Friday, November 15, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - International Marketing

In case you're keeping track, this is day 15 of my walk down memory lane...half way there!  Thanks for sticking with me!

No more sad market animal stories.  Today I am fast-forwarding to my high school years.  I was either a junior or senior, and my family had left Nebraska and headed to Kansas. We lived in Saint Francis, and our flock had grown significantly to at least 100 head of ewes - Hampshires, Dorsets and a few Southdowns. 

A marketing agent was putting together a flock of young Hampshire ewes to send to South America, and I had two or three that would fit the specs.  They were registered, healthy, the right age, and so my dad and I loaded them up to take them to the drop off point for export.  I thought this was the coolest thing ever.  And it was until later that year.

In June, Dad and I traveled to the Midwest Stud Ram Sale in Sedalia, Mo., and we had the opportunity to meet the Brazilian who had bought our ewes.  We had a little language barrier, but he new us by our first names and that we "were from San Francisco" and yes, that was a good translation, but probably not the San Fran he had in mind.  And, he was having a large time at this sale - and every time he took a drink, he'd say "Salute!" Well, we were pretty sure he wouldn't make an appearance the next morning, due to too many "salutes".  It was a great experience, and I was glad I had grown from the sappy little girl selling her market animals to an international exporter of breeding stock!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - The Load Out

I feel like I'm on a theme this week and yes, this is another story of me selling a market animal.  You might want to grab your tissues for this one.

I was either a sixth or seventh grader, and one of the best times of year for me was October because we loaded up the trailer, packed the suitcase and headed to Rapid City for the Western Junior Livestock Show (WJLS), which was a fall show for just select counties (think the Western Ak-Sar-Ben).  Any way, this particular year, I had a big string - several breeding sheep, a heifer and my prized steer, Snuggles.  I had got Snuggles the winter before and he was the perfect companion for me.  And yes, he was named after the dryer sheet teddy bear.  I tied him up all, worked what hair I could and his target was WJLS.  Except, I didn't quite understand the target would be so abrupt.

The steer show was an evening show, and as soon as we walked out of the ring, there was a semi ready - yep we were expected to lead our steers right out of the ring to "meat" their fate.  WHAT?!?! No one had told me this!  And they wouldn't let parents do it for us.  So I led my beloved Snuggles up that ramp and onto the trailer.  And I stayed there.  If he was going, so was I.  I was a sobbing messing -  maybe beyond sobbing.  Eventually, my dad had to come in the trailer, and take me and the halter off.  According to my dad, I eventually cried myself to sleep about 3 o'clock that next morning. 

Let's fast forward two more days.  We'd shown heifers and ewes and eaten good meals and went swimming at the hotel pool.  But we had one more stop before we left Rapid.  The. Packing. Plant.  WHAT?!?!  No one told me that the steer show was a combined on-hoof and carcass contest.  So there we were looking at Snuggles on the rail.  This was my first experience at a packing plant, and not on the most pleasant of circumstances.  We saw all the steers that had loaded out that night.  And when we got to Snuggles, there was a blue ribbon attached to his carcass.  And that made the trip all ok.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - Saying Good-bye

The more I get into my memory archive, I feel like I should have named this blog, "4-H memories" or "youth memories" but all these stories I'm sharing with you and they all stem from my childhood spent on ranches.  So please keep reading...

The above photo is called "Saying Goodbye" and my mom took it in 1983 at the Dawes County Fair Sale.  I was 10, and selling my first market animal.  This would eventually become a cover photo for a Sheep Magazine, and my mom later framed the picture for me.  It goes with me from house to house and state to state on every move.

Saying "good bye" to my market animals was never an easy task...Even in my last auction at Dawes County, when I was a sophomore in high school, I cried when I sold my steer.  Granted, he was a Hereford, and I raised him.  He was reserve Hereford steer and after the sale, I sat in the back pen of the sale barn and laid on him and cried.  No saying goodbye is never easy.  I fed him animal crackers (ironic?) and we shared a soda.  My dad had to come haul me out of that pen as the semi pulled up to load the market animals that fateful evening.

Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to have 4-H projects that I could sell.  And fortunately for me, I had a mom that captured this awesome memory above. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - July 2

If you ever showed cattle AND grew up in the Nebraska Panhandle, you know what happened every year on July 2.  Yep, it's Crawford Beef Show Day.  Every year on July 2, we would go to the Crawford Beef Show at the fair grounds right across from the sale barn; the only exception might be if July 2 fell on a Sunday, but I can't recall for sure.

I have so many memories from the Crawford Beef Show.  I went before I was old enough to show when my dad would help the older kids.  Oh, how I wanted to show!  Even when we lived in Mullen, I remember heading to Crawford (quite a haul) in the wee hours of July 2.  A bonus then was we would stop at the donut shop in Hyannis and got fresh donuts!

