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Spring Celebrations Gathering Cattle and Graduations

Updated: Jun 20

Isn’t it funny when idioms come to mind when you’re thinking about something.  As I’m writing this “it’s a wrap” came to mind to sum up this past month.  Most people are spring cleaning, planting flowers and enjoying all those other refreshing spring activities. In the spring we gather cattle and ween calves, spring clean and this year prepared for many celebrations. 

May was a busy month for us at the ranch. Gathering is emotional and stressful for both the rancher and the cattle. The rancher worries about gathering all sections of the ranch ensuring all cows, calves, bulls and steers are collected.  He worries will he have enough calves to sell to profit enough to pay the ranch bills.  The cattle stress over having the cowboys move them to other locations on the ranch, separating the cows from the calves is emotional for both, then we vaccinate the calves to protect against cattle diseases such as blackleg, castrate the little bulls and brand all the calves.  Afterwards we keep the calves in their own pasture feeding them bales of hay and plenty of water. The first few days after this is done the calves are bawling for the cows.  The cow’s hangout for days trapsing through the yard, mooing throughout the day and night, breaking our solar yard lights or whatever else is in their pathway and pooping on everything.  It’s not a good idea to wear flipflops during this time. I’ll spare you the details of what happens when you do. The mama cows have worn out their welcome with me, but I still empathize with them. 

After our cattle gathering was over our friends the ranch hands we hire all go home to start their own cattle gathering and finish up their spring work.  Once they were gone I had to kick it into high gear this year here at the ranch.  We had three wonderful kiddos that were graduating high school and we had family and friends coming to town. Coy my son, Lainey and Sage Shawn’s daughters all graduated.  The week before graduation we picked up my oldest son Matt and my grandson little D at the airport. It was a breath of fresh air to have that little guy at the ranch. He loved all the animal’s and he learned what a cow says “moo”.  They both went back to Utah soon after Coy’s graduation. I wish I could keep little D around here and make a little ranch hand out of him, maybe someday.  My oldest daughter Kaitlyn and her boyfriend Mayson came from Queen Creek to celebrate with us as well. It was so nice having all the kids together.  

During graduation week we planned a party for Coy and since graduation was mid-week we planned the party at my brother's house in town for people that wouldn’t want to drive out to the ranch, which is about forty-five miles round trip. That doesn’t seem like a long drive, but I’ll tell you when I was making that drive back and forth to shuttle kids to school and work, I dreaded it.  I am a home body; I can remember those days I just wanted to stay home and work on projects or clean.  When I have to go to town several times a week I literally have a snack basket in the backseat of my car and contemplate packing a pillow.  You never know when you’ll be stuck someplace and need a nap.  I never realized how convenient it is living in town until I moved out to the ranch.

I’m so proud of Coy. He enrolled in the Kingman Junior Fire Academy at the beginning of his senior year, when he graduated from the academy during his last week of school he received certificates to endorse him to be qualified to be a fire fighter. 

He’ll be attending Mohave Community College this fall to obtain his emergency medical technician certificate and hopefully be able to secure a position at our local fire department. During his academy he would tell me stories of having to be in his fire-resistant clothing and sit in burning buildings as part of the training.  Yikes that was scary to learn my seventeen-year-old son was hanging out in burning buildings and of course I had to ask “Is that normal to have to do that?” his reply was yes.  I didn’t believe him, so I called my oldest son who is a fire fighter and asked him everything about fire academy training. I still didn’t feel completely comfortable to hear the details and I guess when my oldest son went through the academy he didn’t discuss details so I had no idea.  Just after Coy’s graduation when we left for Georgia I asked him to come stay at the house and take care of the animals. He accepted the job as he didn’t have much going on with his part-time job guiding hunts for a local ranch. I was a little reluctant to ask Coy to take care of the ranch as Coy doesn’t usually help with the animals. He’s a city kinda guy. So, because of my OCD animal caretaking and feeding processes I had a two page front and back how to take care of the animals manual written for him before I left. He did a pretty good job of being a ranch caretaker for a couple days.  Although the ranch really isn’t his idea of a place to hang his hat.  Hopefully he’ll still come visit me at the ranch from time to time now that he’s an adult. 

Tuesday of graduation week we had a celebration dinner for Lainey at her favorite place Calicos Restaurant just before her graduation ceremony. I’m not sure that it’s her favorite place to eat, but there “everyone knows her name”. That just made me think of Cheers that tv show from the 80’s to early 90’s.  It took place in a bar which to me seemed to fitting for describing the feel you get from Calicos Restaurant. Which was Lainey’s first job when she turned sixteen and she’s been there ever since. We know the family that owns the place and my mom’s worked there since it opened. You could say we have a history with Calicos.  After the dinner we went to the graduation ceremony.  I learned something about my husband that evening while waiting for Lainey’s name to be called.  My husband got really quiet and then he began to sit up a little straighter. I wondered to myself was he feeling emotional about Lainey graduating or was he just uncomfortable.  I wasn’t sure and didn’t ask.  Either way those bleacher seats are very hard and uncomfortable y’all.  It would have been nice to have our bleacher seat cushions with back support, that would have helped me from squirming around for over two hours because my butt cheeks were numb. We continued to hear the names be called and since Lainey Gross is in the G’s it took awhile. 

