If Only We Were Born 100 Years Ago

I was going to write something like this eventually, but now I might not because this sums it up so perfectly.

Cowpuncher's Wife

There is a strong longing deep inside a cowboy for how things used to be. The ways of that time seem so simple, not any bit of what they have been made into today. The country is nearly unrecognizable from what it was in that day, it has been filled with fences, telephone poles, wind turbines, oil rigs, paved roads… The list is endless. I look around and try to imagine a day before any of that was scattered across the country. The phrase “If only we were born 100 years ago” never fails to come to mind.

The people of that time were different, a cowboy’s name actually meant something to ’em. The legacy of cowboys is lived through those who have known nothing else. Few understand that a person who owns a horse, or looks the part cannot own the title of a cowboy. It’s a way of…

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Flowers & Seasons

I don’t measure the time in days or weeks, but rather in flowers and the height of crops in fields and temperature at night and the length between sunrise and sunset. I never realized that I did this. It’s another habit that I picked up over the years. Even when I spent less time in the backyard as I grew up, I still saw the progression of the flowers and watched corn fields and wheat grow from little sprouts to tall, waving stalks that reached over my head.

I knew spring had begun when the daffodils started to bloom. They were followed by the tulips that saw the end of the winter frosts. This is when we pruned the flowering fruit trees and started burning brush and branches. The roses sent up new shoots and, before long, it was time for the irises and the lilacs to bloom. The rhubarb needed flowers clipped off then and dad rototilled and we planted the garden. Soon the strawberries bloomed, the raspberries started coming, and we planted petunias and geraniums in the pots on the back patio. I watched out the window as the roses, poppies, and primroses bloomed.

Before long though, the mums were up and blooming in gorgeous autumn colors like red and orange and yellow. Soon after this, the frosts began. I remember many a late night spent frantically covering pumpkin vines and hoping that they would survive the frost. They generally did until the really hard frosts hit. At that point, we would bring all of the squash and pumpkins into the garage in preparation for the coming holidays. Autumn leaves were raked into the garden patch and the yard was readied for winter. The next summer, when the first green spikes of daffodils poked their way up through the snow, we knew that winter was over and the whole cycle was about to start over again.

I knew that flowers obviously bloomed at different times in different places, but I didn’t realize that the hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips would all be blooming at the same time and that the lilacs would bloom in spring. In Idaho, the lilacs don’t grace us with their blossoms until summer. It’s amazing what you pick up on without realizing.
0404 GCSPhotography by Mark A. Philbrick

Homesickness

Tomorrow is the first day of a new semester. Last semester, I was overjoyed to finally be on my own and to pursue my dreams. This semester, my confidence is a little shaken. When I began my first semester at BYU, it was a bit of an experiment. I was barely seventeen, straight out of high school, and completely clueless about college. I knew that this semester could go any way I wanted, and I wanted it to go well. It certainly started off well. I received the highest grade in the class on my first paper, Calculus was a breeze thanks to my amazing high school teacher, and every day was filled with hours upon hours of free time to do as I pleased. Life seemed better than it had ever been. Unfortunately, about halfway through the semester, things took a turn for the worse.

For starters, I had never in my life experienced homesickness. I had spent weeks at various camps and activities, as well as on my aunt’s in-laws’ farm in eastern Washington. I had never had a very good relationship with my family, although we get along better now that I’m at college. So I never missed them much. All of my days spent away from home were packed with things to do and I hardly had a spare moment to myself. I always knew that I would be going home eventually and that each camp would be over in a week or so. Then I moved to college.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Utah. I love the mountains, and I absolutely adore the red rocks in the south. I’ve never cared much for the culture though. I was born in Utah and we moved not too long after my first birthday. Since then, we’ve been down to Utah for a variety of trips to shop, attend summer camps, and visit family. I always knew that I’d be going to BYU someday, but that didn’t change the fact that Utah had always felt more like a vacation destination than a place of permanent residency.