And of course some of my best memories were in the early 80s when I actually got to show there.  Yep, the Crawford Beef Show was a pre-cursor to the fair, about a month out.  You got to "go to town" and see all your friends and show your cattle!  What a deal! 

Perhaps one of my most vivid, although not pleasant, memories was showing Holly there.  Remember Holly, the HORNED Hereford?  Well, I wasn't very big, and she could practically pick me up with her left horn as I led her around that showring.  I think I was permanently bruised on my side that entire summer!

Even all these years later, I always get a little nostalgic when July 2 rolls around.

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - Winter Wonderland

I'd say it was the winter of 1978-79; it was a bad one and I was 5 1/2 years old.  We lived on the Cox Ranch North of Mullen and most of our route was a one-lane gravel path.  I didn't actually remember that until a few years ago when my dad and I went to the Ranch's 101st anniversary, and drove it for the first time.

But back to that winter.  We had FEET of snow, lots and lots of feet of snow.  It was very handy to have the snowmobiles I wrote about in an earlier post to take care of the cattle, feeding etc.  But we were not leaving the Ranch HQ.  One thing I remember and will til the end are helicopters airlifting us hay for the cattle - the would lower these big round bales down to the ground, and my dad ran out to retrieve a few bags of groceries - milk and eggs - if I remember right.  We were pretty self sufficient on the Ranch with beef, canned and frozen goods from the garden and baked goods, but we plumb ran out and we were not getting to town.

Yes, that is a winter I will always remember.  I bet I didn't go to town for a month.  Good thing I wasn't in school yet.  Oh, but when I did get school age -we had a backup plan.  Sherron had a house in town, and a couple winters when my mom worked at the hospital we actually had an apartment too, so she could take call.  Oh the joys of living in the boonies!   But I wouldn't have traded it for anything!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: A Birthday Tradition

Singing the "Birthday Song".  Giving gifts. Eating cake. Opening gifts. Giving birthday spankings.  Most of these are common activities at a kid's or even an adults birthday party.  When we moved to the Nebraska Sandhills, we learned of a new tradition that made me thankful to have a late Spring birthday.

At the Ranch, it was "customary" to get thrown in the tank for one's birthday.  I made it pretty easy, as the littlest person on the ranch to get picked up, swung over someone's shoulder and literally thrown in the middle of a horse tank in the corral - green slimy moss and all!  There was no time to retaliate; no time to kick off your shoes; and basically no where to run too!

I was an easy victim.  But sometimes the bigger boys and men weren't so easy.  It would sometimes take two guys - one to get the arms and one to get the legs - or four men - one on each limb - to get the bigger guys in the tank.  Somehow, it always happened.  What about those who had a winter birthday?  They weren't forgotten - they just got their surprise birthday christening in the summer months when they least expected.

Ranch life was pretty good.  We worked together, played together, and celebrated together.

Friday, November 8, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: Sledding with Ease

When we lived on the Cox Ranch, north of Mullen, we had some horrific winters.  We also had some great hills for sledding right behind our corrals.  Even though we used horses a lot, we were also fortunate that Marvin was a snowmobile dealer.  We had a hay wagon that would attach to the snowmobile, and that was sometimes the only way to feed during the snowy winters.

What do big Nebraska Sandhills and snowmobiles have to do with sledding with ease?  Remember the three older boys, Donnie, Jamie and David?  Well, they loved to drive the snowmobiles, and I loved to sled down those long, big hills.  I had the best red disc sled.  Well, once I got to the bottom of the hills, they would zoom down, pick me up on the snowmobile and drop me at the top of the hill again!  Boy was I spoiled!  But I loved it, and I loved those big hills! 

Several years back, my dad and I went back for the Ranch's 101st anniversary.  I often wondered if those hills were really as big as I remembered.  And they were.  They looked just as big to me in my adult life as they did when I was just a little tike on the ranch.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: In the Sheep Business

I only got to participate in the Hooker County Fair one year, because the winter of 1982-83, we packed up and my dad went back to work at Iodence's.  That year I would be ten, and couldn't wait to get a new heifer to show.  Well, I did, and if you checked out my "wordless Wednesday" post yesterday, you saw Holly, the  one and only horned heifer I showed with horns and me looking classy.

Well, my Grandma Stannard was worried about how competitive the cattle shows would be for me, and like any grandmother, she only wanted the best for her only grandchild.  And we did live in a competitive cattle county, with the Iodences, Sellmans and Dyers, just to name a few.  Grandma decided I would need sheep - the best her money could buy, and we visited a neighbor to buy my first registered Hampshire ewes - Molly and Polly.  (If you are keeping track, I did have three projects that year - Holly, Molly and Polly and it was fun to see my mom try to keep track of the names!)

