Raising Country Kids

Kids raised in the city get street smart. Kids raised in the country get to work. One of the first things my husband and I did to raise our kids in the country was train them for the outside world.

Potty training for the outdoors was necessary since a lot of our kids’ time would be spent going with Mom or Dad to help do chores nowhere near a bathroom. Both of our kids learned to make do wherever nature called them. Potty training our country boy was easy except when public restrooms were available in town.

We also taught our children to drive at an early age. Any able-bodied kid can be made to do it, and not just any vehicle but manual transmissions—the prerequisite to driving ranch equipment. Driving at an early age has enabled them to help us out a lot.

We’ve raised our kids in run-mode because they’re expected to know how to move quickly when circumstances make timing vital. Getting a cow in, getting hay put up before it rains, sorting off cows, or manning a gate, are instances of critical moments where hustling can determine a task’s success or failure. At an early age, our kids understood what “HUSTLE” and “HURRY UP” means: avoid wasting Dad’s time.

Our kids have never said “NO,” when asked if they’d like to help. They’ve always been informed what they’re going to do. On our ranch everyone is expected to do his or her fair share of men’s work regardless of their age, gender, current activity, plans, or social status. Sharing the workload is part of being a family on any slave camp.

The number one rule we’ve branded into our kids’ impressionable young heads is to always shut the gate. The consequences of leaving a gate open and having cows get out is more severe than leaving any door or padlock unlocked.

Our kids have been taught to avoid driving on growing grass as much as possible. They’ve overheard enough griping about people carelessly driving on and killing grass for cows to know not to tread on a hayfield unless it’s been freshly cut.

My husband has always made sure our kids know how to properly wear a cowboy hat. He considers it a disgrace to the cowboy way when cowboy hats are worn backwards or look appallingly shapeless. He’s also instructed them in correctly putting their hats away. Never under any circumstances, should a cowboy hat set on a bed. Unless it’s a really ugly hat or belongs to a meany. A cowboy hat on a bed is bad luck. I thought our son forgot to shut a gate at home or something when one time I could hear my husband from across the parking area at a 4-H rodeo vocalizing his irritation. Our son set his hat on the mattress in the horse trailer.

There’s something about ranch work that brings out the loud voice in many displeased or frustrated ranchers similar to mine. Fortunately, our country kids have mastered how to take a butt chewing like a Marine. When it’s time for our kids to leave our boot camp, we’re confident they’ll leave with a good head on their shoulders. We just hope when they enter the real world, their hats are on straight.

This column was originally published August 22-28, 2010

3 responses to “Raising Country Kids”

  1. Jennifer Avatar

    I think this is my favorite post ever. Love it. Hat’s off to you — and your kids! I laughed out loud at ” … part of any family slave camp” and “they know how to take a butt chewing like a Marine.” Thanks for making me smile. Too bad every parent doesn’t teach their kids how to get to work! Have a great weekend 🙂

  2. Valerie Avatar

    Love Love Love it!! Very much what I want my kids to know. Soon enough, Moving from town to Country in a few weeks, for the main purpose of Raising them in the country, with a good head on their sturdy shoulders and a good work ethic. Love the part about ‘closing the gate’, ohhh how important it is. Good Job!

  3. Amy Avatar

    Valerie, thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog and for sharing your comments. It truly is a good life–the best! What I like the most is not getting caught up in trying to keep up in the rat race and material things. Simplistic living is very rewarding. My best to you and come back to my blog for another visit!

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