Ranching is a full time job. For me, it’s just a matter of what period during my 24 hour day i get to do ranching. Most conventional ranchers do it during daylight hours. I didn’t say 9 to 5, I said daylight hours. So yes, from sunup to sundown and sometimes beyond. I don’t have that option and neither does my family. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 80% of all farmers/ranchers have at least one member of the family who works off the farm. Also, 91% of all farms and ranches in the United States are family owned and operated. We’re one of THOSE families.
If you recall from an earlier blog post entitled The Circus, you will see that my wife Erica and I are a branch of the fifth generation to co-own and operate a Hereford cattle ranch known as Beacon Hill Ranch with our three wonderful children and extended family members. However, I am also the agriculture education instructor/FFA Advisor at Claremore High school and my wife is a surgical nurse at a local hospital while also currently serving her 21st year in the Oklahoma Air National Guard.
Before becoming the agriculture education instructor at Claremore High School and taking over the operations of the ranch, I spent a brief moment in Stratford, Texas working on a cattle feedyard. Word to the wise, don’t spray your yard with Round-Up when you live in the panhandle of Texas. It doesn’t grow back. I received my Agriculture Education (teaching) & Animal Science (business) degree with a minor in Agriculture Economics from Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes). I accepted my first “grown up” job with benefits as the agriculture education instructor/FFA Advisor at Medford High School in Medford, Oklahoma. I got married to my wonderful wife Erica on a Saturday in July and took Medford FFA students to Tulsa State Fair sheep nominations on Monday, and we’ve been known as #thecircus ever since. The next year we moved to the eastern side of Oklahoma so I could manage Williford Ranch…..you know that saying, “if she ain’t happy, you ain’t happy”? Yeah, that’s why I now live in the land of trees, hills and rocks in eastern Oklahoma and not the land of red dirt roads, flat wheat fields, windmills and people who wave at you on the western side of the state!! The house we moved into was the original farmhouse on Beacon Hill Ranch that was built in 1907. It had no insulation, no central heat & air, 1 fireplace insert that heated the entire house, electrical wiring that was salvaged from a local hotel that was destroyed during a tornado and the outhouse was still standing when we moved in. So basically, I’ve been living in an Ice-Palace my entire life over here. A year after moving back near Erica’s home town, the opportunity presented itself to get back into teaching and become a Zebra. I took it. (A Zebra is the school mascot of Claremore High School, Get this, it’s a red & white zebra as well…)
While teaching, Erica and I began assisting with the ranching operations of Beacon Hill Ranch. Mostly just feeding and checking the cows. Richard or better known as The Colonel to everyone who knew him and Susan were still the COO, CFO and every other title you could give to a person who’s in charge. That all changed drastically when Richard passed away in 2015 unexpectedly. It then became our responsibility to keep it going. Few will understand the pride that comes with being a 5th generation of anything. What you also don’t see or understand is the pressure that comes with it.
I now balance 2 careers on a daily basis. Both requiring me to be a motivated, goal-oriented and compassionate person. Each fueling success and drive from each other. Each having struggles and both having many joys. Each requiring a large amount of time and dedication to be successful. I’m equally passionate about and love both of them greatly. The reality is, there’s only 24 hours in a day to get it all done.
So how do we make it all work? Outstanding teamwork from everybody involved, lots of BLUF communication (bottom line up front), a calendar app that is synced and updated constantly, a large intolerance for laziness (including my 6 year old son), huge amounts of flexibility and I don’t mean the yoga type, trustworthy people who do what they say, when they say they are going to do it, a great appreciation for the advances in lighting technology (we have lots of lights on all our tractors) and whiskey.
Many times, I’ve put out hay and had to pull a calf or two while still wearing my school clothes. I’ve showed up to school in my Muck boots that were covered in mud and smelled like something died. I’ve left the house way before the sun comes up and got back home long after it went down. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to truly practice what I “preach” and love God’s creation, his land, his cattle and his children. What more could a person ask for? I get the opportunity to instill qualities like hard work, dedication, responsibility, victory and defeat in the youth of America while also giving them the tools to comprehend compassion, appreciate the fragility of life, understand the sorrows of death, bring true meaning to the word love, and better understand service before self. I have the greatest two jobs in the world.
So, yes I ranch and work off the farm. Why? Because I have to put food on the table, pay the bills and provide my family with affordable insurance. Luckily, I have a really cool job that allows me to do that and that I also love. Hopefully you do as well. More importantly, tell someone I love you today. Until next week.
I Love You,