Monday, December 27, 2010


We had our last Christmas party today. I’m glad it’s over. I’m a bit of a Scrooge and am campaigning for the Holiday to come every third year from now on. Still . . . reflecting over the last few weeks, I recall some lessons, some moments that stand out to hoard in my memory bank.

Anna decorating the house when I was spending the night with Dad in the hospital. Then receiving her text along with a photo of the tree with this message: “Christmas is officially at the Pratt household!  And it’ll be here when you get home :)  good night love you”

Finding out that grown up kids, 17, 19, and 24, still like hearing their Dad read a story to them on Christmas Eve.

Opening a replacement diamond for the one I lost when we were first married, and appreciating the extravagance after twenty years of investment on the ranch and in the marriage. 

Being terribly disappointed when Mark had to go get the feed wagon unstuck when we were starting to open presents – and finding out it didn’t spoil Christmas morning after all.

Receiving a favorite gift from my Manhattan daughter, a used book by Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life and savoring the anticipation of evenings by the woodstove with it in hand.

Finding quiche a fine breakfast for cowboys.

Agonizing over the prime rib, then serving a perfect piece of meat to the family.

Dad, unwilling to navigate to the head table for Christmas dinner with his oxygen tube, sitting with the grandkids instead. Then him, at 91, calling out answers to a rousing game of “catch phrase.”

Christmas is like life, we live it the best we can. Find the joy. Keep it simple. Make it about moments.  

my childhood home - one more Christmas celebration

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back Home

Dad’s caregiver, my oldest sister, went home for Christmas, so I took my turn with Dad this past weekend. The pace is slow there. I took my sewing basket and made some real progress on the dishtowels I’ve been embroidering for years. And I finally got some wreaths made. When I am an old woman, I will still gather branches and create a wreath for the door.

I had a heyday prowling Mom’s lovely yard for evergreen boughs. The arborvitae cuttings from under the eaves were deep green and supple. The junipers in the corner had branches loaded with purple berries. Spruce, and of course feathery cedar, are abundant. For accent, I gathered pine cones and a few tenacious clusters of crab apples. 

I stood at the table where Dad could see me and anchored the greenery to lariat circles. The same table where Mom labored over a million creative projects - cutting out dresses for her six daughters, wrapping gifts, and of course painting watercolors. The holiday season would find the table covered with fondant centers for dipping her famous chocolates. And later in life, research materials were strewn about when she tackled her most ambitious project, a western history book.

And so I felt very much at home working on the wreaths, and took them one at a time over to Dad for his approval. 

Mom has only been gone 3 months, so of course her presence is everywhere. It was comforting to fry chops in her old cast iron skillet, drape her original beaded garland on the tree, and sleep under one of her handmade woolen quilts.   

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another Move

I helped Jesse and Mark move the heifers again. The constant pursuit of feed and water for the herd  is what ranching is all about, not ropin’ and ridin’ as some would think. Those abilities come in handy, but pale compared to the skills required of a cowman who can find and/or create affordable feed.

We’re trying to stretch our grazing season further into the winter months and get away from the expensive habit of harvesting, and then feeding out alfalfa. So this year we left the second cutting of our grass and alfalfa fields  “on the stump.” This should not only save costs, but allow the roots to store energy and the plants to have a jump start next spring. We are aided by the thaw that followed the big snowstorm we had in November.

We took the heifers to “Frank’s,”  a chunk of sandhills along the Blackfoot River previously owned by grandpa’s cousin. We think the reason Frank’s daughter agreed to sell it to us was precisely because we would keep it the way her Dad would want it - in its natural state. Most of the ground around us has been leveled and put under center pivot irrigation for potatoes. While we don’t get the big money spuds can sometimes return, we seem to keep ahold of the land through the generations.

We think Frank would approve.

sand cherries and buffalo berries in the windbreak

First the feed, then the water

picture perfect

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Circle of Stories

I got back from our marketing co-op meeting just in time to go see Dad in the hospital. He’s 91 and needing some propping up. Hopefully he comes home today.

The co-op meeting was as always, a real opportunity for self-growth. Country Natural Beef is very participatory. We sit in a circle and each member takes a turn at receiving the microphone and voicing their opinion on the decision at hand. As is written in our operating principles, we strive to “listen with respect, speak with respect and communicate openly and honestly.” We welcome our retail partners to the circle as well. One of them commented on the “directness” of our conversations. It can get heated at times, but straightforward communication is one of our hallmarks, and an integral part of the success of the 25-year-old cooperative.

