Standing Tall

Rhonda - Evanston, Wyoming
Entered on December 12, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Standing Tall

I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up by the time I was four. My dreams grew from the fertile soil on the cattle ranch in which I was raised. At a very young age I knew and understood the love of the land and the freedom that comes from living in a part of the world with no yard fences to corral the spirit inside me. I do believe I was born with this passion of nature, a gene passed on from generations of ancestors who settled this magnificent valley. This land was as much a part of my being as the legs that supported me as I traversed green meadows, and the arms that cast the fishing line into deep pools along the Smith Fork River. I was going to be a rancher, just like my dad-just like my dad’s dad. A custodian of the land. It didn’t take long, however, for me to learn of one hurdle that stood in my way-The ranch in which I was born and raised would be passed onto the male sibling in the family. Girls could work on a ranch, but ownership was for the male gender only.

Even so, my dad taught me a lesson not so much as with his words, but with his actions as I continued into my young adulthood. He expected me to conquer problems from broken fences to packing wheel bearings with the assistance of no one. My dad held a full time job as a miner. We hadn’t a hired hand and it was up to the girls in the family to keep the ranch operating. Giving up just wasn’t an option. It just never really crossed my mind. Cursing, yelling, stomping, and trying the job once again was how we accomplished our day-to-day tasks. Never, never give up-diligence was my mom and dad’s motto. Little did I know this lesson would later inspire me to reach my dreams and compel me to stand tall when the world was trying to drive me to my knees.

In my late twenties, I was afforded the opportunity to purchase a small farm in a remote town in Nebraska. Scraping pennies, I signed the purchase agreement and mortgaged everything I owned. I may not be given the family ranch, but I was bound and determined to be a rancher even if I had to live on rice and water. I sat in the Torrington Livestock Sale Barn anxiously waiting to buy a few head of cattle to start my herd. The auctioneer rattled off numbers, my heart pounded, slowly, cautiously I raised my hand. Every head in that sale barn turned to look at me-the only woman in the place. Their piercing eyes spoke volumes. It was if I was pulling up a seat and smoking a cigar while entering their male only poker game. It was very apparent I didn’t belong nor was welcome at the Torrington Livestock Barn. Once the cattle were purchased, I had to buy some farm equipment. I arose early one morning to attend a local farm sale. Once again the auctioneer sang songs of dollars and cents. My heart raced, I had not much to spend and each purchase was taken very seriously. Once more, I raised my hand. Sold to the lady in the red coat. Boy if I thought I wasn’t welcome at the sale barn, these farmers certainly let me know how I should be serving hot coffee in the concession trailer and not buying farm equipment for my own operation. This was no place for a women. “Hold your head high, girl. Don’t let them know just how unsure you are. Walk as if you know exactly where you are going,” I repeated to myself.

Needless to say, all were looking on me to fail. Watchful eyes awaited for my farm to go under. Bets were made for how long I could last before I would buckle. I came across many difficulties as I built my ranch. Bitter cold winters, blistering hot summers and equipment malfunctions at times made me question my journey. I had never worked harder or prayed longer than during the six years it took to build my cattle business. As time passed, I gained the respect and admiration of those old farmers and local neigh sayers. In fact, many continue to be some of my dearest friends. At each mountain I have had to climb, the lessons I have learned from my dad and mom given me the strength and determination to push on. “Never, ever give up my dear”. Thank you, Mom and Dad for the greatest gift you have ever given me- the strength to persevere.