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Life on a Ranch

This is a first for 2024… I’m currently writing in the afternoon and drinking iced coffee while I take a break from working outside in the heat. 80 degrees feels kinda warm because a couple days ago we were still feeling kinda cold! It’s Mother’s Day weekend and it’s been an all-handson-deck yard work kind of day. It’s become a tradition that everyone helps me with yard work on Mother’s Day. Unless, of course, we’re branding. In years past, when that happened, everyone has assured me we’ll have a yardwork day another time, but I don’t recall that ever coming to fruition. Today we’ve been working: killing weeds, mowing grass, planting flowers, putting gravel down and piling branches. I guess, if we’re being technical, today has included “almost all” hands on deck. Lucy had a second knee surgery on Thursday, so I let her out of her yard duties. This surgery was orthoscopic; the surgeon cleaned up scar tissue that was causing her a lot of pain, pinching under her knee cap every time she bent her knee. He also shaved out a section of meniscus cartilage. Her knee looks big and swollen, but hasn’t been too painful. Her recovery this time is much quicker than the extensive surgery she had in September. And that’s really good because she is very antsy to get back to staying busy! We’re glad she’s feeling good and wanting to get back to normal, but I’m also trying to keep her slowed down a little to make sure she has time to rest, elevate, and get the swelling out of her knee. Prior to surgery, I think Lucy and I both felt like we were in a race against the clock. The deadline of May 9th was very motivational. For me, I was a little anxious knowing she was having another surgery. We didn’t know exactly what the surgery would entail (or the subsequent recovery), and that made me extra unsettled. When I get anxious, I tend to work as a distraction. So that’s exactly what I did, and by some kind of miracle, I managed to get completely caught up at work- not a single chart was left uncharted. And the real kicker- back at home, I also got caught up on laundry! The only remaining laundry is a basket full of socks that need to be matched. And come to think of it, if Lucy is exempt from yard work, she definitely doesn’t need to be exempt from sock matching! If I was busy working before her surgery, Lucy was busy doing all the things she knew she might not be able to do for a while afterwards, namely ride. She saddled up not only a horse for herself (as often as she possibly could), but when it worked out, she saddled one for me as well. And on the afternoon before surgery, she helped move cows one more time. For those kinds of days, Lucy has taken over our mare, Zinnia. This is what tends to happen in our familyBuck rides a horse for a few years and puts in hard miles and time in the branding pen, then one of us rides the horse and decides it’s really fun to enjoy the fruits of his labor. That’s exactly what’s happened with Lucy. Personally, I would have gladly taken over Zinnia, but the only time she’s ever bucked was with me, and I can’t seem to forget how it felt to get thrown off of her. (She’s huge, just in case that adds some extra umph to my story.) I’ve definitely tried to get over it- I rode her just a couple weeks ago. And I’m humbled to write this, but I started shaking when I got on. I rode her and it went fine, but I never stopped feeling shaky. I’ve been bucked off other horses before, but I think the difference is that I’ve always known why the horse bucked. One time a gelding named Oliver stepped over my slack when I was healing. He bucked when the full weight of a calf hit the end of the rope, pulling the rope up tight around his front leg. His response made a lot of sense to me and even though it was painful and humbling, I took the blame. (And I did get some pretty cool rowel marks on my saddle from my spurs). Ever since, I’ve been really careful to never let that situation happen again- I learned the hard way to keep an eye on my slack! Contrary to the Oliver situation, I don’t know why Zinnia bucked. It was the end of the day; she was really hot and walking painfully slow back to the trailer. She was walking so slow I was bumping her with my legs every few steps to encourage her to pick up her pace. I turned in my saddle to look at the hill behind us, just to make sure we didn’t miss any cows. When I turned forward, I’m not sure if I scared her or she got stung by a bee or she got a wild hair, but she erupted. She’s never done anything like that since, but my nervous system has never forgotten. Anyway, Buck watched Lucy ride after some cows last week and commented on how pleased he is with Zinnia. And while he’s proud of the team they make, he also said he “can’t believe he’s lost his horse” and how much he “likes riding a finished horse”. Katelyn was quick to remind him not to worry because her colt, Guapo, is ready to get “shwetty” on some dad rides! When Katelyn was little, an annoyed ranch-horse crow hopped just enough to pitch her out of the saddle so he could go munch on some green grass he'd had his eye on. Buck promptly rode that decision out of him, and while Katelyn watched him lope circle after circle, she commented that he’d probably not do that again because, if he did, Dad would make him extra shwetty! And to switch gears, that’s the kind of experience I thought about as Katelyn practiced and practiced the FFA creed before reciting it at the recent FFA banquet. She and I share a similar sense of humor and this line, “for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny” made us laugh as we reminisced about ranch-life. For Katelyn, the current frustration includes going around fence- something she’s gotten to do a lot more of the last few weeks while Lucy has been less mobile. Katelyn says she "doesn’t like fencing", but somehow, she still manages to come home with a smile on her face! And that’s why we decided that creed line could be summed up like this, “Agricultural life: even when I don’t like it, somehow I still do”. And with that, I can see that my family work crew has gotten distracted from their yard duties- Buck and Cooper are roping the dummy, Katelyn is reading a book in the shade and Lucy... is limping out the door… with a fishing pole? Clearly, I better regain some control on this beautiful day in Union County! -Chelsea

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