Well, we picked out Molly and Polly, but the sheep business was entirely new to us - we knew (or my dad I should say) cattle.  So we decided to make it easy, we would show Molly and Polly as market lambs and then buy them back after the sale instead of them going to be lamb chops.

My, how I loved having Molly and Polly!  They were just my size!  And they were my project.  We built them a pen in yard with portable cattle panels and steel posts, and moved the pen around to wherever the weeds grew.  And I was a book worm - I was to books back then what most kids are to computer games and technology now - you couldn't get me to put a book down.  So my parents decided the best way for the lambs to get used to me was for me to set on a five-gallon bucket and READ out loud to my lambs.  And I did this every day!  I'm sure Molly and Polly found the Bobbsey Twins and Mrs. Piggly Wiggly invigorating! But it kept me occupied that summer AND it got them used to me.

Our fair turned out pretty good in the lamb project that year and I had reserve champion market lamb with one of them - don't ask which because I too could get them confused.  We sold the lambs through the sale and then took them home to start our flock.  More about that later. 

My first Dawes County Fair was a success!  Reserve market lamb and grand champion heifer!  And Grandma was worried that the cattle shows would be too competitive! 

Molly and Polly at brought me success during my first year showing lambs!  (check out that hair)

A newspaper clipping about me and my mentor, Sarah , with our champion heifer honors.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: Wordless Wednesday

Guess who found her 4-H Record Books over he weekend? Yep, those pictures are good for a few smiles. Since I'm traveling this week, I'd thought I'd share some pictures instead of words. Please control your laughter!

The first picture is a page of my first record book, complete with my club name, and project leader, whose family I still keep in touch with.

Next, you'll see the fashionista I was at 9, with my heifer Holly.  More about her later this week! 

The next two are pictures I took my first year of photography...yep, I was destined to be in ag communications of some sort.  The dog, Wrex?  I don't remember cocker spaniel's name was Pogo Stick. 

My first camera was a Kodak 110 - and I loved it.  I don't think my mom loved all the film processing, but it definitely fueled my passion for photography!

Stay  tuned tomorrow for more Ranch Life Memories, and if you haven't check out my friend Holly's blog: 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: The Saddle with a Secret

In an blog earlier this month, I mentioned the set up at the Iodence Ranch, describing various out buildings in our yard.  One of those buildings was the tack shed.  At both ranches my dad worked on when I was little, horses were used extensively.   We would move cattle from pasture to pasture on horses, use them for brandings, and doctor from horse back.

Well, I was a horse fanatic!  I couldn’t get enough of them.  My mom had a great horse, Penny, and I loved to ride anything that would let me get on.  I collected Breyer horses and they were my prized possessions.  Well one fall, I’d say I was six, I spent a lot of time in the tack shed “riding” on the saddles that were stored in there.  One of them was just my size, and I “rode” it often.

Fast forward to Christmas morning that same year.  I was always an early riser on Christmas morning, and still am if someone wants to warn Stan. . .I rushed into the living room, which was about 3 steps from my bed.  There, underneath the tree was a saddle!  And it was just my size!  I couldn’t wait to go riding.  But then I figured out I had been riding on it!  If memory serves me right, my parents tried to convince me that Santa sometimes has to “store” Christmas items before Christmas, because that sled gets pretty heavy to pull!

Either way, I knew.  I knew that Santa didn’t exist, except for in our hearts.  He might have visited a few times after that – I can’t really remember and I always found my mom’s hiding place for gifts.  But one tradition our family has kept is hanging stockings and filling them.  This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions, and my parents and I fill each other’s socks with fun small items – stamps, lotions, kitchen utensils, candy, you name it!  So even though I figured out the real Santa many years ago, Santa still is there for those who believe!



Monday, November 4, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: Learning to Count

I mentioned in an earlier post I didn’t go to daycare, and I rarely went to a baby-sitter, with the exception of when I was really little or it was a super busy time on the ranch.  I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with my dad.  And a lot of that time was spent feeding bulls, keeping them healthy and getting them ready for the annual sale down at the sale barn at Charles’ (less than a mile from our house).

When you are a young’un there is NOTHING cooler than being with your dad when he feeds those big ole horned Hereford bulls.  I think if the truth be told, I learned how to count on those bulls.  We bucket fed them in long bunks, and when I say we, I mean Dad.  I’d usually stand in the back of the pick up or sometimes get to ride on my dad’s shoulders and help him count.

I wish I’d had pictures of those bulls – all lined up eating.  But I don’t.  I do have some great some great memories with my dad – calling the bulls in his loud voice and beating on the pickup door to get them to gather up.   Oh, and there were no seat belts or car seats either. 

Sale time was always a fun and exciting time.  And although not a real “Ranch” memory, I was always excited for the Hereford field rep, Art Handle, to stop by.  He always had jokes and made me laugh.  Later, much later in life, I actually got to share a backdrop with Art at the SD Summer Show in Huron.  We got each other’s ears and had a few chuckles about that little girl who grew up to become a breed rep too!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

See no Evil. Hear no Evil. Speak no Evil.

