My mom picked up an odd job in town once in awhile during the winter for both something to do and for a little extra income, but she was always home when we got home from school. It was all we knew to have cows, to play in the dirt and to spend all our time outside.
Things are different for my kids though! Our girls have been in daycare since they were about 6 weeks old, and both my husband and I have full-time jobs off the ranch. We have lived out on the family ranch since before our girls were born, and we try to spend as much time as we can helping with all aspects of the work. But I admit that their experiences living and growing up as a ranch kid are a much different than mine were.
I knew what life was like for me at their ages, but I got to wondering, what do our kids really think of growing up on a ranch? So their dad and I sat down with them and asked them! What you are going to read is for darn sure the truth as seen through the eyes of our little girls.
(M is for my oldest, the 6-year old. She had some very interesting answers. A is for my youngest, the 4-year old. She wasn’t as willing to share her opinion of growing up on a ranch as her sister.)
What is a ranch?
M: A place where you raise a lot of cows. That place we live on. Out in the country, by grandma and grandpa.
A: (Crickets chirp as she covers her face from her dad.)
Why do we ranch?
M: Because we need money. Also, because we like to eat cows.
A: I don’t know!
What do we raise on our ranch?
M: Red Angus cows! We also have horses, dogs, ducks, kittens and Grandma’s chickens. Oh, yeah, some bulls. Maybe some hay?
A: Cows! My kitties!
(You might think the little one doesn’t like to talk. Let me just say, had this not been such a formal Q&A session, she would have told me all about the cows and bulls, and every other animal on the place, including the coyotes and the raccoons!)
Do you have a favorite job on the ranch? Why?
M: I like to help daddy feed the horses. When I get bigger, I am gonna feed the horses all by myself. I also like to ride in the tractor with Grandpa and feed bottles to the baby calves during calving and hang out with Grandma and play with the kittens (and trust me, this list went on … and on … and on!)
A: I like to haul hay with daddy!
At this point, I asked my girls a few more questions about how they really felt about growing up between the city and the country. They both seemed to agree that they liked being home on the ranch the best, mainly because that’s where their grandparents are. (Imagine that!) When I asked my oldest what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer was this: “Well, I want to be a rancher. Or maybe a veterinarian [like our neighbor].” She has already proven to be quite the little agvocate, from taking eartags and a colt’s wolf teeth to school for show-and-tell, to requesting cheeseburgers every time we eat out. She’s not shy about telling people her parents raise cattle and that beef is good for you.
Regardless of what our girls do as they grow up and find interests beyond the acres of grass and red cattle, I hope that they will always have the desire to come back home to the ranch. I love that they are growing up knowing the difference between a Hereford and a heifer, understanding the circle of life and realizing that hard work and responsibility never hurt anyone.
Most of all, our kids are learning a lesson so few people understand today – that the food we eat comes from people just like us. Ranching isn’t just a job or some romantic image found on social media. Ranching is a way of life, a passion and a great way to raise children. It isn’t about the money – we ranch because we love it, and because we love to eat beef!
Until next time.
Richelle Barrett is a blogger and photographer from Havre, Montana.
PHOTO 1: Growing up on a ranch means not being too concerned about getting dirty!
PHOTO 2: Being in love with horses is a natural side effect for girls on the ranch. Photos by Richelle Barrett.