Transparency is also a foundation value of the co-op. We talk openly with our retailers about the costs back at the ranch and how the carcass comes apart, each cut returning its share to the return needed to ensure sustainability of our 100+ family ranches.

Mark hated to miss the meeting. He would have enjoyed the camaraderie, the arguments, the numbers discussions. We’ve spent the last two days trying to catch him up. I told him about Jimmy who runs a ranch in Hawaii, and with all the challenges of ranching on the islands, looks and acts just like the weathered Idaho cowboys I know so well. I told him about my discussion with Pam, and how the “every voice in the room” aspect of Country Natural Beef is so intoxicating to us traditional ranch wives. I told him about Becky from Whole Foods, and Aaron from The Wedge, and how we all, ranchers and retailers alike, share the same passion for connecting consumers with ranching families.

Their stories inspire me, humble me, and make winter just a little bit warmer here in Idaho.  

Rancher/Member Maureen takes her turn in the Circle

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving Thanks

We took Kate with us to move the bulls.  Dogs are much better at running through deep snow than one woman in coveralls. Now Mark is sick, and he’s too valuable to the ranch to stay in the house like I did when I was sick, but I did urge him to stay in the pickup and let Kate and I wallow around in the drifts.

We strawed the calves last night. They love a fresh bale of straw. They play in it, eat it, and mostly lie in it. But then things went downhill when the tractor sprayed diesel all over Mark’s down coat. Then just at dark he found a sick calf.

I hate to burn the last of the dry wood, the rest of it is buried under this miserable foot of snow that blind-sided us in November.

It is beautiful, though.

Remember that line from Lonesome Dove when Gus is talking to Lorena, the sweet local whore, who is pining for adventure and real happiness? Gus says life is about enjoying  the simple things, “a glass of buttermilk, a drink of whiskey of an evening.” I am reminded of my college art class when we drew the negative spaces - instead of drawing the object, we drew where the object wasn’t. We all need to do a better job of that, look past the challenges, the disappointments, and see the wonderful margins; think about what we have, not what we lack.

This morning I celebrate the luxury of free speech, the sun streaming in the south windows, a steaming mug of coffee, and being able to breathe again. 

sunrise over Higham's Peak

what's left of summer

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Twenty and Counting

Today I know what Frank Pratt, a colorful cowboy neighbor, meant when he said “a cow-calf man is always in trouble.” We delayed weaning calves for various reasons, mostly because we wanted to do it on our lush stockpiled pastures after the herd returned from the mountains. But just after they arrived, November hit us with a wallop - wind, then snow, then sub-zero temperatures predicted (wind chills to –22). So in the end we weaned the calves in the corrals where we could tend them better. Weaning is a singular stress, but severe weather on top of that can be a serious health concern. 

I woke up last night worried sick about the calves. Have they all found the water tank? Did everyone get something to eat? I was weary from being out in the wind all day and shoveling drifted snow out of the mangers ‘til dark. Still, I couldn’t sleep. At about 1:30 a.m. the wind started howling, rattling the lilac branches against the house. Nursing a sore throat, I finally got up and stoked the fire and fixed me a hot toddy.

This morning Mark told me to stay home, and took our kids, Seth, 19 and home from college for Thanksgiving, and Anna, our willing 17-year-old, to help him tend the calves. I guess they'll be all right.

This blogging thing has me stumped. It has to be the truth to have value. I write to tell the story - my story. But do I share the struggles? Ranching trials are never-ending. Sometimes I tell Mark I want a job at Burger King and an apartment down the street. No cows to feed. No weeds to spray. Not even a lawn to tend.

Oh, and it’s our twentieth wedding anniversary. We were supposed to go to some exotic locale overnight, but Mark says we’ll do it later. Perhaps. We did make it to town to exchange the tire chains (by an alternate route to avoid the worst roads) and bought some pink roses for me, shrimp for supper, and those little frozen éclairs that I love. We’ll celebrate with our kids and go to bed early. 

A few days before winter came
catching "Sly"
After the gather, before the gate is opened - patience

Kate turns them in the gate

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's a Business?

