view sourceprint? 01 Ramblings from a Ranch Wife: Why I am in Agriculture

Random Thought:

"The darkest nights produce the brightest stars"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why I am in Agriculture

My great grandpa and one of his Angus Bulls

I come from a long line of independent, strong willed, determined cattle women.  Both of my paternal great grandmothers were born and raise on cattle ranches, and owned and operated their own ranches which is pretty amazing considering the era they grew up in.

My great aunt Marge still runs cattle on her ranch, 30 miles of dirt road and an hour and 1/2 drive from town.  My cousin Margie and her daughter Sarah run their family ranch near Mountain City, and my great great aunt Stella still runs cows with the help of her son Ray on the ranch her parents started in the late 1800's.

My great aunts Marge and Ellen whom I am named after

My great grandma Mabel and granddad Hugh brought the first Black Angus cows to North Eastern Nevada and now they are the most prevalent bred in Mountain City, Nevada.  My dad has worked really hard to make them one of the best herds in Elko County.

My great grandma Mable

My earliest memories are of cows.  My first word was baby calf.  Our parents bought my sister and I our first cow when I was 4.  I named her "Sunshine."  I remember that cold dark January night my mom bundled up my sister and I and how the ice crunched under my feet when we went to the calving barn to help my dad pull her first calf.  We sat on a straw bale and watched.  As I type, I smell the dust, straw, ammonia, and birth of that calf, hear Sunshine talking to her baby, and see its wobbly legs as it stands for the first time.

From the time I could walk, I've rode horses to move and gather cows, and as soon as I could push in the clutch on the tractor and shift it into gear I've helped feed cows and put up hay.  Even fixing fence, irrigating, and spraying weeds brings me a sense of accomplishment.

I enjoy all aspects of raising cattle and ranch life.  There is so much satisfaction to be had from working with animals and the land.  You pour your heart and soul into the care and well being of the animals.  Sure there is a lot of worry and heartache, especially watching a calf die or having to put your favorite horse down because he is too old to live comfortably through the winter.  This is all part of treating animals with dignity and respect.

I'm not sure who this cowgirl is, but she is one of my relatives

There are many late or sleepless nights while calving.  Worry about markets and how you will get your calves sold or how you will buy hay to get them through the winter.  But watching young calves buck and play on a spring afternoon, seeing the dumb calf suck on his own finally after 2 days of helping him, or the sight of a graft calf wagging his tail as he nurses a heifer that lost her baby, and she's loving him as her own, that makes me happy and gives me a strong sense of accomplishment and that I am doing what is right for me and my family.

Other than college, I have never lived more than about 100 miles from the ranch I grew up on, and hope move back to the area someday.  I still get homesick when I go for a visit and then have to leave.  It is the place I am the happiest, feel the most at ease, and the most like myself.

Another picture of my great aunt Marge

My parents were insistent my brother, sister and I all have college educations.  I can see where they are coming from now.  I struggled for 5 years trying to figure out my place and what I wanted to be when I grew up, to find a career I could be happy and successful with.  All I have ever wanted was to make a good horse and raise quality cows.

Personally, I feel the best about myself and life in general after a long day caring for cattle.  Whether its branding, processing, shipping, or even calving, just knowing I've played a hand in helping produce a safe and wholesome food for my family and the world is pretty awesome.  Anything that can take grass and sunlight and turn it into something tasty is alright in my book!


  1. Great post!! The family pictures are just awesome!

  2. OH Jen, so nicely put and so true. It made me tear up. Very moving. I always say I can "feel" my grandparents within myself and sometimes take a quiet moment to just "listen". My grandparents were all quite different people and I always say I'm a bit crazy cause I'm where all four of them met in the middle....each part of my life taking after one of them.