I bought a toilet brush last week. 

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

Another one.

I already had one in the house, for obvious reasons. 

This one is hanging from a nail on the fence outside the corral where the autowaterer is located. Automatic watering tanks get dirty quickly when cattle are drinking from them regularly. We drained it a couple of weeks ago and took a scraper and a steel brush to it, but it doesn’t stay clean for very long. My hubby said, “Grab a toilet brush when you’re in town next.”

So I did. 


That toilet brush works like a charm. We can scrub the sides of the stock tank, pull the plug, scrub some more, rinse it out and put the plug back in the drain. Voila!

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a job easier. In full honesty, though, that day we scrubbed the tank where we had to scrape and scrape after cattle were in the corral – I didn’t want to be there. It wasn’t because I don’t want to work. I do. I’m actually better at a lot of the behind-the-scenes jobs like scrubbing the autowaterer, or cleaning, or …

But … in my mind that day, it felt like, “Hurry up! Hurry with this water-cleaning project so I can get to the bigger project.”

I structure my day around big events – which works because we have to schedule events, especially if it is something like a several-mile cow move or going into town for a doctor’s appointment. But often what happens in my head is this thought of, “I’m going to get this big project done – like staining the deck.” 

What ends up happening is a bunch of little stuff I didn’t think of – or didn’t know I’d need to take care of as well. They aren’t bad things. They are just unexpected or they end up taking much longer than anticipated. Four days later, the deck was finally stained.

Obviously, cleaning the autowaterer needs to happen regularly. It wasn’t a surprise. It was that it got so bad so fast and took longer to do than expected. We need to do the big projects and the little projects, but I’m trying to teach myself to savor the small things. After all, the ranch wasn’t built in a day.

Well, there’s a saying something like that …

When you look at our regular routine, it really is the small things that make up the majority of our time and save us in the long run:

  • A few fence staples here and there – and/or a stretched wire
  • Jotting down a few notes in the red book or on the computer
  • Shoveling some manure out of the barn
  • Hosing down the stock trailer before it freezes

It’s also the daily things that don’t often make it in my list which take time:

  • Laundry
  • Making breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Vacuuming
  • Rinsing off muck boots
  • Riding along to open gates

Maybe I’ll start adding them to my list, just so I can scratch them off.

When we look at the big picture of the ranch – healthy fields and cattle, good horses, working equipment, happy spouse and kids, etc. – those big-picture things are built on little events:

  • Regularly working with a horse
  • Servicing equipment
  • Picking up trash that blows in the field (anyone else in a high wind area?) and good grazing management
  • Having date nights, game nights, fun with the kids

I know there are a million sayings talking about the importance of the little things. And they are true. But how easy it is to think of how these things are also a nuisance. A setback. A time sucker from the big thing. 

Friends, trust me: I know there are time suckers out there. Recently, there was a tire on a backhoe that kept going flat, even though it’s a new tire. The tire shop couldn’t figure it out. We think it’s working now, but there are things out of our control that happen, sometimes repeatedly. It’s frustrating because there isn’t anything to pinpoint that says, “Yes, this is the problem.” But it will get worked out. It won’t always be this way.

Why am I going on and on about little things? Here’s my moment of vulnerability: I don’t often feel like what I do is helpful. I’m in the back of the class, if you will. I don’t want to call attention to myself, but at the same time I’ve had moments of wondering, “Am I an invisible ranch janitor?”

Maybe some days I am. And that’s OK. I do not have what you might call a main role in our operations right now. I’m working elsewhere, too. Sometimes all someone needs is a pin – a small item – to help keep things going. Maybe it’s a smile, a hot breakfast or listening to someone’s day. Maybe it’s scrubbing the stock tank. Whatever comprises your day, you are important. You are not invisible.