The first bout of homesickness hit in mid-February. Classes were staring to get harder and all of my friends’ does were starting to kids back home. I had a Boer doe, Layla, who was expecting my first ever kid, and I was extremely anxious for her to kid. She had a beautiful doeling, who, despite her parents’ traditional coloring, came out marked as a paint. I was planning on going home in two weeks to see her, but those two weeks felt like months. I finally made it home to see my baby, but I was sad that I had missed her birth. Unlike my other goats, who scream when they see me, this little doe had no clue who I was and wanted nothing to do with me. I was sad, but I knew that she would eventually warm up to me.takuandlayla

I headed back to Provo, and that next week, I was hit with the first of many trials. Every week it felt like there was something new. Somehow, I made it through the month of March, but April only served to bring more hardship, starting with the very first day of the month. It was April Fool’s Day and one of my good friends had just gotten out of the hospital after losing part of his finger in a horse related accident. After everything I had gone through, I desperately hoped he was joking, but every word was the truth. It continued to go downhill from there. The one good things in a sea of bad was my roommates. I had been blessed with an apartment full of five of the most caring, loving girls. In particular, my roommate Katie was a huge source of strength and support. We were both struggling with similar things, and our hardships really brought us together. She may actually be the best thing that I got out of this semester.

Somehow, I made it through finals and the death of my beloved cockatiel, Chipper. After an exhausting night of moving into my new apartment, I set off for Idaho with my cousin. The weekend flew by. It was packed with 4-H meetings, paperwork, and making time to see my friends and family. As I stood outside the barn after my 4-H meeting, I wished that there were a way for me to bottle that feeling, the still and the calm of a warm summer day out in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_20150425_093125976[1]As I pulled out of the gravel patch we called a parking lot, I mulled over the words my 4-H leader had said. “You are always welcome here.” It was meant as a comforting reminder, but it almost felt like the end of an era. I had spent the last eight years here. Every week I looked forward to Saturday when I could escape the monotony of my life and breathe in the deep scent of horses and hay fields. It smelled like freedom. I had shed many drops of blood, sweat, and tears there. It was the place where I had learned some of my most important lessons. It was the place that I formed life long bonds, the place where I felt inescapable loss, and the place where I grew stronger and stronger as I faced fear after fear. This time last year, I was trying to understand the deaths of my 4-H club president and the horse who had taught me to ride. The barn became a painful reminder of what I had lost, but it soon became a beacon of hope as I pushed myself harder than I ever had before. The barn was woven through my past like threads in a tapestry, and there was no way I could ever lose those memories. Yet, somehow, last week felt different.

The whole reason that I’m at college right now is because of a crazy decision I made last year to graduate early. I knew that it would mean giving up some things, but until recently, I didn’t realize just how much I would have to leave behind. Yesterday, a neighbor and good friend of mine asked if I wanted to move my goats to the pasture in her front yard. I realized that I now had access to at least three different pastures. If I had been a junior in high school like I was supposed to, then that offer could have given me the opportunity to expand my herd, add some dairy goats, and eventually, maybe even a horse.

Last summer, when I learned to rope, my teacher offered to let me use one of his horses and go rodeo with his daughter. As I clicked through pictures of their district’s first high school rodeo last night, I realized that could have been me. I could be out there, right now, roping calves and tying goats and running barrels and queening, just like I had always dreamed. I know that graduating early was the right choice for me and every day I move closer to my goal of becoming a vet, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that. Growing up, I was always a serious child. I spent my life working hard and fighting for what I wanted. In my spare time, I took online classes and researched majors and vet schools. People always told me that I needed to spend more time being a kid, but I never listened. Now, I often wish that I had. I thought that I was ready for college, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to leave it all behind.hsrodeo0

I gave up so many opportunities that I may never have again. I know that I made the right choice, but it’s been really hard for me to cut ties and focus solely on school. I thought that I was ready for college, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to leave it all behind. I did really well the first month here. It was after that, when all of the trials hit, that my faith began to falter. At home, I have so many ways to escape. I can lock myself in my room or pace my backyard or drive out to the barn or collapse in a pasture. Here, I don’t have a car or any connections. I’m basically stuck. Where before, I could hug a horse or weed the garden, now I don’t even have the luxury of a quiet walk down the street. I wouldn’t mind the hustle and bustle of the city that much if I had a way to escape, a way to be alone with my thoughts in the still of nature. Though I faced worse trials last year, the sheer inability to go to a safe place made this year so much harder.

