Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Emotionally Invested

I have been transcribing interview notes most of the day. The latest was from a first-generation ag family. It really hit home when one of the family members said,
"I don't think the average person knows how emotionally invested you are in everything you do as a person in agriculture. They don't realize that you love the land you work, you love the cows you raise, and you worry about those things. As a person in ag you go through all these things like blizzards, droughts and grasshopper invasions, and people don't understand because they experience those things. Being in agriculture is a very real experience."
In my opinion this is a very true statement. I'm not sure what you do for a living, but do you love it enough to sacrifice almost everything else in your life? I applaud you if that is the case. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be willing to make extreme sacrifices for my newspaper position. I wouldn't have taken the job it if it was a low pay, high risk position, where I was barely scraping by most years.
But for my family's ranch I would, and have. So has every other member of my family.
I have missed trips, award ceremonies, parties, potential photography jobs, meals, classes, weddings, and a variety of other opportunities and events to pound fence posts, feed cattle, work sheep, ride, and help out with whatever else needs done. I've worked all week, or when in college attended class, then drove home and worked all weekend on the ranch. And I was fine with that in almost every case.
That's what it takes to make it in ag. There are lots of families like mine, who make sacrifices to keep the farm or ranch going.
The other part is that we love what we do in a unique, gripping way.
Again, do I love the stories I write? Yes, I certainly enjoy my work, but it's not a consuming thing I can happily and thoroughly submerge myself in every single day. To me my job is a career, something I do primarily to make a living. If given the choice of how to spend my days, to do whatever I wanted, I would pick ranching. That's the difference.
I really, truly love cattle, and the art of raising them. I love the land I grew up on, that my family has improved from an overgrazed, worn out piece of property with no livable buildings to what it is today.
When you put every ounce of energy and effort you posses into something every single day for years, it becomes a part of you and something you can't just walk away from. When you do this as a family, all members headed in the same direction, it ties you all together in way not many families understand today.
Then there is the "real" part. No doubt everyone deals with very real things daily. But the quote was referring to the reality that is unique to agriculture.
Real for me includes putting in over 20 miles of pipeline on our ranch in July and August, when it's hot, windy and dusty. Riding after a March blizzard and burying a horse in a snow drift and almost not getting out while checking on cows. Finding a newborn calf dead for no apparent reason. Riding over 20 square miles, multiple times, looking for cattle someone stole from us. Fixing an electric fence for days, literally finishing the last post and looking up to see a flash flood rip it all out, then fixing it again, and having the same thing happen again, and a third time in one summer. Being run over, tromped on, kicked, and generally beat up by sheep and cattle a number of times. Sunburning my eyes, having my toes so cold I can't feel them and overheating.
But it's also riding great horses - one that will run down and cut back a nasty cow, and who is good enough to do that regardless of the situation. It's having cattle buyers call you, asking when you want to sell, and/or buying your cattle sight unseen. It's laughing so hard I cry at stories of ranch related events. Working with my brother all day and it never feeling like work. It's seeing good cattle eat grass when there is some, and watching them perform the way we bred them to. It's heading out to do a job and knowing that every person will pull their weight, being confident we can accomplish the task at hand, and having fun as a family while doing it. It's having my entire family intact and happy. It's looking out at the fixed electric fence, the 30 plus tanks on the 20 miles of pipeline, the livestock full and happy, and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction at what we've accomplished.
Emotionally invested is a good way to describe it.

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