I’m a rural voter

I’m far from a political person. Never have been. Last night was the first time I’ve ever stayed up past my bed time to watch election results. The comments from one of the commentators about rural voters turned my stomach the moment I heard it. I’m one of those rural voters “forgotten” about in middle America.

I’m one of those rural voters who joined the droves to vote yesterday. I’ve voted in a half-dozen presidential elections since my first vote in 1996. This was the first time I had to stand in line and wait my turn to cast a ballot. I stood in line for an hour to vote, while others I know spent two. But I wasn’t disgruntled to do so. I was proud to let my little voice be heard.

img_6107

Rural to me, are my friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances. We love our little towns, our one stop light communities and the farmers and ranchers who are on our school boards and town committees. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being designated as rural (in my humble opinion.) What’s wrong with the rural designation is others assume by being rural, we’re uneducated and our votes aren’t as important. We’re not uneducated and our votes are just as important as someone who lives in downtown Denver.

The non-rural folks standing on the other side are unwilling to understand rural. I, however, try to see where they’re coming from. They don’t need us (so it seems.) They don’t see us. They don’t run into us on their streets or in their stores. They rarely come here. Do they appreciate all the things I appreciate of rural people? We’re mostly kind, mostly simple and most of all, we’re important. We’ve stood by the last 8 years and suffered through trade embargos, falling commodity prices and lack luster cattle markets and we’re still here. You won’t find us out in the streets destroying property and running a muck protesting. Rural folks are tough, and often can take a beating and keep on ticking.

I’m not upset by the election. I’m upset because of the words. I’m saddened people resort to name calling over something they don’t have much control over. And I too, as a member of the media, take offense to how these so-called journalists have chosen to take sides. I may be simple-minded because I chose to remain in agricultural media, but I’m still part of the media. I interview, photograph and tell the story of America’s famers and ranchers. I tell their stories in the most fair and balanced way possible. I may not always agree with what I’m listening to but I leave my bias and personal opinions out of my stories. I try to tell both sides. Truly, I don’t agree with mainstream media and all the misconceptions they’ve strewn about in this election.

I’m a woman and I’m offended by thoughts others have of my gender and why everyone assumes women should vote for a first woman president. We need a better candidate for the first woman president than we were presented with this year. I’m offended because I’m college-educated, rural and a woman and some hopped up “mainstream media” person just assumes I’m not important.

A college coach once told me don’t assume anything, it just makes an ass out of you and me. As much as I disliked the guy, he’s correct in his thinking. Mainstream media assumed their chosen candidate would win, but they were sadly mistaken when the rural votes pushed the eventual winner over the top.

So, before I fill another ten paragraphs about the election, I’m going to stop and say, if you don’t like something change it. If you don’t like what’s going on in America right now, start with your own home. Change things there, and it will snowball. We need stronger families, children and parents. We need strong workplaces. We need to improve ourselves before this country can get strong again.

 

**Edited to add: I had a comment on this post that lead me to add some more of my thoughts to the original post.**

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and to spend the time to comment on it. I appreciate your insight! My post came about because I was fired up after listening to the commentators continually use the term “rural uneducated” out of context, out of connotation and the continued use of it during their broadcasts on election night.

I admitted in my first sentence politics is one of my least favorite things. Admittedly because of it, I don’t know all the specifics about each campaign, nor do I care to. Not once did I say whom I voted for or provide any indication of endorsement of a certain candidate. My 5-year-old son asked me who I voted for, and I told him frankly, that’s none of your business. It’s mine. He didn’t understand, but accepted it.

In my post, I made the statement, “What’s wrong with the rural designation is others assume by being rural, we’re uneducated and our votes aren’t as important.” Yes, by that, I mean we weren’t weighted appropriately in the polling data. We weren’t a serious consideration. Again, politics is FAR from my wheelhouse and I choose to be that way, because I don’t know the specifics about polling, data and the like.