Thanks to this past semester at college, I know what homesickness is now. It’s more than just a desire to be home, among familiar faces and surroundings. Homesickness for me is the whisper of the wind as it weaves through fence posts, the whir of a crop duster swooping overhead, the dust billowing up from a tractor plowing a field. Homesickness is wanting to be in a town, to live in a place where there are hayfields and pastures full of cows in the middle of town, a place where people bring horse trailers to Home Depot and Walmart is filled with people wearing camo, a place where you see an old man in a cowboy hat driving a Cadillac, a place where people have gun racks in their pickups and garages full of mounted deer. I miss living somewhere where multiple teachers and students are gone on the first day of hunting season, somewhere people ride dirt bikes and drive RVs to school. I miss being related to just about everyone in the next two towns and boots being worn everywhere with everything.

Homesickness is craving the ability to go for a run and to not see a single person. Jokes about potatoes and trips to the dairy for huckleberry ice cream. Homesickness is missing people who actually know what huckleberries are. Also people who don’t compliment your boots and then exclaim that they want a pair for country dancing. Plus people in your classes who can draw an accurate picture of a cowboy, because they’ve not only met multiple cowboys, but they have a rancher somewhere in their family. People who wear camo to class. People who are beyond proud of their Grand Champion sweatshirts and cutting belt buckles. People who live for the fair, regardless of whether they’ve ever shown an animal. People who spend their weekends four wheeling and shooting. These are my people. I knew the culture of Utah was different, but I didn’t think that a four hour drive would change things to the point where I no longer felt at home.

I could pack up and move to anywhere in Idaho, even Boise, and I would feel more at home than I do here in Provo. I knew Idaho was unique, but I didn’t realize that we lived in our own little world. In all my years of traveling this country, I never realized just how unique our crazy state was. We’re an entire state full of people who have farming and ranching in our blood, regardless of whether or not we currently work in agriculture. I love that, I live for that, and I never ever want to live anywhere else. Unfortunately, there’s this whole school thing.

Screenshot_2015-04-27-17-19-21[1]I’ve learned from last semester and I plan on making myself as busy as possible this semester to keep my mind off of home. It will be hard because at home there is always something that needs to be done, and here I can be done with everything I need to do by three in the afternoon, but somehow I’ll manage. Staying busy should help a lot. But I know that there will always be days when I look out the window at the construction or when I walk through crowds of people on my way to class and I crave the breeze gently rustling through the trees or even the fierce Idaho winds threatening to tear things from their roots. I just need to focus on the end goal. The harder I work now, and the more things I give up, the better my life will be in the future. In the end, all of this sacrifice will be worth it. I just need to hold on to that hope for the future and have faith in Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for me.

The Downfall of the Stock Show Industry

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I must admit that I am somewhat of an oddity. I stand with my feet in two completely different worlds. I am a born and raised city girl who lives for 4-H, horseback riding, and stock shows.

DSCN0736This gives me a unique perspective on the livestock industry. When I first got into horses, one of my 4-H leaders taught me a very important lesson. He taught me to always question everything. There are a million different training methods out there and none of them are necessarily better than any of the others. You can achieve the same result hundreds of different ways. The important thing to ask yourself is, “How does this work and why?” As I crossed over into the world of market and dairy animals, I applied this knowledge to just about every new experience. Why should I use this specific feed? Why do we slick shear market animals and lightly clip breeding stock? What are the pros and cons of bracing? At times, I was frustrated that I did not know as much as the farm kids who had spent their entire lives showing. Other times, I felt beyond blessed that I could view practices with the eyes of an outsider. When you grow up with something, you rarely, if ever question it. This is where I had the advantage. At the beginning of last year, I may not have known how to milk a goat or clip an udder, but I could certainly see how people might be concerned about things such as too many supplements and changing animals’ hair color with dye.