We’ve all heard it, “ranching is a way of life.” It’s usually said (and I always bristle) in comparison to it being a business. Of course it’s a business! I’ve got the spreadsheets, the gross margin analysis, and the line of credit to prove it.

But you could have fooled me the past week. We walked the herd home over four days. It blew, it snowed sideways, they jammed up at times, then trailed pretty. We massaged them through canyons and around traffic, through grain fields, and by yards and flower beds. It’s what we do here in eastern Idaho - those of us that summer in the high country and winter in the valley. Up in the spring and back down in the fall.

When I was a kid we called it, “the cattle drive,” the best three days of the year (not counting Christmas). The family I married into calls it, “going up the Trail.” Or down as it were. Around every bend, at every creek and old homesite is a story.  At Spring Creek the brakes went out on the old black Chevy with Mom at the wheel. Two hereford bulls were fighting at Womach Hill and pushed one over the bluff. Vicki got dumped in the rocks at Miner Creek, and Wally slid his trailer off the road up Rawlins Creek.  We seem to live through it; even the bull got up and walked away.

We got the herd home on Thursday. It might be cause for celebration, but it's snowing hard outside and there’s weaning left to do, and vaccinating the cows, then walking them to cornstalks, and …..

They know the routine

Jesse said it, "Livin' the Dream!"

gathering three that got separated from Mom

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Little Omnivores

The 6th and 7th grade kids at Sage International charter school had lots of questions for us.  “Do you have mule deer or white tail deer?”  “Who will take care of the cows if you die?” “Does it hurt the calves to put a tag in their ear?” “Do you slaughter the cows on the ranch or take them somewhere else to be slaughtered?”  And this one from a petite dark-haired girl, “Isn’t the filet from the back of the cow?” 

We showed them slides of a “year in the life” of a cow on Pratt ranch. From calving, then walking to mountain range, winter feeding, and finally a photo from Portland Oregon, where we helped the staff at Burgerville serve burgers from our co-op, Country Natural Beef.  We talked freely about the cold hard facts of beef production – taking grass that humans can’t harvest and turning it into nutritious delicious beef. And how, along the way, nature recycles plant life by manure on the ground. The children’s ability to grasp the entirety, right down to the human element (what if you die?) took me by surprise.

I applaud the administrator and teachers of the school for exploring this very practical topic - for we all eat. They used a student edition of The Omnivore’s Dilemna, Michael Pollan’s critical look at our food system, as a preliminary to our presentation. They visited farms in the Boise area. And even though the book is one-sided, the kids didn’t seem to be. They are naturally open-minded and inquisitive. Maybe it’s us adults that insist on taking sides and thereby lose our ability to learn from each other. 

Here's a few of the slides we showed the kids:

mother and son
"They look alike!" they said

tools of the trade used throughout time to tend livestock
horses, herding dogs, and kids

Diversity is good, on the range and in the classroom
Just good honest "real" food
Country Natural Beef in Bend, Oregon

Monday, November 8, 2010

November Serenade

I have often loved November.  It's a muted month, kind of like me.  I like wearing neutral colors and blending into the background - tastefully I hope. November is resolute. It's a no-frills, take me for what I am month.

November is also the month we get the cattle ready for winter. We just finished four straight days of working the herd. Day 1 thru 3 was collecting and moving the herd to a new pasture at a lower elevation.  Day 4 was separating the cows from the calves and vaccinating the calves.  Then we put them back with their mothers for a couple of weeks before weaning.

My job on day 4 was loading the calves, five at a time, in the chute to receive their shots.  It's an enjoyable task, but a young man who we've watched grow up the last ten years needed a job, so after awhile I gave him mine.  I gladly got my camera and hiked up the mountain. As high as I went, I could still hear the cows and calves calling to each other from across the corrals.

I hiked up past the old homesteader’s cabin. It is always picturesque, but even more so today, nestled quietly in a grove of bare quaking aspens that mimic the gray of its weathered logs.

As I went further I happened across a surveyor’s marker dated 1910. “Penalty $250 for removal” was plainly stamped on the cap. Who were the men that tromped over these hills a hundred years ago?

Ever the grass enthusiast, I made mental notes about the quantity and quality of forage; ever the naturalist, I greeted the bare chokecherries, the fragrant sage, and the spent blue flax with its wheatberry tops. Finally I laid down near a thicket, put my hat over my eyes, and sunk into the earth.

