Waiting For A Downpour

I’m one of those people who look for the bad in a situation. Problems are commonplace on a ranch and I thrive on the drama that our ranch’s problems produce.  

The basis of my column is about marriage, parenting, ranching, and rural life in western South Dakota but it’s describing the troubles we face that provide the humor in my writing. Anytime you’re dealing with a lot of animals and other humans, challenges are bound to follow. I count on our mishaps and our quirky ways of resolving them for much of my story material. 

Lately, we’ve had a dry spell on our place. We could really use some moisture right now too, but I’m referring to a lull in our troubles, or to quote my husband; “We’re in between wrecks.” Our ranch hasn’t had one good wreck for me to make light of in quite a while.  Cows seem content to stay inside fences and my husband and I have managed to stay on the same communication frequency. When I go up to feed the replacement heifer calves at what I call “calf day care,” I always find them to be on good behavior and getting them settled down has been going well. Heck, even our toilet hasn’t been a problem for quite sometime now, which is unusual.  

Normally, important equipment fails us, bad weather makes our job miserable, cows will decide to be difficult while handling, or my husband and I quarrel over piddly stuff. When problems present themselves, instead of focusing on them, I try to think about something else, like what my family and I might find funny about the situation down the road, or what the situation might look like to outsiders. I squeeze out as much humor as I can from our hardships and write up stories about them. Readers generally find the same things funny that we do and oftentimes can relate to the situation.  Redirecting my thoughts is also a useful coping strategy during a ranch wreck. Situations don’t seem nearly as disastrous when I’m searching for the humor within the problem. Especially when I’m alone, redirecting my focus helps me stay calm and rational. Whenever I first come upon a situation like cows out along the highway or headed toward Pringle or I find a stock tank dry because the float isn’t working, instead of panicking or getting stressed, I try to think about how the crisis could become next week’s story. 

We appreciate the break from being plagued with troubles but the recent hiatus makes it hard to relax and enjoy a smooth-running ranch operation because we’re not used to trouble-free work for such a long period of time. My husband and I expect the arrival of a new problem every time we get one resolved. When our operation is running efficiently, there isn’t extra work to do and we become restless, skeptical, and bored. We begin to wonder if a big traumatic mess is in store for us later on. 

Now that I’ve admitted we’ve been experiencing a dry spell of troubles, we’ll probably get caught in a downpour of problems but I’m not worried. Heavy rains make things sprout up and produce the best rainbows—all of which are sure to be evident in future columns.  

Column originally published December 6-12, 2009








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