Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Valentine's Day the Ranch Way

The universal question on February 15 is “so what did you do on Valentine’s Day?” Valentine’s Day is a day for hopeless romantics, a day of wine and roses, cards and chocolates, chores and mud. Whoa, whoa, chores and mud? Who in their right mind celebrates the day dedicated to love with mud and chores? That would be farm and ranch couples all over the world. Let me tell you about the romantic day we had and see if you can relate.

The alarm went off at 5:30 like it always does. You know the 5:30 that seems to get earlier each day of lambing and calving season. The alarm was met with a groan and the proverbial “where are my wool socks?” Then its coveralls, coats and mud boots greeting a bleary eyed winter wonderland. We march out to the barn together to meet the day’s challenges. OK so we are meeting the challenges of the ewes, calves, bulls and horses that need fed.

Chores are followed by breakfast. Would that be breakfast in bed? Nope, pop tarts and cereal downed quickly and it’s time to get ready for school. Red is the color of the day for Jennifer. When you work in the grade school there is that expectation of at least trying to look festive for the holiday. Then it’s off to school for Jennifer and off to the calving pasture for me.

Valentine’s Day was a good one for Dad and I. Five new, healthy heifer calves (yes, all heifer calves) making it a really good start to calving season. At noon, Jennifer sends me a text to ask who sent her the roses. I guess after 16 years that is a fair question. I texted back a quick “I love you” followed by “don’t forget to water the steers when you get home”. Who said us ag types aren’t romantic.

Later that evening, we were cleaning the jugs out in the lambing barn. Jennifer mentioned that one of her friends said they thought cleaning barns on Valentine’s Day was OK because it was a couple’s activity. I encouraged her to hang out with that friend more often.

Supper that night was a romantic dinner of roasted pork chops, cottage cheese and peas. For the record, a romantic dinner at our house consists of no candlelight and two kids, both serving as food critics. Following a romantic, moonlight walk to the lambing barn to check ewes, Jennifer fell asleep on the couch (I can’t imagine why she is so tired). There you have it, the romantic Valentine’s Day of a rancher’s wife, Hollywood eat your heart out.

All of this is to point out that all farm and ranch wives have a special place in heaven. They are asked to sacrifice what they want for the farm and for their family on a daily basis. Most are like my wife, working an off-farm job while spending full-time hours working before and after that job. They raise their families while working side-by-side with their husbands.

These are the same wives who volunteer at school, work tirelessly at church and still have time to care for their neighbors. All too often without taking time for themselves and never giving that a second thought. They are the very cornerstones of our communities and the foundations of our families. I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “The greatest accomplishment of my life was in convincing my wife to marry me.” I know that is doubly true for me.

That is why the news of the death of May Morrison hit me so hard. I heard about her passing on the same day we heard of Whitney Houston’s death. The news for the next several days was wall-to-wall in its coverage of Miss Houston’s death. The story line was so much God given talent and so much unfulfilled promise. Funny how we get things so wrong in society.

Instead of dissecting the lost life of one so talented, we should have been celebrating the life of someone who accomplished so much and left the world a better place. A teacher who educated many students, who I am sure have went on and done so many good things. We should be celebrating the wife, mother and grandmother who spent a life caring for family. We should hold up the hardworking farm wife who sacrificed so much to nurture and grow a farm side-by-side with her husband.

I never met May, but I knew so much about her through the columns written by her husband. Each week we got a glimpse through the paper of their love and dedication. They served as such a good example of how married life should be for many younger farm and ranch couples like Jennifer and I. For that, I cannot offer more than a simple “Thank you”.