Ranching offers a way of life with a distinct pace, a distinct set of rhythms and priorities. Just as the cows and horses who live according to nature, following the rhythms of the seasons, births, disasters and deaths, I find myself also living within the distinct cycles of my own life and changing with each season.
I have always dreaded winter because of the harsh cold, darkness and ice that seems never ending. Nothing takes your breath away or chills you to the bone like being outside caring for animals when it’s -30 degrees with the wind blowing snow at you sideways at 70 mph.
Within the last week we previously had warmer weather, melting away much of the snow and then the next day a storm front moved in, freezing everything into treacherous sheets of ice and turning the pastures into skating rinks.
While feeding this week we found a cow down with a broken hind leg. Her hoof dangling with nothing but hide and ligaments providing any structure for her to stand on. Her pain was evident when trying to move her back to the barn and she was not opposed to letting us know what she thought of what was being asked of her. Being bred she is due to have her calf in a couple months and so we made every effort to ensure both her and the calf’s survival.
After a quick trip to the vet clinic for supplies, and a brief lunch with my son. I returned to the ranch to cast her leg. We roped her, laid her out on the ground and tied up her other three good legs. Tom, the ranch manager sat on her keeping her down while I went to work setting and casting her leg with the assistance of Tom’s wife Mary.
While casting the leg I couldn’t help but think about the parallels in my own life. My only child, Sheridan is Army bound, he leaves in June for Boot Camp and sets off to create a life all his own. While I am very proud of the young man he has grown to be I can’t help be feel like that cow laid out and tied down. Without him near I feel as though a part of me is broken and the events in his life are moving so quickly and I am bound and can’t change them. Not that I would even if I could, knowing that part of his journey into becoming a man is following his own path. But as his mother, with world events continually changing, it’s hard to imagine my son who is very strong, yet incredibly kind and compassionate going to war and how that will change him for both the better and possibly the worse as a person.
Once we have children our lives as adults become all about them. We attend PTA meetings, sporting events, school concerts and activities, we sometimes forget to live our own lives because we are too busy living vicariously through our children and making sure we offer them every opportunity we felt we didn’t have as a child. Being a parent becomes our main identity.
Pretty soon along with the responsibilities of paying bills, raising a family, divorce, hardships and other broken dreams, we as adults deny our passions and find our lives much like the long cold months of winter, dead and dormant; responsibilities seem dreadful and activities feel like obligations, it feels like there is no end. We become cynical forgetting the joy and enthusiasm of things long forgotten.
Yet, Sheridan in his youth is excited about his future and enthusiastic about venturing out into the world on his own. He is teaching me that a new season has also come into my life and I once again have to find within me what makes me so enthusiastically happy to be alive that I just can’t contain myself. His enthusiasm is my cast that gives me the structure to heal and like the cow I too am gestating new life that will soon be brought into the world.