By Cheyenne Glade Wilson
The National Finals Rodeo just finished for the year. My family and I haven’t gone in quite a few years. It always seems like this time of year is hard to get away from the ranch with feeding and cold temperatures. I was thinking about my last work trip there and I had to smile. The last time I was in Vegas my friends asked why I wasn’t playing the machines. I told them that I didn’t need to play those things because I gamble every single day whether I want to or not…I’m a cattle rancher! I smile when I say that to folks because it’s the truth, but not many truly understand the depth of what I’m talking about (unless they themselves are ranchers).
I’m sure you’ve heard or seen the following quote: “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” ~John F. Kennedy
That quote holds much truth and it hasn’t changed a bit since he said it. As a cattle rancher we are at the mercy of so many things: the weather, the cattle market, fuel prices, retail pricing on ranch supplies, equipment prices, and the list goes on and on. I know some people don’t understand why we do what we do when we have so many things that play against us. The answer I’ve come up with is pretty simple. It’s because it’s in our blood and we wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. We love this life with all our hearts!
Not everyone loves what they do every day, but I’m happy to say that I’m not one of those people. It’s funny to me to admit this, but when I was younger I didn’t plan to end up where I am. In fact, if you’d have told me that I’d be ranching I would have thought you were crazy. My plans when I was younger didn’t include this life. I honestly think it’s because when I was younger I never slowed down long enough to let my heart and my brain connect. When I finally did, this is the only life that ever made any sense for me. I’m so glad that things happen for a reason and that destiny took over.
When you grow up in this industry you learn at a young age about hard work and you have a strong work ethic. You understand that your word is your bond. You also learn that many things and lives depend on you and you understand the magnitude of it all. You know it’s all on you and nobody else is going to do things for you. You care deeply about everything you do on the place because it’s a reflection of who you are and it’s also a necessity to ensure ends meet. Every life matters on the ranch also for obvious reasons, but it’s more than just about the almighty dollar. Those critters mean something to you and knowing you are responsible for them instills a lot of pride in a person. The bottom line is there is no “app” that replaces good old-fashioned hard work, heart, sweat, and effort. Yes, there are easier ways now to get work done than in days past, but in order to have success in ranching you have to be a bit of a “gambler”. You also have to have grit, drive, desire, and determination to hang in there for the long haul. Ranching isn’t for the faint of heart by any means.
As ranchers we can only do so much as we are at the mercy of Mother Nature out here so that’s where the “gambling” thing comes in big time. We “gamble” a lot when making decisions affecting our operation. How much feed to buy, what kind of feed to buy, when to bed cattle down due to an impending blizzard, when to breed your cows so calves aren’t born too early in storm season, where to put in a water line, how much hay to put up, how much hay to buy when we don’t have enough of our own to put up, etc. I think you get the picture of the daily “gambling” we do out here.
The cycle of life on our place is pretty much the same every year for us. A few things may change here and there, but for the most part things stay the same. Every winter we feed our cattle in their winter pastures. We get our cake delivered in the late fall, so we are ready to go when inclement weather arrives. We also have hay delivered then (if we weren’t able to put up enough).