Friday, January 21, 2011

Meet the Parents

I recently realized I had never properly introduced my parents. It's not like I just turned out this way...nope, these two are largely responsible. They may look a little bleary eyed in this early morning Christmas photo, but you get a couple cups of coffee in them and most people my age would have trouble keeping up.
My mom was born and raised in Colorado. Her family had a number of family owned businesses, including an excavating business and a trailer court. Her dad grew up on a farm, but she wasn't raised on a farm or ranch. She was an Olympic qualifying skier as a teenager, and is the oldest of three kids. She has an accounting degree from UW, and is one of very few women I've ever met who actually thrives as a ranch wife when she wasn't raised on a ranch.
She's what you would call energetic, and gets abnormally excited about things like the weather.
My dad was raised on a ranch in Northeast Wyoming, and is the fifth generation of Hamilton's to ranch in either North Dakota or Wyoming. He went to college in Casper, then transferred to UW, where he obtained his bachelors in Ag Economics. While in school he worked on a large-scale yearling operation on the Laramie plains.
He's served on just about every board in the county and state that pertains to agriculture, and has always enjoyed politics.
They're both extremely driven, smart people. Neither one has a lot of patience, but it shows up differently in each of them. They each have a great sense of humor, and they have both mellowed considerably in recent years.
My parents met in college, and were friends for a few years before they started dating. They got married, and moved back to the family ranch in Northeast Wyoming. Eleven months later they were blessed with me, then my brother showed up about 2 1/2 years later. Holly arrived ten years after I did.
They have been through everything that can happen on an ranch operation, including expanding the operation, adding sheep, ten years of drought, grasshoppers, blizzards, injuries, death and breakdowns. They kept it together through having a special needs child that spent the first three months of her life in a hospital three hours from our house, and have almost constantly maintained one to three jobs or businesses off the ranch. They've also raised three kids (not that that is difficult...), survived a few other notable medical issues, and moved built a house together (you always here that's the make or break it for a couple)
And, by "kept it together" I mean they are like that annoyingly sappy middle school couple, who are constantly holding hands, whispering to each other, and pining over each other when they can't be together. It's pretty great to have parents like that, especially as I meet more and more couples their age who haven't had a relationship that's flourished over the years. They are definitely still in love, and make an exceptional example of what a marriage should be like.
Back to the raising kids part. One thing I am incredibly thankful to them for are the things they taught us as we grew up. When you grow up on a ranch, and there isn't enough help, or money, you learn things young. By the time I was in school I could drive both pickups and machinery, ride a horse that was anything but a "kids horse," fence, lay pipeline and perform a number of other useful skills. I also had a firm grasp on God, and the power of prayer.
Another great thing about my parents is my dad did not take the "she's a girl" approach with me, and my mom was fine with that (for the most part). As you've heard on here previously, I flourished under that approach. I was oldest kid on both sides of the family, and like I said, they needed help. It didn't matter if I was a girl or a boy, I was right in the middle of it all from day one.
Dad also had the thought process that if he excepted us to do things, we needed the right equipment. So we rode good horses, drove machinery that was old but worked, and knew that we had better get the job done right, because the excuse was definitely not the horse, tractor, etc... He expected us to be hard working, fair and honest, and he taught us those things by example. If he showed us something once, we were expected to be able to do the next time, period. He challenged us, and expected us to rise to the challenge, and that has a lot to do with my brother and I's success today.
The other thing he expected us to be was tough. While my mom is also tough, she definitely saved a few limbs and nerve endings in this area. If we got bucked off, trampled, kicked or anything else, the response had better be, "I'm fine," as we continued on. Now, my mother isn't simple, and there have been a few incidents where she drug her husband or child all the way to the emergency room in Newcastle as we muttered, "I'm fine!"
My mom was also our biggest advocate in school. Having a special needs child takes a lot of time, especially when dealing with lazy, incompetent teachers, which our district has abundance of, unfortunately. There are teachers out there who quake at the mere mention of my mom's name. She was right there every single time one of them tried to let my sister slip between the cracks, or when they blamed her for something that wasn't quite right. She ran for, and was elected to school board during part of my sister's stint in public school. She did countless things, big and small, to make sure each of her kids made it through school.
Another neat thing is that my sister was exposed to the same principles listed above, and as a result of being expected to do as much as she could, she surpassed her doctors expectations of how well she would function as an adult at 8 years old.
Together my parents encouraged each of us kids interests, held us accountable, and taught us a abundance of immeasurable traits. They expected us to do our best at whatever task was at hand. We grew up a long way from town, and did all our ranch work together as a family. When you add three kids to a couple like my parents, a lot can get done.
Today, we're one of those families that scatters in five directions each morning, and come dragging back in each evening. We love to tell stories and laugh at recollections. Our work is our play, and not a lot of people understand that. It's hard to explain that your favorite pastime is sorting pairs or trailing cows with your family. We can count on each other no matter what, and it's great to be a part of a family like that. My parents did a good job.

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