I’m simple. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. What I do take case with is how our lawmakers make it difficult to live the way we want to. I’m sure others struggle with this as well, even though they’re not in agriculture.

Again, throughout my post, I was talking about how rural votes were overlooked (by the data) and mainstream media. Even though I didn’t come out and directly say that. I wasn’t discussing the polling data, bias or any other things you’ve mentioned. I’m not well versed in any of that, and prefer not to discuss something I don’t know much about and thus not comfortable with.

I don’t agree with mainstream media’s or your definition of me being less educated. I went to college and received two degrees. I worked hard to become educated, and I’m happily still paying off those student loans because of it. I’ve been out of academia since 2002, and I’ve lived life and learned from the college of hard knocks as well. I have parents who never went to college. My twin sister and I were the first in our family to graduate from college. I’ve learned from them and have common sense because of them. It takes talent, smarts and experience to operate the tractor, truck or pickup used to plow fields, haul crops to town or feed cattle. Just because many rural folks are what you deem uneducated does not mean they are unintelligent. Some of the farmers and ranchers I’ve met in my day job are the smartest, most intelligent people I’ve met and often don’t hold a college degree. I’ve also met those with multiple, upper-level degrees, and they are not someone I’d consider smart.

A friend of mine made a really good point to me about education and I’m going to steal her quote and share it here, “The minute you think that school diplomas make you educated, you come out to Kansas and help my husband overhaul a loader transmission and engine (which he did at age 14) and tell me how educated that college degree in Poli-Sci makes you feel. There are an overwhelmingly high number of dropouts in inner cities and urban areas, and a lack of good education in those areas. Out here, we have great education, smaller classes and a higher number of citizens who demand we be responsible for ourselves. Accountability is huge and part of that comes with being ‘educated’.”

So, even though, I don’t know what the president-elect will bring, what I hope is we can continue to live in rural America and prosper. Our definitions of prosper may be vastly different, but I want my children to have happy parents who work at something they love and at the same time can provide for the family. I don’t want us as parents to be saddled with debt because we choose to live in rural America.

 

img_6109

Advertisements

Be still my heart

Wednesday was the last official day of summer. I love summer time. The extra long days and warm weather. Tan lines and swimming pools. I even love the heat. I’m not as used to it as I once was, but I still like a good, dry heat with a little breeze.

The boys and I had arrived home later than normal on Wednesday because they wanted to stop and see their cousin. My husband was abnormally early that day and rode out to check the heifers and get a good count. He was closing the pasture gate when we got home and the boys begged from the backseat to go ride. Dad obliged and saddled all three horses. I started supper and went out to check on them only to be promptly left afoot since there was nothing left to ride. I went back in the house to get something and looked out the patio door to see the most beautiful light and my three boys riding across the CRP grass east of our house. I immediately grabbed my camera and shoes and headed out. As they got back to the house, the heifers had lined up against the horse pasture fence and I walked out to get some photos of them.

I couldn’t wait to get to the office the next day to see what I captured. The images I recorded made my heart swell. Of course I shared them on my social media and I’ve had way more praises than I ever wished for. I enjoy photography and enjoy my loyal subjects. I’ve also been teaching myself Lightroom, so I edited my favorites as well.

Here’s a few photos from that evening.

edit-0633edit-0639edit-0643edit-0646edit5-0663edit5-0682

Losers live forever and the good die young

The title of this blog is a line from one of my favorite Jason Boland and the Stragglers songs, Pearl Snaps. I can’t help but think how appropriate it is for the last couple of weeks.  It’s always the good guys or the good horses who go too early.

A friend of mine recently lost her husband after a horse wreck at a ranch horse competition. He held on for five days before succumbing to his injuries. While I knew Nicole better than her husband, it didn’t help me from grieving. Today was the funeral, and I think for at least my husband and I it hit especially hard. Similarities exist that make it easy to compare.

