I wouldn’t trade growing up dirty and wild on a ranch in the middle of nowhere for anything in the world. Every day was an adventure. I figured it’s time I share a few lessons I learned along the way.
#1: Always close the gate behind you.
This may seem like a little thing, or it may seem unimportant to the regular city-raised person, but this is one of the most important things I’ve learned to date. You never know when the cows will get turned out, and most of the time you won’t have time to check the gates across the pasture—you’ll just trust that they were closed. In life, closing the gate behind you has a little bit of a different meaning. Don’t let the past sneak up on you. Your past may contain hurt, sadness, anger, or words that sting like a snake bite. It’s important to close the gate. Don’t let the negative aspects of your past effect the endless possibilities of your future. Always close the gate.
#2: Never trust the roosters.
To some, roosters look interesting and some of them can even appear attractive the average city-raised person. To a ranch kid, roosters look like the devil himself trotting around with crooked feathers and a razor-sharp beak with rough talons to match. Never turn your back or trust for one second that the rooster(s) won’t launch a sneak attack. The same can be applied to life. Some people may look inviting and maybe even interesting, but it’s important to keep your distance. Trusting everyone you meet can lead to broken hearts and tear-stained pillows. Although people don’t have crooked feathers, razor-sharp beaks and nasty talons, they can have crooked intentions, razor-sharp tongues, and rough eyes—used only to judge those around them. Never trust the roosters.
#3: Moving sprinkler pipe sucks.
If you grew up with a dad like mine, you were up at 5:00am; before the sun broke over the purple mountains. The air would be crisp…too crisp. The water would be cold…actually, make that one degree away from freezing. The pipe would be heavy…full of the almost frozen water and the occasional mouse, snake, or gopher. The field would be big…and seem to get bigger as you make your way across with the air stinging at your nose, the cold water dripping down your arm and making its way into your jacket, and the pipe slowly getting heavier. OKAY, so maybe it wasn’t this bad. But, getting drug out of your warm bed at 5:00am everyday sucked. However, watching the sun peak over the mountains, hearing nothing but your footsteps through the crop and the occasional coyote yelping and yipping was pure heaven. Watching the crop grow each day always made me crack a smile. Watching the swather cut down your hours of hard work was bittersweet, but being able to feed your horses a couple flakes of hay off of your field—knowing you worked through the cold, wet, heavy, adventurous mornings was a feeling like no other. Always remember to move through the unpleasant to be rewarded in the end. Moving sprinkler pipe sucks.
#4: Dying is a part of living.
Although most are afraid of death, growing up on a ranch teaches you at an early age to view death as a part of living. Losing crops, animals, or loved ones never gets easier, but it does start to become less shocking. Moxy, Friday, Kitty, Maggie, Daisy, Mario, Luigi, Oreo, Theodore, Stereo, Wilson, Bob, Blake, Wyatt, Star, Julie, and Steiner is just a partial list of the animals and people I’ve watched get to wherever they’re going over the years. Nothing about losing them was easy, and nothing about losing them made sense. You’ll become familiar with death, and maybe even start to accept it. When I was little my uncle told me, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming-‘Holy shit! What a ride!'” Dying is a part of living.
#5: Keep yourself company.
Most of the time you’ll be building fence, fixing fence, riding horses, filling tanks, or feeding by yourself. This time is important. You’ll learn that being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. You’ll hear the birds calling, horses snorting, water flowing, and grasshoppers chirping. Cows are good listeners. They stare, and they’re dumber than a box of rocks, but they’ll listen to you practice public speaking or singing or even just talking about your day. When the sun starts to go down and you start to slowly make your way home, remember to keep yourself company.