It used to irritate me – endless racket and for what? Usually a fencing project or an electric iron branding.
It took a year of living off the grid along the North Fork of the Little Humboldt River to make me welcome the hum of a generator. Our early 1900s house, or glorified cow camp as some would call it, was built of sandstone and was 45 miles down a rough dirt road. All we had for neighbors were a couple thousand cows, another camp man living 10 miles away and a family of pack rats who threw nightly raves in the attic. Our lights were powered by a large Honda generator and a can of gas a day. Unlike our neighbors 10 miles farther from civilization, we had indoor plumbing and a nice shower. Filling our pressure tank relied on the Honda beast, and so did pumping water for our horses in the night lot.
I decided there is no better sound than the hum of a generator when you’ve been pushing cows since 4 a.m. on a long summer morning. You make that final push to the well with a pile of thirsty mommas and they smell that water and pick up their pace a bit. That hum is a relief knowing the cows will have water, the well is working and everything is good on the desert.
Every single day of my summer I relied on a generator. I learned to love the noise. Dozing off to that constant hum became a nightly occurrence. It was a soothing sound saying, “All is well.” In the middle of our wildest storms, the lights never went out, but in the same breath all it took to trip the breaker was blow-drying my hair.
I’d make the afternoon trip, with no AC, to stop at multiple wells to pump water on the Owyhee Desert. My brother and I would often argue about who got to turn the generator off at bedtime. Whenever I found myself with the chore, I loved it. If it wasn’t too cold, I would look up and ponder the universe while a pack of very vocal coyotes supplied the soundtrack for my evening. The only lights in sight were that of the stars and a distant gold mine.
The hum of a generator used to be a distraction. It used to annoy me, and I’d count the seconds until we got to shut it off. Now I welcome the soothing sound. It will always bring back memories of my summer living outside the lights of Paradise. It will bring back the taste of dirt from trailing cows on hot summer days. It will spark my senses to the smell of propane from our old cook stove. It will remind me of pumping water on the desert in less-than-reliable ranch trucks. The hum of a generator will take me back to those nights when I pondered the universe and dwelled on more than my world.
Tayler Teichert, a 24-year-old sixth-generation rancher, was born and raised ranching across the American West. Since she left home, she has worked in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the shadows of Elk Mountain, the high desert of Idaho and the sage of northern Nevada. In her writing and photography, she documents the action, beauty and everyday life on the ranch while working as a full-time ranch hand. You can learn more about Tayler and check out her photography on her website.
PHOTO 1: The old cow camp on the Owyhee Desert near the place where Tayler Teichert and the rest of the crew would pump water. The camp is called Devil'd Corral. Photo by Tayler Teichert.
PHOTO 2: Tayler Teichert on horseback. Photo provided by Tayler Teichert.