Walking into the church I couldn’t help but notice the crisp, white pearl snapped shirts many of the pall bearers wore. Along with their tanned hands, sun-kissed faces and ears and the obvious dents in their hair lines from hats. Chris’ hat, rope and leggings had lovingly been placed atop his casket – never to be worn by him again.  Later I noticed a hat under a chair with a program sitting in it and behind me I heard the emotion coming from a friend. I’m not real sure why things happen to good people who have so much life left to live.

Usually I find comfort in knowing someone has gone “home” to be with the Lord, but this time I struggle with it. Those two boys need their dad. Nicole needs her husband. The boys need him to teach them how to hold a rope or become the horsemen he was. My husband said Chris would have made a good old man, like many who were in attendance today. I believe that too.

During the service the pastor read a prayer Roy Rogers would read before his Riders Club meetings. It sure gave me comfort today, and I’m sure it did others.

Lord, I reckon I’m not much just by myself,
I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me ride it straight the whole way through.

And when in the falling dusk I get that final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send,
Above all else, the happiest trail would be,
For You to say to me, “Let’s ride, My Friend.”
Amen

The family also prepared a video of photos from Chris’ life and I was ok up until they started showing photos of his young sons. Then it was all over but the crying for me. Literally.

As we were leaving the church, people were milling around and I heard the distinct sound of shod hooves on concrete. I looked around to see Chris’ horse saddled and being led by a family friend. How appropriate and sad all at the same time. We watched as the horses followed the hearse up the hill to the cemetery. We couldn’t bear going to the graveside service.

I often try to gather something from a church service (or a funeral in this case). I feel as though I need to be better at letting those around me how much I do care. It’s hard for me to physically say how I feel, when it’s much easier to write it down. Hence this blog. But I will try. You just never know when it will be your turn to ride away.

14332977_10210382913278241_2458891896815461477_n

Chris Moore with one of his sons. (Photo shared on Facebook.)

There’s always something new

I’d started this post 7 months ago, and never finished it. Yesterday I had another idea that very closely related to this draft. So here I am, in June to finish a post I started in December.

In my house every day is an adventure with two young boys. Whether it be grandma calling to tell me “you know what your son did,” or how the boys are starting to interact (or fight) with one another.

In December it was one of those, “How did you do that?” nights. The youngest was nearly two years old, and as he was then and even now, he finds ways to keep us on our toes. On that night, I had changed his diaper and didn’t put his pants back on because bath time was nearing. In the 10 minutes we’d been back out in the living room he’d done something – probably screaming – to merit a few minutes in the corner to think about it. While he was in the corner I started to look for something to watch on TV. Then I heard a noise. I looked over there and Chance was sitting proudly holding up his diaper for me. I could do nothing but laugh. He was pretty dang proud of himself.

More recently the babysitter called right before noon to ask if the oldest went to school that day. Indeed he had, but the bus hadn’t shown up nearly 50 minutes after dismissal. I called the school (in a panic) and got transferred around, but finally found out his bus was delayed because of a parent who was late. By the time I’d gotten the babysitter called back Shaun had arrived safe and sound.

In early May we got a decent amount of rain and it filled the ditches on either side of our drive way. Even though it was still pretty cool, the boys decided it would be a good idea to play in the mud. Mom was not impressed when I opened the back door to call them in for supper and found them both standing in knee-deep mud and covered in it. I had to laugh. At least it wasn’t cow manure. (Speaking from experience.)

IMG_5242

And again this past weekend we had one more of those moments that merited a blog post. It was Sunday before Memorial Day and the boys and I headed out to feed horses. They enjoy going in the round pen next to the horses because it has solid metal walls that are about 6 feet tall. They can run and scream to their heart’s content. I’ve considered putting their toys in there to contain them, but after our experience Sunday night I’m reconsidering. I’d shut the gate on them and in the time it took me to dump one more bucket of grain and walk to the gate on the horse pen, Shaun was screaming, “SNAKE!” The boys have had it drilled into their heads to run if they see a snake. I went over there thinking it was a bull snake like we’d encountered a couple of weeks before. Nope, this time it was a baby rattlesnake. I instructed them (after taking a photo) to go get their dad. He happened to be outside and heard the commotion. He promptly told me to kill it. “With what?” I asked. Eventually the menace was removed from the round pen and life resumed. Although grandma isn’t quite so sure she wants to return to our house.

