What started out as a peaceful session of tinkering, complete with the radio blaring, ended in a showdown straight out of a John Wayne movie. I am pretty sure the tractor won.

Whitehurst marci
Freelance Writer
Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can foll...

Coming in for supper, my husband’s finger was bleeding, he was covered in oil, and he was fuming hotter than a broken radiator.

This is when I asked a brilliant question: “Is everything all right?”

If looks could kill.

I suppose we’ve all been there; thinking we were going to relax when BAM!


Maybe we’re out fencing or checking cows and we find surprises. Maybe it is house stuff: a broken appliance or even cooking: I’ve gone from peaceful in the kitchen to burnt and boiling over.

In agriculture, life is quite a pendulum. For those of us working outside jobs in addition to the ranch, there doesn’t prove to be much “down” time. We often come in and fall asleep to a movie, but this may be the extent of our relaxing.

I googled how ranchers relax and you know what came up: Dude ranches.

Well, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I typed in the search, but a couple phrases intrigued me: Come unwind in the outdoors; Allow your body the opportunity to connect with animals; Adore beautiful scenery while doing fun work.

Dude ranches present a great opportunity, so I have nothing against them. However, dude ranches are different than most mainstream ranches. I clicked on one dude ranch and it said elegant dining. OK, most ranchers do eat pretty well. I mean, we are quite familiar with our meat supplier.

Then it talked about getting massaged in the great outdoors. The only massage I’ve had in the great outdoors involved an unruly cow in our early days that “tapped” me and “affected” my muscles. But we sold her and it hasn’t happened since.

Next, the dude ranch talked about relaxing in a mineral spa. Friends, unless I rolled in the mineral feeder and fell into a water hole, I’m pretty sure we don’t have one on our place.

Some sites pictured folks covered in mud baths. This has definitely happened to me before, but it hasn’t always been mud, and I’m not sure I’d label it as therapeutic.

I suppose unwinding looks different for everyone, but it made me realize I don’t think I’ve heard a rancher admit to taking time to unwind unless he or she was joking.

Think about it: It’s a nice evening; we stroll outside to toss a rope at the roping dummy. If someone sees us though, we’re likely to say we are practicing roping.

Take a leisurely drive to unwind and we’ll say we are checking cows, which is frequently the case.

Sitting on the porch staring into the sky? If questioned, we’ll probably say we’re observing weather patterns.

Could it be as agriculture producers, we are afraid of appearing lazy?

This statement in and of itself is paradoxical, ranchers lazy? Ha!

However, I’ve caught myself guilty of not wanting to tell anyone I’m relaxing. If someone asks what I did today and I read a book for a little bit, I’ll probably mention irrigating, cooking, cleaning, laundry, moving cows, whatever the case may be, without mentioning that I sat down to read.

Often times when we are out moving cows or feeding in the winter, the cell phone will ring and my hubby will answer. If asked what he is up to, he’ll say, “Just out relaxing while feeding the cows.”

On one hand, if we are truly using our everyday circumstances to relax us, that’s fantastic. On the other hand, if what we do for work is our only avenue to relax, then we might be stressing.

Pay attention to the talk in town: ag folks often discuss their days while picking up parts or hauling hay. They are anything but lazy.

We realized recently we weren’t making time for fun. So we’ve made a point to float the river and take some vacation time. Sometimes, getting away is the best way to relax, although getting a phone call while you’re gone that your cows are out because someone drove through a gate isn’t super fun.

Perhaps we can all help each other out in this area by celebrating when we take time to unwind. It really is hard to admit we didn’t do anything for a couple hours – especially if you eye your neighbor out working. Maybe we need to bring back guitars around a camp fire. Music is a great way to relax.

Whatever method we choose, may it come with the freedom to say, “I took a break and it’s OK.” After all, “tinkering” on the tractor can’t be the only way we unwind. end mark