As I continued to immerse myself in this new world, I discovered perhaps the most shocking thing of all. Stock shows may be all about raising the best animals, but the definition of best is not what you think it would be. Since these are food animals, shouldn’t “best” be the animal that can produce high amounts of good quality milk or meat? After all, that is why stock shows were started, so people could choose the best breeding stock to improve their herd and thereby produce more food. Unfortunately, that could not be farther from what goes on today. Instead of continually seeking to improve our food supply, we have built a multi-million show industry on the quality of a steer’s hair. And yet we wonder why people have such low opinions of agriculture.

One look at the #farm365 on twitter will reveal a huge struggle between those who raise our food and those who actually consume it. The gap between the country and the city has grown so big that even a high school student in Rexburg, ID, an area known for its potato production, dairies, and beef ranches, had no idea that milk came from cows. Instead of seeking to educate the public, we dress livestock up like poodles and parade them around a show ring.

Before I continue, I have to make it clear that I’m not condemning livestock shows. I love showing livestock and 4-H was a huge part of my life growing up, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I think that it’s important to make an animal look their best. However, when you’re spending hundreds of dollars on supplements, special feeds, hair products, and treadmills, you’re doing yourself, your animal, and the entire country a disservice. No one is going to spend that much time and money on the lamb raised for your Easter dinner. It’s not practical, and I’m even going to go as far as to say that it’s not ethical.

IMG_20140809_195535240Animals need time to be animals. They should not spend their entire lives being coiffed and coddled in an air conditioned barn.  If your goat never has the opportunity to run through a pasture and roll in the mud simply because eating grass would keep him from being the lean show animal of your dreams, then why are you raising animals? If you really feel the need to deprive your animal of his needs so you can win a purple ribbon, you should find a new hobby. You may argue that your show animals are loved and have the best of the best and I don’t doubt that, but is this really the way animals were meant to live? I don’t think so. The show industry needs to wake up and look around at what they are doing. Yes, that champion steer may sell for thousands of dollars, but would he really even be worth much of anything at the butchers?

Perhaps even more importantly, what are we teaching our children? A quick look online proves that today’s farm kids are very passionate about showing, but is what we are teaching them right? I’ve seen things such as, “It’s ok to dye your steer, because he’s already black. We’re just making him darker.” and “We drench with a cocktail of items from our kitchen cupboard and expensive supplements to add more to their topline and loin.” The sad thing is that these are perfectly acceptable practices in the show world. Thankfully, my county fair had very strict rules and often kicked participants out for questionable behavior. While there were always those cheaters who slipped through the cracks, for the most part, our county was free from potentially unethical actions. But my county is just one of thousands. The surrounding areas do not have the same rules that we do. By placing showmen with dyed calves and expensive clip jobs higher than others who clip and fit their own calves, what are we teaching our 4-Hers? Like many sports, showing is no longer about learning to be a better person and showman. We are raising an entire generation that thinks the most important part of an animal is how many ribbons they win. It does not matter what they do to get there. So what if their heifer’s narrow hips cause her to have trouble calving? If the judge likes that look, then you can bet that more children will start showing animals that are built like that .

When people are more concerned about the quantity and quality of their steer’s hair than its carcass, we need to ask ourselves, is this really the view we want people to have of agriculture and is this really helping our future? Farmers and ranchers have long been known for their work ethic and honesty. As we continue to award ribbons to animals that have no place in an actual meat market, are we really promoting these ideals? The number of people involved in agriculture is dwindling. One of the few things that keeps people in the business is the lifestyle and all it stands for. If we are no longer emphasizing these values when we teach our children, then why would we expect them to continue to build an industry based on hard work and family? When I look at the stock show industry, I no longer wonder why people are leaving farming and ranching and the media has such a terrible view of agriculture.