I’m sure I’ll have many more stories like the couple I shared in this post, and since I didn’t start the boys baby books, my blog will have to suffice. What have your kids done that left you scratching your heads? Share if you’d like!

Innocently enough

Last night while changing the youngest boy’s diaper, my oldest came in and asked, “Mom, why don’t you go to rodeos any more.” I’m sure the expression on my face told it all, but I said to him, “I don’t have a horse to ride.” He cocked his head and looked at me in disbelief. Then went on to tell me matter of factly, “You have a horse out in the pen.” He didn’t look like he believed me when I told him she was too old.

The rest of the evening I thought about what he’d said. After I had him my riding and barrel racing slowed way down. I went to a few races and rodeos for a couple of years, but injuries to my mare kept us on the sidelines more than I cared to admit. My horse was aging and I feared the day where I’d have to retire her. Fast forward nearly 5 years later and my horse is basically retired (and seemingly enjoying it) and I’ve gotten over (depending on what day it is) not getting to ride as much or go to a barrel race and enjoying my boys while they are still little.

After our conversation I told my oldest boy, some day I will have another horse and will go to some more barrel races. And no, it’s not something I am telling myself to keep me sane. When they reach an age where I won’t have to worry as much about sending them with their dad to the farm (which they kind of do already now) I will have a horse of my own again. When I gather enough pennies to buy a horse of my own again, I will. It’s just going to take time. And I have to be patient and have a plan.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 1.27.16 PM

Thank you

We attended my husband’s grandfather’s funeral on Monday, and it was a first for our young sons. The oldest had entirely too many questions and the youngest was more concerned about exploring and seeing what else I had in the snack bag. Since my husband was a pall bearer, the boys and I drove around the small town where the funeral was held to find a park. Although it was 28 degrees they were still excited for the thought of running around and I was hoping they’d burn off some excess energy before having to sit (hopefully) quiet during the service. Mom wasn’t thinking however and should have brought along extra pants. Yes, my boys were the ones with dirty knees at the church. But no one seemed to mind except me.

We’d managed to make it through the service and as the family was filing out behind the pall bearers, I stood up to gather our things, and an older gentleman behind me said, “Mom, you did really good today.” I smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t think so.” He replied, “No, you really did.” I smiled, laughed and said, “Thank you.” We by far had the two rowdiest kids in the church and I often describe them as not being “church broke” since we don’t get to church services very often. The oldest even let out a big burp during Christmas Eve services! We should probably work on that.

I was a little humbled and always have a tough time taking a compliment. Just ask my husband. When I was running barrels, and had a good run, a lot of the gals would say to me, “Nice run!” or “She’s so deceiving and fast!” It took me a long time to finally say thank you instead of smiling, nodding and saying nothing. It seems as though I still have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to my parenting skills just as I did with my horse training skills. The gray haired gentleman really made an impression on me and I am really glad to have had his compliment when I probably needed it the most. So Thank You, kind sir!

IMG_4638

 

Worldly possessions

I ran across a line this morning that summed up the thoughts I had last night as I rummaged through some stuff looking for a particular item. “It’s not what we take, but what we leave behind.”

What I don’t want to leave behind is a mess for my children and family to have to deal with. I don’t want them to have to sort through all the cards, pictures and miscellaneous crap I’ve managed to accumulate in my life. I don’t want them to have to choose what gets thrown in the trash pile. They really shouldn’t have to do that while grieving.

I always thought my Grandmother Orebaugh was strange for writing names on the bottoms of items she wanted her children and their families to have. It saved some strife in the trying days after they were killed in a car accident in February 1989. It was her way of making sure, in her mind, people got her prize possessions the way she wanted them to. I may not go that far, but I really should put some thought into it.

