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Across the fence: A cowboy without cows

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 May 2021

The last few weeks have been full of disappointments. The kind that wrench your gut. I haven’t wanted to write about it because it is hard for us folks in agriculture to talk about the things that hurt.

Agriculture folks are the tough ones. We get back on the horse; we throw dirt on the wound; we work harder if something isn’t working …

But this thing that happened left us reeling. What is next?

We don’t know.
Yet.
But we will.

In a nutshell, we got really excited about an opportunity. It was a chance to serve the ag industry in a greater way. When Covid-19 hit, it slowed things down, but it didn’t stop our excitement. We were doing well with our ranch, but this opportunity got us so excited we sold it – the cows, the land, the house, even the equipment to poise ourselves for a major move that would allow us to ranch in a greater capacity.

In the end, it didn’t work out. We jumped the gun – took risks in selling so we’d be ready to go because the first time an opportunity like this happened, we weren’t ready in time. Now, we are looking for what God has next.

Agriculture is a passion for us and a calling, if you will. But in this moment, not having cows is hard. We miss checking them. We miss the babies running around in the field. Gosh, I don’t think we’d mind holding a fence stretcher.

What I feel like the good Lord is saying is this: You can’t do new work with old tools.

Sometimes we have to completely restart in order to do a bigger work.

We have done this before – we’ve sold our cows to move to a different place with better opportunities. When you are first-generation ranchers, you have the freedom to do that. While we have had to repent of jealousy at times when we look at multigenerational operations (we truly do want the best for everyone), we have had valuable experiences by seeing new places, and we’ve met so many wonderful people in the communities where we’ve lived.

During this time, we are observing ranches – how they operate, what makes them work or struggle. We’re looking at land – what is available to buy (it’s limited) or lease. We are watching people relocate from all over the nation, listening to their stories and why they want to move to wherever they are moving.

We are also choosing gratitude. We are thankful for people, connections and joy in the unknown. After we grieved what we were hoping for, we are beginning to savor a new journey. A fresh anticipation.

Our oldest child is in college. Our middle one will have just graduated when this goes to print. Our youngest is a freshman in high school. As we look at possibilities, we are looking at where we can be for a while so our son can finish high school and our kids have a place to come home. We want a place where our grandkids will one day eventually come.

In our journey, we’ve seen so many ways of “doing agriculture.” What we want is this: We want to live and work toward something bigger than ourselves.

We want to live aware by being present in each moment. Yet there is a much bigger picture to consider as well. Where will our kids be? What can we set up for future generations?

Why would we want to set up for future generations? When I picture daily life, it is something I want to share with the people I love. end mark

Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can follow her on her blog (Cowboy Wife).

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