countykiddairy

Gratitude


Anyone who doesn’t know anything about the cost of college or rising tuition must have been living in a cave for the past fifteen years. Veterinary school in particular is known for its very low income to debt ratio. Much to the annoyance of my dad and his Masters in Finance, this is what I have desired to do for as long as I can remember. It’s probably a good thing I haven’t told him about my plans to own a cattle ranch yet. He’d probably have a heart attack. Anyhow, due to my big, expensive plans, and my financial upbringing, I’ve applied for just about every scholarship possible. Which actually isn’t very many scholarships but still.

dywLast year, I participated in the Distinguished Young Women scholarship program. It was technically a pageant, just with grades factored in. Don’t tell anyone that I said that because they are adamant that it’s not a pageant. I honestly could care less as my family has always done pageants. I have grown up watching my cousins compete in everything from Jr Miss to Miss Idaho. Going back to the original point, the only thing I won was ironically a scholastic scholarship because I had really good grades and test scores. I often joke that school is the only thing I’m good at and this basically proved my point. It was a small scholarship of only $450, but hey, every penny counts.

DSCF3711So naturally, when I wanted to raise a market animal for what was potentially my last year of 4-H, I totally played the scholarship card. After informing my parents that our state fair offered scholarships that I could receive only if I showed at the state fair, and not county like I had always done, they agreed to let me raise a market goat. That slightly crazy decision to let their city turned country child with little goat knowledge raise and show a goat was probably one of the best things they’ve ever done, aside from signing me up for 4-H in the first place of course.

This is the only picture I have of myself bottle feeding. My friend snapped it when he was annoyed with me, so it's pretty blurry. The black and tan thing in the bottom corner is a MIni Sable Saanen.

This is the only picture I have of myself bottle feeding. My friend snapped it when he was annoyed with me, so it’s pretty blurry. The black and tan thing in the bottom corner is a Mini Sable Saanen.

Over the course of the summer, between all of my various escapades, I had the opportunity to meet and work with what I believe to be some of the kindest, smartest, and most selfless individuals on this planet. I made countless new friends and despite being a totally clueless city girl, my goat club took me under their wing and made me feel as comfortable as they possibly could. I hold them in the highest regard and now consider them to be my second family.

This past year, I grew more than any other year of my life. I went from the absolute lowest point I had ever reached to some of the best days of my life I truly believe that I needed to live through every moment of last year, every tear and bloodstained day, to get to where I am today. If last year had never happened, I doubt that I would have been ready for college, especially because I graduated early and started at the young age of 17.

With all that being said, I feel that I really lived life to the fullest last year and got as much as I could out of it. I was happy with the way things went and ready to move on with my life. My mom wasn’t so sure. About a month ago, she reminded me of the scholarship deadline, and even went so far as to mail me a newspaper clipping about it. As I reluctantly flipped through the pages,  I saw something that more closely resembled my college application than the short, simple application I’d been expecting.

DSCF3231My mom kept nagging me, so I took another trip home, got all of the school information filled out, and then asked two people to write me letters of recommendation. One was my old English teacher and Student Government advisor. The other was my beloved goat club leader. Unfortunately, in my rush to finish errands and work with my market goat while I had time, I didn’t fully explain the details of the letter. By the time I finally emailed them out and then called to check up on them, it was about a week before I needed to mail the application in. In my defense, I had asked them early, and I had been extremely busy with midterms.

IMG_20150117_170155018Just a few short days later, my 4-H leader emailed me to tell me that she had been surprised with  last minute trip out of state and barely had time to pack, let alone write a letter. I began to panic. Who else could I call and ask to write me a letter in the next two days. After some anxious phone calls with my parents, I finally decided to call one of my church leaders, who was also my neighbor and technically my distant relative (She married my great-grandma’s cousin. I wasn’t joking when I said we were all related here!). Despite being on vacation in Hawaii, she agreed to write me a letter. Both of my letters of recommendation arrived just in time and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. That next morning, I mailed the application and prayed that it would get there by the deadline.
Despite all of my worry, it must have made it there on time, because my parents received a letter from the fair board yesterday. I was about to take a nap because I had a raging headache, but they wouldn’t stop texting me, so I finally sucked it up and called them. By some miracle, I was chosen as one of the six recipients of the scholarship.

My amazing 4-H Club President and friend of over five years.