This land has a history. A history of man, yes, of the surveyors, the homesteaders, the trappers and cowboys. Of grandpa Eldro who purchased the property, of my friend Brenda, who prior to that with her folks took their turn at irrigating and loving this bit of range.  Man’s most recent history includes me and my kids picking wildflowers and herding cows here.

But the real history of this land is of the plants and animals that evolved here.  In a graceful dance, their symbiotic relationships compel me - sagebrush and grouse, willows and beaver, elk and bunch grass.  I respect them and understand my temporary place here.

Enjoying my respite from cattle work, I got a wild hair and tried a self-portrait like my teenage daughter does with her friends, hold the camera out at arms length and click the shutter. 


When I walked back down to the corrals, there was only one more draft of calves to process. We got done before dark, which was better than the day before. In 10 days we’ll return to walk the herd home and leave the field to the mule deer, the bitterbrush  . .  the snowfall.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cowboys on Film

One of our marketing cooperative’s biggest customers, Whole Foods, wanted to show their customers that there are, in fact, real ranching families behind the Country Natural Beef label, not some corporate behemoth. We were asked to host a film crew for a day to video us working cattle and talking about our ranching philosophy. I very hesitatingly said “yes” to the proposal.  What would we have to offer them?  Surely there were more scenic sites within our cooperative, with people more eloquent than us to feature on a video!  But as I am learning to do these past few years, I took a big gulp and said okay.

Kate works for Whole Foods in the Durham, North Carolina area.  She is originally from Mississippi.  They flew her clear to Idaho to video our ranch. The film crew came out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

Mark had to throw the saddle on my horse “Mater” twice to get the shot right.  When “Sly” stopped leading nicely to eat on a willow tree, that shot had to be retaken.  We stopped and started, waiting for the crew to re-group, time and again.  I was quickly learning to appreciate all the angles and vantages that are filmed and spliced together to make a movie.  

We moved the bulls from one pasture to the next, and as they went through the gate, they bucked and played, fought and ran.  As we loped around them, I knew this wasn’t the picture of low-stress cattle herding I had hoped to show on the video.  Finally the cattle relaxed and went about grazing.  As the crew interviewed Mark with the bulls in the background, I kept the animals within the view of the camera, tucking in this side then that.

We visited grandma Bonnie at ranch headquarters.  They interviewed her and even stopped for coffee time around her kitchen table, a ritual here on the Pratt ranch.  We shared barbequed beef sandwiches for lunch and worked ‘til nearly dark.  Kate got to ride Mater, and everyone seemed pleased with the way the footage came together. 

Jesse, the audio portion of the crew, really got interested as he heard us explain the art of conservation ranching.  He admitted to never eating meat, but our story of sustainability melded perfectly with his personal philosophy.  He was totally surprised to find we had so much in common.  He said he was going back home and tell folks to eat our meat!

The next morning Mark said we needed to move some cow/calf pairs to a new field.  “What,” I replied, “with no film crew?”         

Monday, October 25, 2010

The FFA Way

The streets of downtown Indianapolis were clogged with over 50,000 FFA members this past week, and our family was among them.  It’s quite an experience to witness a sea of their trademark blue jackets everywhere you go, in the mall, in every restaurant, around every corner.  And on every kid's back was the name of their state and hometown chapter proudly displayed in big gold letters.  They massed at every crosswalk, then took their turn as the light changed. 

The girls’ uniform consists of a black skirt with black nylons, the same blue jacket the boys wear, a white collared shirt and a feminine royal blue tie.  Our Anna said she felt more respected when she was in her “official dress.”  We went into Nordstroms to get an extra pair of black nylons.  The sales lady had a stash behind the counter for just such emergencies.  What a contrast from the droopy jeans look that most  teenagers wear.

Our son ran for national office, a grueling effort with months of preparation.  When his name wasn’t called, I didn’t feel as disappointed as I expected.  Oh, so that’s how it turned out, was about all I felt.  After the officers were announced and the convention came to a close, he said his goodbyes and came to us from across the emptying stadium, gave us another good long hug, and that was that.  He says he’ll run again next year.  For the past 5 years he’s given his best to the FFA and I expect he’ll give it a couple more.  The organization has helped create the man he is, given him courage, opportunity, the gift of service.


