Disadvantaged Ranch Family

Life can be tough out on a ranch. Some think we’re disadvantaged because we miss out on so much due to our lifestyle.

Some people act apologetic when I tell them how far I am from the conveniences of the nearest town (Custer—Pringle’s conveniences are few) or city (Rapid City). Living so far away and having livestock to look after all the time can be a detriment. It requires getting fresh air outdoors at least once day and physical exercise while working.

We don’t live in a typical neighborhood either—there’s fewer neighbors, a mile or more away, and not near close enough to be nosey. During the summer, they don’t notice when we’re overdue to mow our yard. More importantly, the hayfields in the front and backyards get cut when they’re bloomin’ ready (the green stuff that immediately surrounds our house is actually kochia weed). Without lots of street lights, we can’t see a darn thing at night but pitch-black sky and a bunch of stars.

My household never gets in on any “keepin’ up with the “Jones’” competition either. Our new equipment is a mere thirty years old. Neighboring ranchers in this area would rather compare notes and learn from other equipment owners about their new (to them) purchase, than brag.

Sadly, dog tags and leash laws aren’t enforced out here. Our dog hasn’t worn a collar since hers fell apart. Pepper’s so overwhelmed with protecting our place and the activity around home that she doesn’t have time to visit the neighbors’. She has her own house and has to stay within the premises—only a half-mile radius in any direction.

Spur-of-the-moment visitors make me crazy if my house is in disarray. When someone calls wanting to come down, it takes them forever to get here. All that waiting makes it hard for me not to have our modest house looking clean and tidy by the time they arrive.

It hardly seems fair that distance and livestock have also been a useful guilt-free excuse for not being able to attend seasonal events in town, chamber of commerce functions, party invites, or storewide sales that don’t bother me to miss. Other times, I’ve had to tell people when it’s been snowing, “The snowplows haven’t made it down here yet.”

We’re always one step behind, forever lagging in the rat race. Being unaware of what’s going on in town, we rarely get to feel obligated to do it all or feel guilty for not being able to. Instead, we try to get the most out of the few events that we look forward to partaking in.

We’re failures at trying to keep up with others’ fast-paced lives but seem to survive on not taking advantage of every opportunity available. Our family doesn’t take annual vacations, but enjoys living in an area that’s considered a vacation destination.

It’s a shame how much influence our lifestyle has on us to do less. We have too much leverage over our own lives. We’ve gotten so pulled into our way of life that doing any more seems too much for us. When people pity us over missed opportunities, I try not to appear too optimistic about how much my family likes spending time together at home.

This column was originally published January 11-17, 2009

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