Wednesday, December 5, 2012

13 Country Concocted Lessons

As many of you know from experience, country kids are always learning even if they don't realize they are. When I look at the person I am today, I can relate many of my attributes, achievements and assets back to the lessons I learned from growing up in the country.

Many parents today want their children to have a better childhood than they did. Now, I know that my parents wanted the best life for us and honestly, I think that's why they always put us to work. When I was really little I had little jobs, like holding the milk cow's tail while one of my older siblings did the milking, driving the chore pickup in "super low" while my sibling poured feed out of the back and holding the "nut bucket" at branding because I was still too little to wrestle calves. The old Bible saying is true though, when I was faithful with those little jobs my family would recognize it and begin to give me bigger responsibilities to make me feel more valued. That's how I learned
Lesson 1: Take care of the little things then you'll be trusted with bigger things. 

You can take lesson 2 in two different ways. My family lived on one of the prettiest places in North Eastern Wyoming (no I'm not biased) and my sister and I would go for long rides. I remember one of my favorite places to go took a long time to get to. When we'd reach that spot though, all of that riding sure was worth it because there we got to soak in Gods beauty...while also soaking in some sun and stock pond water :) . The other way I've seen this lesson unfold is on those cold, late October mornings. We'd have to get up early and go riding to gather our cattle because it was shipping season. It seemed like those rides took all day and then there was the sorting and the long trip to the sale barn. But boy, getting that annual paycheck and seeing old friends and family at the sale barn sure made up for everything else.
Lesson 2: Sometimes the hardest ride leads to the most glorious destination.

Now,  I know many people in our day in age think that building relationships takes texting and four hour long phone calls. I've learned that some people just aren't the "chatty Cathy" type and don't open up as easily when I bombard them with questions. These people are like my big brother and my husband. The best way to get to know and grow closer to them is by finding a project to tackle together. When we were really little, Christian (my brother) and I would take our bikes out to an old shop on our place. The "shop" was the original homestead house and was full of rusty bicycles from ages past. We didn't care if they had a few years of experience though. We'd spend hours rummaging through those bikes, picking out new seats, handlebars and tires. We'd then construct some pretty unique bikes. And we knew that, if we lived in a neighborhood, they'd be the talk of it!
Lesson 3: The best relationships are built when two people work on something together. 

I'm from an age where people are always ranting about women being independent and assertive. I also love to have the edge on a conversation and know just a little bit more about the topic than the person I'm talking to. It is one of my biggest downfalls. I started practicing the "ask 6 questions in every conversation technique." I try to figure out what the other person is an expert on. This gives them the chance to share their passion and is a way for me to enhance my pursuit of knowledge. I've found this especially fun to do with old ranchers and their wives. Those people have some wonderful stories to tell and an amazing heritage to share.
Lesson 4: Everyone you meet knows more about something than you do. 

Just like a lot of country girls, from about mid March (depending on the snow-pack) to late October (again, snow can be a factor) you can find me barefoot. I  blame my upbringings for this habit because in my opinion, nothin' feels better than a little gumbo between your toes while your out runnin' through puddles or dirt under your feet when you're trying to chase down your siblings. However, I've attempted to feed chickens in this state and can assure you that you're feet won't feel well after this. Just take my word for it.
Lesson 5: Never feed the chickens barefoot. 

My big brother thinks he's the Evel Knievel of pyromania. Black cats, black powder, mentos, baking soda and vinegar were some of his favorite ingredients. Often times, he and I would be in charge of taking the garbage out to the burning barrel and lighting it. My parents monitored the garbage to make sure only safe items went into it. But it never failed that when we got out to the burning barrel, which was out of sight from the house I should add, somehow a spray paint can, hairspray can or the likes would end up in the barrel. Christian always thought this was the coolest stunt ever. After finding myself in life threatening situations (okay that might be stretching it but I still cringe when I hold hair spray up to my head) I'm stickin' with lesson 6.
Lesson 6: Never put aerosol cans in the burning barrel. 