My amazing 4-H Club President and friend of over five years.

I felt a mixture of shock and relief, but mainly gratitude. Gratitude that I’d had the wonderful opportunity to be part of this wonderful organization. Gratitude that my parents had decided to take the cheap way out and sign me up for a horseless horse club instead of letting me take lessons. Gratitude that I’d pushed for so long, always continuing to fight my parents instead of quitting and moving on like they’d wanted me to. Gratitude that I’d pushed on and kept going this year, even after my favorite 4-H horse died and my horse club leader committed suicide two weeks later.

Shadow_ One of those horses that you never forget. This girl taught me a lot more than just how to ride.

Shadow- One of those horses that you never forget. This girl taught me a lot more than just how to ride.

Gratitude that I’d pushed myself to try something new, something I knew nothing about, something that scared me to death and caused me sleepless nights of anxiety. Gratitude that I’d had the chance to be a part of something so incredibly wonderful. Gratitude that I’d found my one true passion. Gratitude that all of the blood, sweat, tears, mud, late nights, early mornings, sore muscles, crippling anxiety, and numbing loss had finally paid off. Gratitude that after everything I thought 4-H had to give to me, there was still something more. Gratitude that this marvelous organization had not only helped me find what I wanted to and given me some of the best experiences of my life, but that it was going to continue to fuel that crazy desire to learn. Gratitude that so many leaders took a chance on that scrawny city girl. Gratitude that someday I may be able to give back to the very thing that helped me find myself. I have so many thoughts and emotions tumbling through my head right now, but they can all be summed up in that one word. Gratitude.

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There’s No Place Like Idahome

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“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

My family moved around a lot when I was little. I was born in Utah while my parents attended college. We then moved to Michigan so my dad could go to grad school. He started working there and we kept moving between apartments and houses until he was transferred to Kansas. We didn’t stay long– only two years, but it was the longest I’d lived in one place. I started elementary school there, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was home. After those two years, we moved back to Michigan with every intention of staying there for the rest of our lives. Sure, most of our family was back west, but my dad’s brother and all of his kids lived just a few hours away. They were the only family that I knew well at the time, and I couldn’t imagine life any different. But of course, before long it was time to move again. My dad had taken a new job in Idaho in the same town where he and my mom had grown up.

12401a76cf613b3c8b4d3d60b21c2d18I had only been to Idaho for holidays and my aunt’s wedding. To me, moving to Idaho was as good as leaving the country. We had all assumed that Michigan was where we would stay, but the impending market failure suggested otherwise.

Upon moving to Idaho, I struggled to make friends. We bought my grandparents house, so I at least the house was vaguely familiar. I didn’t know any of my cousins very well and I didn’t know anyone at my school. This was my fourth elementary school in five years. I had been reluctant to leave my friends behind, and each new day in this strange state made me long for home, although I didn’t really know where that was. It certainly wasn’t Michigan. We had moved too much. Kansas had felt like home, but we hadn’t lived there for quite some time and I was starting to forget it.

Luckily, by the end of the school year, a group of girls had taken me in. They were an odd bunch. Malarie was basically your perfect, preppy blonde. Sam was tall, thin, and tan like a model. Shaina was the crazy country tomboy. I completed the peculiar group with my glasses, pasty pale complexion, and scrawny limbs. How we all found each other, I’ll never know.

missyOver the years, we changed quite a bit. Malarie left the group and eventually moved down South a few years back. Sam’s dad was laid off in the recession and they moved down to Utah at the end of sixth grade. We added another girl, a crazy blonde named Brianna. Shaina, Brianna, and I had a bit of a falling out in Jr High, but we made up in high school and I still consider them some of my best friends. They were a vital part of my childhood and made me who I am today. In fact, Shaina and Brianna were probably the main reason I got into horses. I ended up in 4-H, and that started me down the track that I’m on today.
Over the years, I’ve learned just about every nook and cranny of that little town. Actually, I’m not sure little is the best word to describe it. My hometown has a total population of 58,000 and a metro population of 136,108. By other people’s standards, it may not be a big city, but for Idaho, it’s huge! The best description I’ve ever heard is that we’re “a big town with a small town feel.” That’s my hometown to a T.

