This was the article I wrote for the West River Eagle this week:
I stared at a blank screen for quite some time this week, completely unsure what to write. There’s been a government shutdown. A blizzard of epic proportions has come and gone, leaving a trail of grief and debris in its wake.
When I moved to South Dakota in 2008, I had a miniscule amount of time on a ranch. It had been limited to my time riding reined cow horses/cutters in college. I kind of understood how to move cattle and I know I spent more time in the way, than actually helping, my first couple years here.
I failed my first South Dakota Winter by staying inside and driving Zach nuts. He actually told me I needed to find a hobby, get some friends, or he was shipping me to Texas the following year. He needn’t have worried. I shipped myself to Texas for the 2010 winter and missed the blizzard that caused a 3-week power outage here in our neck of the woods.
Fast-forward to now: Winter doesn’t bother me and I no longer look like the kid in “A Christmas Story” when I go outside. I’m getting better (and continually improving my ability) at gathering bulls on my own, moving a pair by myself, sorting horses, rearranging animals, fixing fence, and this past Spring volunteered for night duty when it came to calving heifers. That was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I grinned ridiculously most of the time during the 3am calf check because, well, it’s awesome.
I’ve learned that ranching isn’t just a “job”. It’s a lifestyle. It’s something you’re proud to do. It’s a community. A sense of accomplishment. I cry when a calf doesn’t make it; when a cow dies, or a bull breaks a leg, so this past week was hard on me, because my heart ached for all the ranchers that lost so much. We help our neighbors. Ranching is the embodiment of being good neighbors. Many of us are actually family, but we’re also part of a greater family, a “ranching family”.
Now, I find myself “behind the scenes” helping to raise money for all you of affected by the storm. The outpouring of support from people around the country is phenomenal. I spent the better part of the day Saturday, crying on and off as I read emails from people in Canada willing to donate heifers (and deliver them), artists from Kansas plan to auction off their prints and donate money to the Rancher Relief Fund, organizers with international experience are offering their services to help us plan and make the fundraising even more efficient. The Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Executive Committee voted last week to send $5,000 to the Rancher Relief Fund in South Dakota. I’ve heard from folks in Colorado, California, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Texas.
In fact, one such story goes like this: I (my friend in TX, Casey) shared your post and photos with a friend who is from Fayetteville, TX. She went home and talked to friends and family and shared your posts too. They said that South Dakota had provided hay to that area during our bad drought a couple years back. The info about Atlas made it around town and to the area churches. They expect that Sunday the churches in the area will all be telling people about the Atlas storm and sending a whole town’s prayers to help. I thought you would like to know how your grassroots news travels… good work!
I realize that prayer doesn’t bring us a paycheck; it doesn’t make our cattle live again, it’s probably not going to help with the government shutdown and it certainly won’t quell the sick feeling you’ve had in your gut, but it is reassuring to know that people around the country are thinking of us, praying for us, sharing their time, donating items to be auctioned, and giving of their money.
If those affected by the government shutdown garnered the support of their friends and neighbors it might be over by now. All it takes is a little time and a phone call to our congressmen and senators, telling them to stop acting like three year olds. As a society we should pull together for this cause as well.
The world may be a depraved place at times. Seeing all the good folks that have come out in droves for the ranching community, renews my spirit in the goodness of humanity, the goodnesses of community, and the spirit that we can and should all work together to help those in need. If only we’d be like this all time! If the spirit of ranchers could embody the spirit of the rest of the world on a daily basis, I’m positively certain the world would be a better place.