Amanda Radke: A Cowgirl’s Perspective 7-11-11
For a lot of folks, the theme of summer is family, grilling, bonfires and lazy days on the lake. For farmers and ranchers, it means a little bit more and a lot of hard work, too. There’s no doubt about it – agriculture is at its busiest in the summer months. What with baling hay, fixing fence, spraying weeds, feeding creep and keeping up with the yard work and family activities, it’s a surprise we have a minute to spare to enjoy the sunshine and summertime.
The work starts early in the day and supper is often enjoyed when the crickets start chirping and the fireflies start dancing in the evenings. Yet, that’s the ranching way of life, and for most of us, we wouldn’t have it any other way. They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life; and I think that holds true for many of us in production agriculture. One of my favorite quotes reads something like this:
“Happiness is where we find it, but rarely where we seek it.”
If you would have asked me at 18 what I would be doing five years from now, I wouldn’t have told you production agriculture. Nope, I had bigger plans. I never dreamed I would be back home on the ranch, married to a farm boy and raising cattle with my folks. I didn’t anticipate falling in love with a cowboy, and I sure fought my love of agriculture pretty hard, too. I always pictured myself leaving the cattle behind and pursuing a big city career. I was way too big for my small town. I wanted skyscrapers, sushi, stilettos and subways. I wanted a glamorous life and perhaps a shot at a political career. And, I wasn’t going to find that at the end of the dirt road, scooping manure and grinding feed.
Yet, here I am, living in the only house on our section, and I couldn’t imagine life any differently. My quiet life on the ranch isn’t always what I dreamed and hoped for, but it’s the path God chose for me, and I’m going to live this life that’s been given to me the best way I know how.
Of course, life isn’t always easy in cattle production. The weather, high input costs, unexpected expenses, long hours and little pay make the beef business a tough one. These challenges can be tough on morale, on friendships, on family relationships and on a marriage. There’s been times when the mud has been too deep, the weather too cold, the hours too long, and the tempers too short, and it makes you wonder why you even do it at all.
But, in my few years back on the ranch, I’ve learned to find happiness in the little things that matter. To me, happiness is enjoying meals-on-wheels in the hay field with the family because the sun is shining and the baler has to keep rolling. Happiness is holding hands with my husband, Tyler, as we walk down the driveway to the house after a long day of working cattle. Happiness is grilling steak on the back deck and watching the sun set on our pasture as the cattle graze. Happiness is selling our bulls and hearing back from a customer about how excited he is about his new calves. Happiness is watching my little sisters grow and learn in agriculture. To me, happiness is where you find it.
So, no matter where you live, what you do, or how long and tough the day is, remember that there is nothing so noble as working hard at doing what you love and finding happiness in your chosen path. And, if you’re like me, and you’re spending more hours in a hayfield than laying by a pool, just smile and know you can be happy no matter where you are. To me, agriculture is my happy place. Is it yours?