Please remember that I am the poor, deprived fifth kid out of six. My little brother wasn't born until I was six so I had quite a span of time when I was the young naive one (some might argue that I was still that way even after my little brother was born but that's another blog for another time :) ). The big kids used to go get those wooden spools (used for cable etc.) out of the junk yard. They'd wrap their arms and legs around them and lay on their bellies and roll them down the hill. It looked so fun! They'd laugh and make it seem like the coolest thing ever! So of course, monkey see-monkey do. I'd climb  up, lay on my belly and reach as far as I could. All of the kids would be excited and start yelling with excitement as they pushed me off. The only problem was, my arms and legs weren't even half what theirs were so...KER-THUMP I would end up in a heap on the ground. I don't need to explain much more.
Lesson 7: Big wooden spools were not made for transportation. 

This one goes WAYYYY back. I do remember though, that we had an ant pile right next to our house. I saw the way that it resembled mud pies but it was even more advanced. Could it be? Yes, it had to be a sand castle. We never had very much sand where we lived then so I knew this opportunity was made just for me. I took on that pile like I take on all great challenges: I rolled up my sleeves and dug on in! Unfortunately, that was one of those days between March and October when I was barefoot, in shorts and had rolled up my sleeves. If you can't guess the outcome I'll give you a hint: ants in the pants doesn't cover half of it!
Lesson 8: Ant piles are not God's sandcastles. 

In later years I became familiar with the junior high girl way of life. Secrets and "She did what with who?" and...you get the picture. It reminded me of one night when we were sorting calves to ship. It was late enough that it had gotten dark out. Although we had big lights down in our corral my end of the alley wasn't so well lit. I was very frustrated because we were out there so late and I was getting cold. My job was to push steers to the far end. Because of my frustration I started getting really close to them and poking them with a stick so they'd hurry up and so that I could go into the house. I learned my lesson though. One big calf didn't like my sneakin' around and pokin' him in the behind so he gave me a big ol' kick. Thus the origins of "hoof in mouth" disease. I didn't lose any teeth but I sure didn't hurry any more calves that night.
Lesson 9: Don't sneak behind other's backs.

My dad always said "When you kids grow up do whatever you'd like. Flip burgers at McDonald's or become a brain surgeon  But whatever you choose to do be the best at it that you can be." It's as easy as that! (refer to lesson 1)  
Lesson 10: Take pride in what you do. 

There sure were some bitter cold mornings out at home. I remember feedin' cows with Grandpa Miller. He'd always roll down the windows and crank up the heat. On those negative twenty degree days that did not make sense to me! It did to him though, he could see better and the cows could hear him calling. I learned that on cold winter days the best job to volunteer for was one where you were outside and could move around a lot. The more your blood pumped the warmer you stayed.
Lesson 11: The harder you work, the warmer you'll stay.

Winston Churchill once said "Success is the ability to go from one failure to the next without the loss of enthusiasm." There are millions of times when I've been down in the pits. One of my sisters in particular used to be pretty blunt about this she'd say "Stop havin' a pity party for yourself." Well, I'm glad I heard that when I was younger because if we dwell on our mistakes and failures, we'll never learn from them. It's just like when you get bucked off a green horse...
Lesson 12: Dust yourself off and get back on again.

There are times when it is easy to get bogged down in the mundane chores you have to do out on a ranch. Get up early, milk the cows, feed the other cows, take water to the chickens, find fence crawling sheep, fix the fence, find the sheep again and the list goes on. It has been easy for me to take for granted the great moments I've had in life and forget to treasure them as well as the people in my life. As I get older, and especially as I've begun to see people close to me pass away, I've realized how golden every mundane second of our life is. What I wouldn't give for one more feeding with my family, fixing fences, movin' sheep, I love that life. So please, treasure each second because someday you'll only be able to think back to them.
Lesson 13: Everything you're doing now will someday be a memory. 

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