The Cover by Cheyenne Glade Wilson

Fall is in full swing here in southwestern South Dakota. I love the seasons we are blessed with as ranchers. It never ceases to amaze me how each year has its similarities, but when examining a bit closer there are so many unique things to discover. This reminds me of that old saying about judging a book by its cover. I learned a long time ago that it was best not to do that. The cover tells us only part of the story. It's up to us to open it up and delve a little deeper into the pages if you know what I mean.

After growing up in this industry I've come to have a huge appreciation for many female figures in ranching. They truly are the glue that holds so many of our operations together and I believe they deserve a little recognition. Who am I referring to? Well, I'm going to focus on the three that come to my mind due to their role on our place. I am talking about the cow, the mare, and the ranch wife.

When folks who don't ranch or who aren't involved in agriculture see a cow I know they don't "really" see her. I recently did a post on my blog to pay homage to our girls. Lord knows we wouldn't have a ranch if it weren't for them. Here is what my post said:  "You see a cow....I see five generations of dreams, desire, drive, and determination. I see a beautiful creature that never complains of the cold or heat. She knows her purpose and she thrives in it. I see heartiness, strength, and a grit like you've never felt before. I see an animal that has formed our livelihood for generations. She relies on us and we rely on her. We can learn much from cows. Speak less, listen more, be content, and no matter what....go on!"

Perhaps you've never thought about a cow like that before. I didn't used to either, but the older I get the more appreciation I have for pure truths in this life. To me, this is a big one, but it isn't only for cows. Mares have attributes similar to those, except perhaps they take things a step further. Mares are extremely protective of their young and they can definitely be ones to watch out for. They can at times be quite headstrong, but I've never met a pea-hearted mare. They will go strong for what they are after and they have a lot of try. Yes, sometimes they can kick or bite. However, if you know what you're doing with a mare you likely can get the best side of her to come out and stay there.

Gosh, as I'm writing this, a smile is spreading on my face. The cow and the mare have much in common with another female on the ranch. She is one of the most important of all. She is the ranch wife.

Ranch wives are such a unique group of people. They literally can be head to toe in mud and manure all day long helping with the herd. Give them a few minutes and they can turn into the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. Their words are full of wisdom, passion for this way of life, and experience. They are sometimes headstrong and opinionated, but a part of that credit most likely can be given to their father or their husband from working together too much. Or better yet, the credit goes to their own mother who was a ranch wife, and wasn't afraid to speak her mind.

Ranch wives can be found on the back of a horse moving cattle, in a pen helping with a prolapse, in the kitchen making lunch, killing a snake in the backyard to protect the kids, and attending a school board meeting at the end of a long day. The possibilities are as endless as their spirit. There truly isn't a list long enough to completely do justice for the description of ranch wife. They give and give and give, expecting little in return. We all have so much to be thankful for from the various ranch wives who have had an impact our lives. I honestly believe every single day is an opportunity to thank these gals for the size of their hearts, the range of their vision (goals), and for their never-ending desire to help get the job done.

I believe it's that maternal calling all females have in one form or another. I have it and boy am I glad I do. It took me until I hit my 30s to identify it, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's nothing to wake up at 4 a.m. to throw breakfast on, load vaccine and branding supplies, saddle and load my horse, round up, brand all day, get home to take care of my horse then serve lunch to our crew, clean up, take care of barn critters, take a shower, go to bed, and wake up the next day eager to do it again.

Speaking for all ranch wives now, I'd like to say that we love this life! There is no other way to explain how we do what we do. Loving life in general is what makes it the most enjoyable. There is no room for complaining, blaming, comparing or focusing on things that we can't change. We have the heartiness of being a female. We want to do things the right way, we don't like to quit and we protect the things we love with fierceness just like the cow and the mare. Don't ask us to change, and please whatever you do, don't judge us by our cover. For no matter the exterior, ranch wives are complex. We are ranchers. We are wives. We are mothers. We are cooks. We are owners. We are the best dang ranch hand anyone has ever had around. And lastly, we are just downright amazing! God bless us all!

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