Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 2-6-12 |

Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 2-6-12

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m excited to share the first part of my road to ranching – meeting and marrying my husband. After all, who doesn’t like a good love story filled with excitement, drama and intriguing main characters?

Unfortunately, my story doesn’t have any of that, but it does have two squares (as my sister and brothers “lovingly” call Jeremiah and me), a pickup and a pasture – all the makings of a true country romance.

The story starts in Laramie, Wyo., at the University where I met my husband on dorm move-in day, way back in 2000. (To be honest, I didn’t actually meet Jeremiah then, I just saw him directing traffic at the dorms and found out he was the hall director there.) It wasn’t love at first sight, but I was definitely interested in the cowboy.

I lived on the agriculture floor in the dorms, and since Jeremiah was friends with a couple of guys there, I saw him off and on in the halls. The first time we talked was when he caught me spitting chewing tobacco into a plant in the dorm lobby (just kidding – I’m not that kind of country girl – I was with a group from my floor and it was one of the guys doing the tobacco spitting.) Later that month we officially met at a Fellowship of Christian Cowboys meeting. We didn’t talk much that whole year, and it wasn’t until the next September that we went on our first date.

Only a few weeks into my second year of college, my pickup started leaking antifreeze. Jeremiah was living with two of the guys from my freshman dorm, so I called to see if one of his roommates could stop by and look at my pickup. I was surprised when Jeremiah answered the phone. His roommates were busy that day, so he offered to drive over and look at my pickup instead.

Jeremiah turned out to be pretty handy, and quickly replaced the water pump. He even offered to come and check on it the next morning before he went to class.

True to his word, Jeremiah did stop at the parking lot to look at the pickup early that next morning, and as a bonus, he tucked an invitation for a date under the windshield wiper. Later that morning I found the note, showed it to all my girlfriends, and then drove to class. I didn’t find out until later that Jeremiah actually lost the nerve to ask me out and came back to get the note from my pickup, but by then my pickup was already gone.

Since Jeremiah was bound by his note, we did go on that first date and then dozens after that. By the time summer rolled around, I knew he was “the one.” I kept dropping subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle hints about marriage, but he wouldn’t take the bait. Jeremiah assured me that he didn’t want to be engaged for more than a couple months and that any girl he married would pick out her own ring.

One of our most memorable dates happened that July. He came down to visit me at my parent’s house for a couple of days. The morning he was set to go back to Wyoming, he went out to the pasture to help me catch my horse for a rodeo. When we got close enough to my horse to slip the lead rope on, the horse bolted, leaving me frustrated. Jeremiah thought that was the perfect time to catch me off guard and propose. I was completely shocked and had to ask him about 10 times if he was serious. He had been setting me up for a surprise for months.

We were engaged for the whole last year of college and faced many ups and downs along the way – things like the horrible haircut I got right before I met his whole family for the first time (the stylist cut my bangs way too short) and the dozens of pickup breakdowns (his this time) that made him miss some important events.

We got married at my hometown church just two weeks after we both graduated college. We held our reception in the local museum’s barn.

It’s been almost nine years now since our wedding, and ever since that day in 2003, we have lived happily ever after.

Well … almost happily ever after.

Like most people, our life and marriage hasn’t always given us the nice, easy, stress-free path that we hoped that it would. But, the exciting part is that we committed from the beginning of our marriage that no matter what, we weren’t ever going to let divorce be an option. And that, I think, is the one thing that makes my ordinary romance and marriage a great love story.

You can follow Shelli on her blog at

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