It was sad indeed. But happy, too, as the author described her childhood in the 1950’s on the Brown’s Park Livestock Ranch in the three corners region of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The ranch was remote. Winters were spent in Rock Springs where the kids went to school, summers in glorious freedom on the ranch.
The author speaks of her Mom, a great cook and homemaker, and who could ride horses with the best of the men. She talks of the warmth that her mom “forever lit inside” her daughter - just by loving her and making her know how much she was wanted. So simple and so important. Gifts my parents gave me unequivocally, and that I thought every kid got.
She talks of the animals she grew up with, Phillychich, the pet rooster that attacked Grandma on the way to the outhouse, Comet, the buckskin that liked to rub off his unsuspecting rider on the nearest low-hanging branch, and Hobo, the genteel gelding, that became a favorite mount when Diana returned to the ranch every year to help her brother with the fall roundup.
The story settled in my chest just as it did for my brother Rich. It was close to home, almost too close. Memories of our own Mom and Dad come to mind. Mom wasn’t a horsewoman, but she shared many characteristics with the matriarch in the story - faithful and steadfast, they both turned to preserving history in their later years. Our Dad was softer than the father in the story, but both men were defined by the ranches they operated.
The author’s childhood was more rough and tumble than mine. We’re both the youngest of our siblings, but her brother kept her in trouble, my sisters were easy on me. We kids spent all our time outside, though, as she did. We explored the ranch, rode horses and moved irrigation pipe. We swam in the irrigation ditch every day, running back to the house to drop on the warm sidewalk for a sunbath, our wet suits leaving a bikini smudge on the cement.
Diana and her sister kept riding with their ranching brother even though the girls were women now and had husbands and children in town. These stories are so familiar! Riding in the cold until your bottom half is numb. Rain snaking down the seams of your slicker. Facing your fears on a spirited horse and coming out the others side unscathed. Long, challenging days where you test the limits of personal exhaustion. And the exhilaration of getting to the end of your task for the day, the cattle gathered, sorted, processed, or shipped.
Bob, the brother, who follows their Dad on the property, is the quintessential rancher. On those miserably frigid days on horseback, everyone took a turn in the warm pickup but him. Doing the impossible on a horse, fighting and figuring and putting up with the muck and misery. He reminds me of my brother and Mark, old-fashioned ranchers for sure, always willing to do what the business requires of them.
But ranchers get old and fortunes change. Sometimes the government comes for your land as it did the Allen family. They persevered through this and more, but time kept ticking for the ranch they loved.
Ranches don’t have to last. In fact only 3% make it past the 4th generation. We’re on number four ourselves. Our story is still being written.
|Rich as a young man|