kids and cultivates the relationships that we have. I view this place as a temporary garden that Tye and I & Kory and Jaymie get to nurture and grow for a little bit and then hand over to a new set of young hands. Every day I am reminded that this land is not ours, this home is not ours, this life is not ours but for the upcoming generations, for the future and it is our job to continue building its strength and beauty.
Cheers to Calving 2020.