Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thoreau's Dilemna

On a sticky note on my computer is a quote from the writer Jessamyn West, 1902-1984, best known as the author of The Friendly Persuasion. The quote goes like this: “talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary.”

So what would I say if I had the guts to admit it? Probably a lot, but in regards to the ranch, it would be that even though we love walking the same land our great-grandparents did, the weight of tradition and the burden of ownership are very real to us. Our view is clouded by all that came before. To NOT ranch is hardly a possibility.  

Henry David Thoreau in his often quoted Walden put it this way: “I see young men . . . whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.”

Ouch. That’s a bit harsh. But I do wonder if we would have chosen this lifestyle if we hadn’t been born into it. What would we have pursued if we had been raised by parents that worked in town? We’ll never know. What we do know is that a few hundred cows depend on us every single day of the year. In the spring the land dries and looks to us for irrigation water. And when you put water on ground, harvest follows.

When Mark was a young man looking towards his future, Grandma Bonnie told him to go to college. Referring to his Dad and Grandpa, Bonnie told him, “this ranch has taken too much out of two men already." Mark did go on to university and taught school for sixteen years, but the ranch was here every night after school and on the weekends until it finally pulled him back to its beautiful and relentless cycle of obligations. 

So that’s my gutsy blog. And to put a bit of poetry back in, here’s a photo of our two oldest kids, home for a few days and riding together again. As I post this, they're both visiting far away places. Seth is in Alaska and Callie is in Germany. But wherever they go they take their roots with them. They’re strong because of this ranch. They know who they are because of this ranch. They probably got their guts here too.


  1. Your words sure hit home with me. Part of me wants to be back on the ranch, part of me thankful I'm not. How different my family's life would have been if the former path had been taken.

  2. Kent, I didn't think of your family when I wrote this, but of course it applies to you guys too. Life is full of trade-offs.