On a recent trip north of our house I noticed on a neighbors place they had the farm machinery lined up along the fence, almost like they were preparing for a farm sale. The owner was in a serious car accident last fall and has been in the nursing home since. At his advanced age, I really don’t see him returning to the farm. I don’t know if they’re having a sale, but from the looks of it, they just might be. And that makes me incredibly sad. The neighbor has worked his entire life for something, only to have it sold off to the highest bidder. I’ve written about farm sales and what they do to people before, so I’m not here to rehash that, but instead put down thoughts about my own junk.

I’ve only been on this earth 37 years and in that time, I’ve acquired more than enough “junk” or stuff I may or may not need. I hold on to something because of the memory it brings out. I still have my childhood blanket (tucked away in my closet) and up until I was in college it was on my bed. I have some of the first outfits my boys wore as babies. I still have the wedding shower, wedding and baby shower cards. I haven’t looked at any of them for quite a while, but I’d feel awful throwing them out. I also have clothes I probably won’t ever wear again, but hell I spent money on them and I may do something with them, even if my sewing machine is out of order and a project with them is saved for a long winter day.

But what I do know is I want to leave my kids the kinds of things most parents do. To know they are loved, to teach them to be kind and smart and not be assholes. I want them to have a sense of humor and know what it’s like to have fun. I want them to spend their money wisely, get an education and a good job. I don’t care if that job is cowboying, driving truck or writing and taking photos. If it makes them happy, I’m happy. But if they want my collection of rodeo photographs or my saddle and tack, I’d be happy with that as well.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.28.25 AM

My sister tagged me in this on social media, and oh how it rings true!

My dear boys..

Saturday was one of those days. It started out relatively good with the boys and I, but it eventually progressed into a loud, messy mess. My youngest is nearly 20 months old and doesn’t go to daycare. It’s come time for him to get out more and be around other kids. So we’ve been going to a local Learn N’ Play group every other Saturday.

Play group went well until it was nearly over. For an hour, the kids sing, paint, explore and play. Of course, there are snacks as well. My youngest has a tendency to stuff food in his mouth like a ravenous beast who doesn’t know when his next meal may come. All the while he is running around and being, well almost two. When it came time to sing the goodbye song, Chance decided he needed to roll around on the carpet while everyone was singing around him. And of course he had stuffed a whole cracker in his mouth. Then came the coughing and eventual choking and mom having to scrape wet cracker out of his mouth. Fun stuff. He was ok with some time on my lap and a little water. Apparently the oldest didn’t like the attention little brother was getting and decided he needed to get my attention too – in a bad way, of course.

Shaun knows exactly how to push my buttons. Saturday was no different than any other day. He wasn’t listening. He was arguing and defiant to a degree. It subsided until late in the afternoon when he was seriously lacking a nap. I’d had one too many, “But, Mom, why’s” than I could stand. I yelled. I spanked and I sent him to his room. Then I felt guilty. Always with the guilt.

I really never pictured myself being a mother. Before I had children, I had my horse and dogs. Furry “kids” sufficed. They were cared for better than I cared for myself and I had no qualms about it. I loved them and they loved me. I was 30 when I got married and 32 when I had my oldest. Some may call it selfish the way things have worked out, but I can tell you this, there are reasons I waited. I lacked patience. I lacked calm. I lacked knowledge. I still feel like I lose my cool way to easily and don’t know what the hell I am doing. But I do know I love those boys and they keep me on my toes.

Saturday afternoon while they were both sleeping I had to get out of the house. I thought about saddling my old horse, but her feet were in unacceptable condition. So instead, I dug out the rope and roped the dummy. I hadn’t picked up a rope in years. It was therapeutic. Swinging (at times) the rope as hard as I could and catching the plastic calf head. I may or may not have smacked the rope down on the bale out of frustration from the day’s events. I was fed up and not happy with how this parenting gig was turning out. I wanted to be able to ride my horse whenever I wanted. I wanted to drive my pickup and go to a barrel race and not worry if I would be back late.

