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Life on a Ranch

Every time I go through a Dairy Queen, I think of my friend and 4-H leader, Kathy. When I was a teenager, she took me on a day trip to pick up a puppy from our friend Billy Jo Nelson who lived in Hereford, Oregon. We stopped in Ontario at the Dairy Queen for a Blizzard on the way there and then again on the way back. Two blizzards in one day is worth remembering! (Her new puppy also got carsick and threw up most of the drive home. I try not to remember that part!) When I’m procrastinating, I think of another Kathy- my ski coach Kathy- who once told me she liked to take a bath when she was procrastinating. I may or may not have taken that as advice and used it readily throughout my life. I attended Rodeo Bible Camp every one of my teenage years, but at one particular camp in Council, Idaho, Marty Campbell told me to keep the dip in my loop. I think of that every time I throw a flat shot in the branding pen and watch my rope skim over the top of a calf’s head. And if my loop gets kind of narrow, I think about Jeb telling a kid at another Rodeo Bible Camp to use their thumb to pull open and round out their loop. It's funny how certain little things spark memories of someone. You just never really know what might stick. When I drive into a grocery store parking lot, I don't look for the closest spot to the store, I look for an open spot near a cart rack and I park next to it. Mary Cunningham told me that trick years ago and if Mary gives me advice, I tend to do what she says. In fact, she’s given me all kinds of words of wisdom over the years, including tricks for living a long way from town. She taught me simple things like buying cabbage- it keeps for bring not only food, but cake to the ends of the earth for a party, and she and Chris even managed to bring ice cream! The day before the birthday branding, we attended graduation at our Cove High School. Ever since Covid, graduation has taken place outside. On the rainy morning of graduation, I kept waiting for a message from the school saying the ceremony would be in the gym, but that message never came. As it turned out, we had a rainy celebration on the football field! We quickly dried out when the sun came out, then enjoyed a bit of celebrating with friends afterwards. We hurried home to bring Cooper’s pig to the stockshow grounds for show practice and a weight check. Last year his pig was on the small side and this year, the large side. Turns out, the diet and exercise plan Cooper put his pig on a few weeks ago worked well and is right on track for the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show. They’ll all officially weigh in on Wednesday, which is also Cooper’s 12th birthday. Speaking of birthdays and brandings, one year we branded on his birthday. Jessie offered to make him a cake and he requested one with a dragon on it. She’s a good-sport because she actually drew an impressive dragon (out of icing) on the top of a homemade cake. And she was an extra-goodsport when his little-toddler-self cried when he saw it because it wasn’t breathing fire?! Someone (who wasn’t his embarrassed mom!) was creative and stuck a candle in the dragon’s mouth to make it breath fire that he could blow out! Anyway, back to the pig weigh in. Once we were done and we dropped the pig back at home, Buck and I ran into town to get prepped for the birthday party. First, we found a couple of pre-made and mostly decorated cakes because I was fresh out of energy or time to make them. (And I’m not as artistic as Jessie, I can’t sketch dragons or anything else, really.) With cakes in our cart, we made our way to the party aisle at Walmart, somewhere we’ve never spent a lot of time. We had all kinds of fun stocking up on a birthday banner, birthday sashes and crowns, party hats and kazoos and even confetti launchers. We had even more fun the next day when we busted them all out on Rye Ridge (north of Enterprise, past Flora, down a long dirt road), in the middle of nowhere, for a birthday party. The best part is that everyone jumped right in and wore the hats and the birthday girls both proudly wore their crowns and sashes all day. We had fun working hard together and celebrated at the end with cake and ice cream. When I was younger, I didn’t anticipate getting sentimental as I age, but I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional when we drove away that day. Not only was it a great day, but Buck was working for Chris and Mary when we met and the very first riding “date” a really long time in the fridge and you can make several kinds of salad out of it. When the kids were little, Mary encouraged me to saddle a horse for each of them; having taught her own three kids to ride, she knew the struggle of getting everybody horseback and making it all happen. She assured me by the time they were four, I could count on them being able to sit safely on their own and be capable of long days. Turns out, she was right. Mary has a way of giving advice just by mentioning it- I don’t think she’s ever told me what to do, she just mentions what she thinks or shares something that’s worked for her and then lets her words settle. Often times, it isn’t even what she says, it’s just what she does that’s worth paying attention to and putting into practice. Last weekend, we were going to be headed out to Rye Ridge to brand, and it happened to be the day before Jessie’s birthday. Since Jessie is Mary’s daughter-in-law, I gave her a heads up that I thought we should throw a birthday party branding. As it turned out, it was also Jessie’s niece and Mary’s grandaughter Remi’s 10th birthday weekend and we decided to make it a double. Having learned from Mary, I knew we could bring not only food, but cake to the ends of the earth for a party, and she and Chris even managed to bring ice cream! The day before the birthday branding, we attended graduation at our Cove High School. Ever since Covid, graduation has taken place outside. On the rainy morning of graduation, I kept waiting for a message from the school saying the ceremony would be in the gym, but that message never came. As it turned out, we had a rainy celebration on the football field! We quickly dried out when the sun came out, then enjoyed a bit of celebrating with friends afterwards. We hurried home to bring Cooper’s pig to the stockshow grounds for show practice and a weight check. Last year his pig was on the small side and this year, the large side. Turns out, the diet and exercise plan Cooper put his pig on a few weeks ago worked well and is right on track for the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show. They’ll all officially weigh in on Wednesday, which is also Cooper’s 12th birthday. Speaking of birthdays and brandings, one year we branded on his birthday. Jessie offered to make him a cake and he requested one with a dragon on it. She’s a good-sport because she actually drew an impressive dragon (out of icing) on the top of a homemade cake. And she was an extra-goodsport when his little-toddler-self cried when he saw it because it wasn’t breathing fire?! Someone (who wasn’t his embarrassed mom!) was creative and stuck a candle in the dragon’s mouth to make it breath fire that he could blow out! Anyway, back to the pig weigh in. Once we were done and we dropped the pig back at home, Buck and I ran into town to get prepped for the birthday party. First, we found a couple of pre-made and mostly decorated cakes because I was fresh out of energy or time to make them. (And I’m not as artistic as Jessie, I can’t sketch dragons or anything else, really.) With cakes in our cart, we made our way to the party aisle at Walmart, somewhere we’ve never spent a lot of time. We had all kinds of fun stocking up on a birthday banner, birthday sashes and crowns, party hats and kazoos and even confetti launchers. We had even more fun the next day when we busted them all out on Rye Ridge (north of Enterprise, past Flora, down a long dirt road), in the middle of nowhere, for a birthday party. The best part is that everyone jumped right in and wore the hats and the birthday girls both proudly wore their crowns and sashes all day. We had fun working hard together and celebrated at the end with cake and ice cream. When I was younger, I didn’t anticipate getting sentimental as I age, but I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional when we drove away that day. Not only was it a great day, but Buck was working for Chris and Mary when we met and the very first riding “date” we ever went on was out Rye Ridge. That was over twenty years ago and a lot has happened since then. As of this Saturday, that includes three cow-kid graduations: Codi and Cade Cunnigham and Lily Royes all graduated from Enterprise High School. There are a lot of memories tucked into the last twenty years and while I’m confident the future is bright and there are more fun times to be had, I’m thankful for the kids we’ve gotten to watch grow up, for Chris and Mary’s steady presence along the way, and for all the roping and long days together. And now, we’ll jump into the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show. In true stockshow fashion, the week appears to be starting with a great rain. Then if the forecast is correct, we’ll end the week with sunshine right out here in Union County! ~Chelsea

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