IMG_20141226_170752582_HDRAs a child, and especially as a rebellious teenager, I wanted nothing more than to leave. I didn’t have any real ties to our town. It was just a roadblock, preventing me from getting to where I wanted to be. Whenever my family went to our cabin North of Boise, I asked why we couldn’t move to that small town or any of the others tucked away in the mountains? My parents replied that they liked our hometown. After all, they had grown up there and a lot of our relatives still lived there. I would roll my eyes and go back to staring out the window and daydreaming of my future outside of our little town.

I still had that attitude when my senior year of high school rolled around. I was graduating after the first trimester and leaving for college. Freedom was so close I could almost taste it. Before I knew it, I was done with high school and on my way to college. The first few weeks, I didn’t even think of Idaho. I was finally where I wanted to be. Then I began to notice things. You would think that at a large college, there would be more eligible guys. Maybe for most people, but not for someone who only goes for country boys. The lack of boots, belt buckles, wranglers, and hats began to get to me after a while. There was also hardly any camo. I hadn’t even noticed when people wore it back home. It was just part of daily life.

idahocrainI shrugged it off and said that it must be the fact that we were in a bigger city. But it only got worse. During class introductions we were supposed to something interesting about ourselves. I decided to just say that I showed livestock. Nice and simple, right? Wrong. I got everything from blank stares, confused looks, and some chuckles until people realized I was serious. I decided that might be a bit much for all of these city people. Although, to be fair, I was technically a city girl as well. So I switched to saying I rode horses. I still got some fairly interesting looks. I finally concluded that my mixed city/country life was apparently a concept they had never been introduced to .

As the weeks wore on, I became continually bored with the people surrounding me. Once, when we were giving examples of a concept, I used a story of an incident that occurred a dairy show. This led to more blank stares and people asking “Where are you from again?” Then one day, in one of my American history labs, the TA had us draw our idea of a cowboy on the board. I sat there laughing hysterically as others drew images of heavily muscled guys with huge belt buckles, tons of guns, holding huge whips, wearing massive spurs, and holding their ropes in the stereotypical movie/trick roping style. As I laughed, I commented that “real cowboys” don’t look like that. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends back home.

DSCF3329Later, I called one of my best friends, who is also a farrier, horse trainer, and former ranch hand. He listened to my story and chuckled a bit before becoming more serious. He remarked that cowboying really is a dying art and we sat there for a moment in silence. The cowboy is such a huge part of our history and he is still a vital part of the beef industry today. Yet in most people’s minds he has been reduced to nothing more than an cartoon. As my writing teacher had us begin our first papers, I felt inspired to write mine on The Elusive American Cowboy. The more I researched, the more concerned I became. Cowboys definitely don’t make up the bulk of my hometown, but it’s common to see an old rancher driving in a cowboy hat or to run into a whole family of ranchers in Chik-Fil-A, like I did last week. I’ve yet to see so much as an actual pair of muddy boots off campus here. Who would have thought that living four hours away would completely change the dynamic of a town?

I checked up on my friends on Twitter the other day and was surprised to see a bunch of tweets about how terrible Idaho is and how they can’t wait to leave. I read them with a sad smile. It’s funny how we often have to lose things before we really appreciate them. The first time I went home from college, I had been there for nearly two weeks. It was a three day weekend and I thought that I might as well go home and see my friends. I hadn’t been away from home for long, so it didn’t seem all that special. The next time I went home was roughly six weeks later.

dont-laugh-at-natives-400x285Somewhere, somehow, in those six weeks I realized something. I had spent all of these years chasing a dream, constantly looking forward to the next big thing. I hadn’t ever really taken the time to just slow down and live in the moment. As we pulled off the highway onto the main road and passed through the car dealerships that line the exit, I was hit with this incredible wave of emotion. While this little town is far from perfect and not at all where I want to end up, for the first time in a long time, I really, truly felt like I was coming home.

