Bring Your Kid to Work Day
Most of my fondest childhood memories revolved around the busy seasons on the farm I grew up on. We raised crops, cattle, pigs, and sheep with an assortment of other random farm animals. I can still remember a time when I was almost asleep in bed and my dad would pop his head into my bedroom and ask, “Want to go check cows with me?” It didn’t matter the weather or if I was almost asleep, the answer was always yes. Just the thrill of potentially finding a brand-new baby calf was enough to rouse me out of my warm, cozy bed.
Harvest time was always fun, too. When one of the grain trucks would bring a load of wheat to the bins on the farm, I would hop in and catch a ride back out to the field just so I could spend a few hours on the combine with my Dad. I swear he is the most patient person I know because I’m asked a lot of questions as soon as I sat down. “What was the header doing? Which crop was being cut, and what was going to happen to it? How did a certain piece of machinery work?” My Dad answered all my questions, proving that he is the most patient man I know. If I wasn’t riding
on the combine or in the truck, I was helping my Mom make a big dinner to take it out to the guys. I don’t know what it is about food that is eaten in the field, but it seems like it tastes ten times better when everyone is sitting in lawn chairs around the tailgate of a vehicle eating a hot home cooked meal at the end of a very long, hot, dusty day.
I started following my Mom around at a very young age to the sheep barn. Eventually, I was feeding bum lambs and learning how to help an ewe out that was in distress while lambing. I can’t even count the amount of time we spent in the spring cleaning out pens and hauling soiled straw to the manure pile in the wheelbarrow. My sister and I even got locked in the barn once when we were kids, and it was hours later when my Dad finally came looking for us. We weren’t scared, we just huddled under the heat lamp with the bum lambs and hung out until help arrived. My time spent in the lambing barn actually helped me land a job in my first week of college. The boss I was interviewing with said, “Did you just say you know how to lamb out sheep? You’re hired!” I’ve learned so many valuable life lessons from my time tagging along to the barn. Lessons that I've begun teaching my own children.
Growing up on a farm was like “take your kids to work day” every single day. I’m sure that my parents were busy with farm chores and animal chores quite often, but they never made it seem like I was a burden or that I was in the way because I was there with them. It’s because of their practice of involving us kids and always having us around during the busy seasons of farm life that makes me want to involve our kids in the busy seasons on the ranch now. Keeping the kids involved on the ranch as much as possible isn’t always easy, especially when they are very young. Sometimes, all I can do is shake my head and laugh. Back when Clementine was 2.5 years old, it was truly the highlight of her day when we would pack a lunch and have a picnic out in the hayfield with my husband, Chance. She could barely contain her excitement as we waited at the edge of the field for him to get done making another round in the swather or baler. As soon as he shut off the engine and opened the door, she would take off running towards him with arms open wide. After our picnic, she always took a ride with him around the field. You could tell she was so happy just to be there with him as she sat very still on his lap or in the buddy seat and clung to his every word as he pointed things out or explained what he was doing. Now, as a five-year-old, she still talks about these memories as she looks forward to the upcoming hay season.
Every time we take them out to the swather or down to the barn during calving season, we’re showing them what it is like to work hard for something you love. Every time we take them feeding with us or bring them along when we’re working on a water project, they’re learning what it’s like to care for the land and the livestock. Every time we take them along while we pick up irrigation pipe or put out salt for the cattle, we help them to know that they’re a part of it all and that we’re all in this together. They’re learning what it’s like to put the needs of others before their own. They’re learning what it looks like to be responsible for the lives and well-being of animals.
During the busy seasons on the ranch, it’s not uncommon for me to solo parent, especially during bedtime. “Mom, where is Daddy? What’s he doin’?” asks my daughters as I pull the covers up to their chins and tuck them and their stuffies in. I go on to explain to them that “Daddy’s out checking cows” or “Daddy’s baling the rest of the hay” and which usually ends in a lengthy game of "why?" Finally satisfied, they drift off to sleep. As I kiss them on the forehead and hug them one last time, I flash back to my own childhood when my Dad spent late nights out on the combine or was in the barn long after I went to bed. I silently smile to myself because I know that someday, they’ll get the thrill of staying up late to help us during those busy seasons, just as I did when I got a little older. Even at a young age, it is my hope that my children understand that their Dad sometimes has to work long, hard hours to provide feed for the cattle or help a cow have her calf. Even if they don’t end up taking over the ranch, the life lessons they’ll have learned from growing up here will be carried with them for life and that is something that no one can take away from them. Patience, love, compassion, integrity, loyalty, respect, passion, tenacity, honesty, and perseverance, just to name a few. And above all, I hope we’re making special memories for them just like the ones I have from growing up on the farm.
Jesse is a rancher, wife, mother of three, and founder of Beyond the Fencelines, LLC. She and her husband are excited to be raising the 6th generation under the big Montana sky. She desires authentic connection with other rural women and shares online how she's finding joy in the journey of motherhood on the ranch. While chasing children fill most of her days, she also enjoys gardening, coffee, riding horses, church, quilting, and homesteading.