Then I heard her name called over the loudspeaker and looked at my husband, to my surprise he began to cry. I didn’t know what to do, I then wanted to cry but thought be strong and do something to comfort him but not make him cry more.  You know you just don’t see guys cry all that often.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve ever seen a guy cry but it’s my husband. He’s a tough old cowboy. Well not that old. Anyhow, I patted him on the knee and reassured him all was okay. After we drove home I began to think about Shawn and his cute little ranch hand Lainey.

I realized that things were about to change big time at the ranch and for our family.  Lainey leaves in July to attend Southern Utah University.  Before I moved to the ranch Shawn had Lainey and Noelle his cute little cowgirl ranch hands.  I had known these little girls since they were born but never as their step mama until years later. Lainey helps with whatever she can do.  During gatherings she’s the first one dressed, hair in a ponytail and boots on.  In her spunky sweet voice she’ll tell her dad “come on Dad get up you told us we’re starting right when the sun comes up”.  I think Shawn just pretends he’s still sleeping to fire her up.  I think it’s funny.  She greets all the cowboy’s as they come in the house in the morning for breakfast.  Lainey knows the ranch like the back of her hand.  My husband lays out the days work to everyone and sometimes she puts her two cents in.  Rightfully so Shawn has taught those girls to know how to ranch and they’ve been his ranch hands since they were little.  We depend on Lainey to help with whatever needs to be done when it comes time for ranch work. I’ve already begun planning her return to help gather cattle in the fall.  I called her the other day “Lainey we need to get everything on the calendar for the fall gathering.” I said.  I know we’ll need her and we always love having the kids be a part of ranch.  As I was jogging my memories of fun times with and without the kids helping us on the ranch I recalled the time when I had to take a couple of ewes which are lambs to the butcher to be processed.  Our USDA certified meat processing plant requires the lambs to be sheered.  It was only myself and my husband home that day, but we needed them to be sheered right away.  I called Lainey who showed lambs during her 4-H years. She couldn’t come out to help us she had to work that day.  I hung up the phone and told Shawn “I guess we need to sheer the lambs”.  I can only imagine I didn’t have a look of confidence on my face. After convincing him that it must be easy and explaining Lainey can sheer a lamb within thirty minutes and that’s show quality grooming, not just taking the wool off to satisfy the butcher’s expectations. My convincing worked he got up from his recliner and we headed out to the lambs. I had the lambs haltered and on the stand.  I started by shaving the top layer of wool off.  Their wool is so thick you have to cut in layers, or at least I did. I thought to myself I’ve groomed our dogs how hard could this be to shave a lamb. After about twenty minutes I stopped to look at my progress. It was weird the lamb looked as if it had been in a cat fight.  It had patches of wool that I had missed and the lamb appeared to be irritated that I was taking so long.  I hate to say it but I gave up and I felt defeated my client, the lamb, had to endure my beauty school dropout moment. That made me think of the movie Grease. Then I laughed and said to myself “Thank you Frankie Avalon for writing a song about me”. I handed the clippers to Shawn who looked to be amused by my hack job of a haircut I had just given this lamb and began to work on cleaning it up.  Don’t worry, the lambs looked much better the day we had to take them to the butcher. I’m lucky to have another stepdaughter to help sheer the lambs and do ranch work.  Noelle showed lambs as well during her 4-H years and she’s a great ranch hand and good example to her younger stepbrother and stepsister when it comes to teaching the ways of the ranch. For now Lainey will have to leave her horse and her ranch lifestyle behind to major in nursing. Hurry up Lainey and get your degree. Your dad and I are getting older and may need your medical advice soon.

So back to graduation details. Thursday of graduation celebration week Shawn and I flew to Georgia for a couple of days to be with Sage.  It was so neat to be with Sage to see where she went to school and to meet her friends and extended family.  Sage lives with family friends Jessica and Landon, whom she’s lived with for years.  They have done an amazing job raising her through her high school years.  She’s grown into a beautiful young lady. Though she doesn’t live on a ranch, she’s a cowgirl.  She has her horse and now has her own little heifer calf to tend to.

Maybe someday she’ll start her own herd of cattle. For now, she’ll be attending Piedmont College this fall to major in child social services.  She loves working with children and spent her senior year helping with the Special Olympics in Hartwell, where she lives. The south is no joke things are different back there and I truly enjoyed the people and the green grass.  Those southerners are so lucky they have moisture, green grass and beautiful flowers. Unfortunately, with all those things they also have really big bugs.  I guess every place has its downfalls. Anyhow, I can’t wait to go back to soak up the south and develop my southern accent. I think a southern accent is so charming.

After all the celebrations and cattle works, I was ready for a vacation.  We didn’t get to go on vacation, but I decided to bring a little of south to my home and bought a bunch of flowers for my porch. The downfall is it’s hard to keep flowers in the desert.  They require a lot of water, which we don’t have. I’m looking forward to seeing our exceptional high school graduates grow and blossom as well. I know they’ll be adulting soon but I’m still going to be their mama bear and call them to make sure they don’t go astray.  I’ll also need to be sure to send them cards, goodies and whatever else comes to mind letting them know I’m thinking of them as they are on their new journey in life.  Even if they may be far away they’ll always be in my thoughts and on my mind.

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