26Every town has its flaws. Mine has tons. But if you always focus on the little reasons why you don’t like something, before long you’ll forget all of the big reasons why you love it. I did that with my hometown, and I think a lot of other people do that as well. In the end, even if you never grow to like it, your hometown was a huge part of your life and it had a lot of influence over who you are today. You have to at least give it credit for that.

As for me, well, I’m definitely not moving back to hometown any time soon, but I have been blessed with a greater appreciation for the little things. That’s why I’m trying really hard to love this new town and my time at college, even if it means dealing with crazy people from big cities. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than to say that I may have had a hand in getting that steak and potatoes to your plate. If not me, then probably someone I know. People often assume that Idaho is so small that everyone knows everyone. At first, this seems totally illogical, but if living in Idaho has taught me anything, I’m probably related to the one Idahoan you know. If not, then I’m sure one of my friends is. And if they’re an Idaho transplant and unrelated to everyone, well, I promise you that we know each other somehow. That’s my favorite thing about Idaho. We may be very untrusting of strangers  (mainly liberal Californians), and we’re gun toting, conservative, redneck, and very, very Mormon, but we’re all interconnected in the web of mountains, sagebrush, and lava rock that makes up this beautiful state. Everything may be a bit different in Idaho, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer trip to the local dairy with a few of my siblings and younger cousins.

Summer trip to the local dairy with a few of my siblings and younger cousins.

Idaho Winters Just Aren’t What They Used to Be

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I have mixed feelings on Global Warming. Yes, we aren’t taking care of our  planet the way we should. Yes, CO2 is building up in the atmosphere, but I’m tired of hearing about climate change and how we need to live greener and drive less. We all know this. We’ve been hearing it for years. I find it quite interesting that one of the main things used to show the effects of Global Warming is the polar bears. Don’t get me wrong– I love polar bears and I know that they’re a vital part of the ecosystem. I simply want to focus on something more relevant to us.
weatherWhenever I tell people I’m from Idaho, the first thing that comes up is obviously the potatoes. The second thing is typically the weather. Idaho is known for its extreme weather that can jump from below freezing to 70 degrees over just a few hours. The winters are typically long and harsh. Or at least they were. My grandma tells stories of how it was quite common to get snowed in during a blizzard. I haven’t seen anything even remotely resembling a blizzard since I was about nine. After that, we had a few decent winters, although many people still commented on how much milder the winters were. These past few years, we’ve had one or two bouts of snow. We kept passing it off as just Idaho’s tendency to change things up. After four or five years of these winters, people began to wonder what was going on. It’s hardly snowed more than a few inches this year. We almost didn’t have snow for Christmas, The snow stays for a week or so before melting back into the brown grass. The consecutive years of little snow are beginning to take their toll. Even so, I was surprised when I came across this news article: http://www.localnews8.com/news/water-in-idaho-in-short-supply/32234496
cropped-img_20150117_170205351_hdr.jpgHay prices skyrocketed this year due to a freak rainstorm that ruined most of the cut hay. Even with increased cattle prices, we can’t afford to have any more blows to our hay supply, let alone our other crops. Despite several years of drought, I can’t remember a time when Idaho water had to be rationed. Knowing Idaho, it’s definitely possible that we’ll be blessed with a snow storm in the middle of June, but by that point in time, too much moisture could ruin the crops, just like with last year’s hay supply.

IMG_20141226_171314741Farmers have always had to deal with changes in weather, but these warmer winters don’t seem to be going away. Over time, the earth has definitely been warming. Instead of hoping for better snowpack next year, we need to start addressing the problem. That means living greener, wasting less, and as much as I hate to say it, maybe it’s time to retire that big diesel truck in favor of something more environmentally friendly (Although not the dreaded Prius). I know that farmers are pretty much already the definition of frugal, and most of the problem is coming from people living in big cities, but we can’t change what others do. only ourselves. So unless you want to start paying a lot more for your potatoes in the near future, take the time to analyze your lifestyle and see how you could live a little greener and be a little better. And maybe soon we’ll be back to the Idaho I know and love– the Idaho with frigid cold winters and several feet of snow.