The state and national officers are the stars of the FFA.  I asked Seth once why that was.  I was thinking that they needed to feature the common member more.  What he said rang true.  “You have to remember who they’re inspiring, Mom - a bunch of highschool kids who need heroes.  The officers wear the same jacket they do - they see themselves up there on stage too.”  And he’s right.  The officers are farm kids just like Seth.  They share his heart for the job.  I wish them a great year ahead. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Pasture

It’s always a joy to put cows on fresh pasture, but there’s something almost mystical about fall feed. The days can be hot, but the evenings are crisp and cold.  There's a clarity to the air. We regroup not only the herd, but our lives; take a look back and a look ahead.

Summer is taking her last draw, the cured range grasses are yellow and lush - the water, crystal clear.  It's a bittersweet shift, for winter is staging her descent in the background and we may return sooner than expected if the snows come early.       

We moved cattle to their fall pastures on the last two weekends.  First the cows and calves on an uncomfortably hot day, over the mountain to Meadow Creek country.  We do our best to practice low-stress cattle handling, but we found ourselves reverting to old methods as we pushed them begrudgingly up the steep incline.  They seemed more interested in going back or staying put than any forward movement. At days’ end, we were totally spent, as were our helpmates, the dogs and horses.  Who’s stressed now?     

Then the heifers went to their new digs up along Ross Fork, high above the city of Pocatello.  We processed them first, preg checking and vaccinating.  Then we saddled up to make the so-called “short” drive to the fall pasture.  What we thought would take an hour stretched to three, the heifers tired and hot.  We traveled up, and up some more, and finally dumped them in a thicket at sunset.  As we headed home in the dark, we crested a hill to see the sparkling lights of the city laid out in the distance.  And above that, a bank of clouds and the slim crescent of a new moon.  For a moment the silhouettes of cowboys jogged against the sky.   

This life we have chosen, or rather that chose us, is at once sublime and wearisome.  Just when I think I’ll retire and let Mark hire his help, I get a reawakening . . . while watching cows wrap their tongues around native bunch grasses, or riding home towards a panorama of city lights.

Guess my love/hate relationship with this ranch is on the upside tonight.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Mom’s funeral was one week ago today.  One week, and so much changes and so much stays the same.  She had been fading for a month and a half – decided she was done eating.  And she drank only when we asked her to.  And so we watched her light fade, hard as it was.  She remained calm and seemingly content, a remarkable woman with no regrets.  She said to me just three short days before she died, “I’m okay.” 

And so we stood on the precipice between this world and the “other”; we felt the power that only those that accompany death receive.  I wish I could hold on to that unnamed enlightenment, but it grows weaker by the day.  Still, I fancy that I am changed.  That I have left behind fickle tendencies, matured somehow – more aware of what actually matters in this life. 

I can’t explain it entirely, but when the mystery was in my hand, when my Mom was taking her last breaths, in and out, I felt that all was as it should be.  The glorious unknown was playing its hand - and I was witness.

My daughter emailed me from New York City.  She said simply, “there is beauty in endings.”  And so it is true . . . but why?  Perhaps it is only in the ending that we truly embrace and appreciate what we had – and what we still have.  It is in the margin between life and death when that life becomes most precious, most remarkable. 

I told her that last morning, “You can go, Mom.  We’ll take care of Dad and we’ll be okay.  Everything will be all right.”  Whether she heard me or not, she was gone soon thereafter.  My sister was sitting with her, and I was walking out in the pasture with Dad when she died.  We had walked past the trees Mom planted and stopped briefly to gaze out towards her beloved mountains.  And when we returned to the house she was gone – like the words said about artist Charles M. Russell’s cowboys, “gone far and grazin’.” 

        Mom sharing her love of flowers with
                          my darlings

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Joys of U-Pick

There’s just something about a perfect pumpkin sitting on the front stoop this time of year. I found one I couldn’t resist at a new truck farm nearby.  It’s called “Grove City Gardens,” and it’s located on a country road that winds through flood irrigated pastures that, regrettably, are more and more turning into houses. 

This garden makes good use of a proposed subdivision that is waiting out the recession. The corn and pumpkins, peppers and melons, wind around a paved culdesac. What was intended for housing has made a perfect access and parking for “whole food” customers.  Growing food will always win out in my mind when contemplating what to do with open ground.  I hear that big cities are discovering the same thing. 