For nine years of my life, my dad was the herdsman at Iodence Herefords in the Nebraska Panhandle. He worked for a great man, Charles. We lived in a house on the main ranch across the drive way from Grandma I. In addition to our houses, the yard included the barm, shop, feed bins, tack shed, and some other out buildings.

One of the best things about ranch life for this little girl was the five older Iodence kids on the ranch, 3 boys and 2 girls that were like older siblings.  During the summer, my dad and the boys, Mark, Brian and Curt, spent a lot of time in the hay field. And I was a ranch kid, who rarely went to a baby sitter.

I can still remember the summer day when the boys were greasing up the rake and tractor out in the yard and got into a grease fight...what I remember most includes 2 things.  The first is that I had the best view of this. You see our bathroom faced the yard.  I could stand in thebathtub, and peek out of the orange gingham curtains to see and hear  every happening in the yard.  The second thing I remember is this was the first time I heard certain four-letter words.  I'm not sure of the details, but I know my dad wasn't impressed when I told him what I heard and saw that day.  But then when you're five, the bathroom window was the window to my world!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My First Fair Experience

Since I mentioned my first 4-H Club yesterday, the Sandhill Hillbillies, I thought it would be fun to reflect back on my first project – a breeding heifer named Herfy.  I was a scrawny little thing and Herfy was just my size.  I rinsed her and brushed her and led her in a zillion circles around the corral out at the Cox Ranch where my dad worked.  And then fair time came.  I was so excited to take her to the Hooker County Fair!

We were in the check-in line, and I was most likely gawking around and not giving 100% of my attention to Herfy.  One of the big kids had a steer that got loose, knocked me down and put a hoof right in the middle of my back!  I had the wind knocked out of me! But I wasn’t seriously hurt!  Well that “big kid” and I have kept crossing paths during our adult lives – and he is John Tucker, who still raises Herefords in Nebraska.  Well, you should have seen his mom rush over to me – I never will forget that – she was so horrified, but I was fine and with a little ice, and some extra TLC from my family and the Tucker family I recovered just fine.

Well, Herfy was just about as tame as tame could be. And she wasn’t too bad either.  Herefords were the breed of choice in the Nebraska Sandhills in the early 1980s, and I was ready for my show ring debut. Herfy did way better than I had imagined – reserve champion heifer at the fair! (read more about this in an earlier blog: 30 years and a little trophy ago) I was so excited.  And you know what? Through every move, and that’s a lot, I carry that little marble-based trophy with me.  Oh I’ve won other honors and even nicer awards, but that was likely the “hook” that got me into the beef industry. 

I might have been trampled in the check-in area, but I didn’t that get me down!

I want to apologize in advance for the lack of pictures the next month.  Writing these blogs made me realize I need to bring some photo albums from my parents' house.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kicking off 30 Days of Ranch Life Memories

Welcome to 30 days of Ranch Life Memories.  Thanks to Holly Spangler for the challenge to blog for 30 days about a rural topic. Holly is compiling a list of five things daily about rural life.  Visit her blog:  My Generation I just hope I can remember 30 stories from my days on Nebraska ranches.

Thanks to my great parents I had a pretty good upbringing. We did move around fairly often, but some of my fondest memories are from the two Hereford ranches my dad worked on as a herdsman back in the 70s and 80s --Iodence Herefords at Hemingford and Cox Ranch north of Mullen.  It seems like for the longest time I thought every kid got to ride in a feed pickup with their dad or be with their dad while making fence or just run around on the gravel road.  Those were a little more carefree times. I didn't know what a latch key kid was; we never lead to lock our doors. I thought it was normal to ride a bus that was a four-wheel drive suburban or a little bit later in life to go to a one-room school.  Yes, life was simple.  And life was good.

Since my blog is a place I share my random thoughts and life experiences I thought it would be good to get some of my childhood  ranch memories on paper, so to speak.

And speaking of putting the pen to the paper, I think I always knew I would be involved in communications and travel.  My first words were bye-bye and at my first 4-H meeting I was  elected reporter of the Sandhills Hillbillies 4-H club.  I remember how excited I was to record the happenings of each monthly meeting and submit my report to the Hooker County Tribune.  Think about most 8-year-olds writing --penmanship was not pretty, but later in the year, I started using my mom's typewriter.  I don't think that was very pretty either.  But  there was nothing  more exciting than to see my byline in the news as reporter.  I'm sure the older kids knew there was monthly work and were glad to see  the little kid get excited about writing.

I'll probably talk about 4-H a lot I  the next month because it seems that youth projects and rural living eventually lead to 4-H projects and ultimately careers. 

Today has been just a preview, and I'm excited to share more ranch life memories with you in the next month.