I have been unhappy with this phase in my life, and probably not nearly vocal enough about it. I haven’t been to a barrel race in two years. I haven’t rode since early spring. It feels like a part of me is gone. I know barrel racing and riding are always possibilities, but it feels like I’m never going to have that special horse or have the “time” to ride and actually GO. I want my boys to ride and eventually rodeo if they want to, but its hard for me to do that all by myself. It’s hard to saddle a horse when one kid is jumping around like a goon and the other one is screaming trying to claw his way up into the saddle before his brother gets there.

I’m jealous of those mothers who several weeks after they had their latest kid are back in the saddle.  They are more dedicated than I am, but in the end our situations are different. They don’t have old horses or a husband who works (what feels like) a million miles away. They are younger, have the desire to go and drag the kids along. I have hell dragging mine to the grocery store, much less a barrel race with a couple of horses. I’m sure there’s a solution, but I haven’t found mine yet. That or just come give me a swift kick in the pants.

Competing at the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association event in Syracuse, Kansas, June 2009. (Photo by Lone S Photo.)

Competing at the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association event in Syracuse, Kansas, June 2009. (Photo by Lone S Photo.)

Be brave little one

In my last post I talked about my oldest son going to preschool. Well, yesterday was the day. Leading up to the day I tried to prepare Shaun the best I could. Giving him examples of what he’d be doing, recognizing his name or stories of what it was like for me or his dad going to school the first time.

Monday morning came. Dad stayed home to go with us to see Shaun’s classroom and the other kids. Shaun, who usually is up before the sun, had to be woken up. He insisted upon jeans, boots and a button-down shirt. I compromised with the boots and gave him a pair of other shoes to wear.

Once at the school, Shaun held both of our hands and I was trying my best to be brave like I’d told Shaun to be, but all Momma wanted to do was cry. He practically drug us into the classroom to see all the toys and stuff he’d seen at the open house. Then it was time for Mom and Dad to go to work. I began to get choked up and could barely talk. Shaun started to cry and I did my best to console him. Then it was Dad’s turn. We told him to go find a spot and sit down to wait on the teacher. I thought it would be a good time to sneak out.

I spent the rest of the morning at work worrying about him and how he was doing. When it was time for the bus to deliver him to the babysitter, I texted her and asked how he was. He was crying. Great.

But when I picked him up from the sitter, he was pretty happy. I quizzed him on the way home about his day. He’d apparently made a “best friend” but couldn’t remember his name, just that he had on an orange shirt. Come to find out he was mad at us because we’d left him and he didn’t get to say goodbye (again.) His dad took him fishing and they spent quite a bit of time together before bedtime.

This morning was much easier on both of us. His “best friend” was crying when Shaun went to sit on the rug. I told him to go cheer him up and I’d see him tonight at the babysitters. Hopefully they both survived the day. We can only go up from here!

Shaun on his first day of preschool, Aug. 24, 2015.

Shaun on his first day of preschool, Aug. 24, 2015.

Where did my sweet little boy go?

The last couple of days my oldest son has been doing just about everything in his power to annoy his mother. Now, I know he is just trying to assert his independence and develop his personality, but if the kid doesn’t stop, Mom may just lose what’s left of her mind.

When Shaun was little he didn’t like other people and was pretty attached to his parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My mom watched him a lot of the time and for many months it was just the two of them during the day. Those two have a bond that is still there today.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve went rounds over his arguing and his defiance. He’s a smart kid and when he wants something he knows how to ask for it nicely. Other times he doesn’t. I need to remember that he’s only 3..

But man can that kid argue and whine. Oh, don’t get me started on the whining. He’s a pro. Days like yesterday make me wonder where my sweet little boy went..

Shaun at 7 months.

Shaun at 7 months.