I came to get freezing corn – and one dozen just to eat. The proprietor recommended a white/yellow variety - luscious long ears that snapped firmly from the stalk.  I enjoyed gathering up seven dozen and then walked through the rest of his wares.  Cantaloupe and watermelon had been frosted just a little.  Nothing like cantaloupe fresh off the vine.  The cucumbers were past now, but the peppers hung in bright red and green holiday colors.  Several rows of feathery asparagus spoke of next spring’s harvest - and beyond that the raspberry patch.

I marvel at the work put in to the garden.  Drip lines coursed throughout, and they even had light fabric rolled up at the end of some of the rows with brick weights on it, a frost precaution that was used last week.

And then I spied the pumpkins. The frost had dampened the enthusiasm of the vines, so I could see the fruit exposed in their brilliant fall glory – the spicy orange that defines the season.  The little gal that checked me out figured my selection was a 30 pounder, but I’m guessing it was more.

Now as I write, the corn is shucked and the water is on to boil.  Time to bring in the harvest.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

As Summer Ends

It is September - magic month. The irrigated pastures are still a brilliant green, but all is edged in gold. The world rushes to set seed, the annuals finishing their life cycle,  the perennials battening down for winter. Things have slowed down a bit on the ranch. We’re soaking up these last indian summer days, finding odds and ends chores before the varied autumn work that awaits a ranch as the days get shorter.

My husband was working on the garage today, a sure sign of Fall.  We’ve been in our “new” house for ten years now and there are still those projects hanging over us, like finishing the garage walls that we should have let the contractor do back when we built the house. 

I had been visiting my folks who live about 10 miles from here. I took Mom a bouquet of black-eyed susans, maroon chokecherry leaves, orange and rust blanket flowers – and the star of the bouquet, rabbit brush in full golden bloom. She didn’t actually see the bouquet though, as she is bed-bound and not that interested anymore. At 88, she is winding down.  Like a gray-headed dandelion, she waits for the next tender breeze to lift her gently away to parts unknown - to float, her mind clear again. And so I visit often, coming home each time a little subdued. Mark knows only to ask, “how were things today?”

So after I had busied myself for a few minutes, pre-heating the oven for supper and letting the dogs loose for their evening run, I went to him and hugged his warm and familiar chest. 

“Here, listen to this,” he said, pulling his ipod out of his shirt pocket and finding a song.

He tucked one ear phone in my ear and left one in his.  I was expecting something sad and heartfelt, but no, it was upbeat.  The Drifters sang,  “when I’m in your embrace, something happens to me that’s some kind of wonderful.”

We swayed in time with the music and I felt the familiar rush of this man who understands me - who forgives me. And my world was perfect.

rabbit brush frames the chicken coop

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lunch at Ginger's

It’s located on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. No debit or credit cards accepted. The service is a bit slow, but the home cooked rations make you forget lunch hour took a bit longer today.

A flag hangs out front. We are greeted by three reservation dogs – harmless. Ginger, in a colorful mumu, brings us coffee by the thermos full. Wednesday’s soup is ham and beans, heavy on the ham. The dogs lie on the stoop as if waiting for their owners, which we aren’t of course.
We are summering a few cows and calves on the reservation, and when we check on them, we often take a respite at the local café. One day we met our friend Alan there. He was making a run to Pocatello for a hay mower part for our ranch. He is a mechanic extraordinaire and we rely on his skills regularly. He teaches school nearby, but has recently accepted a job in Boise. It is a good move for him and his family, but we will sorely miss him. He has unselfishly donated a million plus hours to our ranch as a mechanic, not to mention castrating a few hundred calves each spring.

On the wall of the café is a poster of “Desiderata.” Remember that one? I think it was set to music and was popular during my high school years. The phrases are familiar but catch me off guard. 

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Maybe it’s the change of seasons, our friend’s leaving, his excitement about the moving preparations - whatever it is, the words blur and I find I cannot read more than a couple of lines at a time before the tears well up.

For the last twenty years or so, Alan has been helping us on the ranch. Teaching school is a stressful occupation and his wife told me once that he needed to be on the ranch to get back on an even keel. He would leave home cranky and return in good spirits. Lately the stress at work had gotten to be too much for him. Under appreciated, his ag program reeling with budget cuts, he has taken a job in a well funded district where he can specialize in teaching mechanics. They have family in Boise and it just makes good sense to move on. 
And so we will wish him well and God speed.  

. . . whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Words to live by. Words to wish a good friend adieu by.