It's safe to say that there were parts of my childhood that sucked. No doubt about it.
But there were also parts that were idyllic. One of those was my life on the farm.
I don't know if every family has this, but growing up our family had another family that were our best friends. Our parents were friends and there was a child to be a friend for each of us. We spent lots and lots of time together. And they had a farm.
I spent a lot of time on this farm. As much time as possible. And it truly was a heaven on earth.
Whether I was playing hide and seek in the old chicken coop, climbing on top of or in the silo, climbing the giant apricot tree, or sitting and reading in the white birch tree I was happy. It felt like a step back in time. I felt like I was living Little House on the Prairie.
I got to have all the perks with very little work. My brothers hauled hay and moved sprinklers. They helped drive the cattle and brand all sorts of animals. Not optional. Anything I did was because I wanted to, because I was a girl. One time when a sexist mentality served me well.
Between this farm and our house with the pasture I spent a lot of time with animals, animals my kids haven't really gotten to know. Horses, cows, mules, ponies, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, pigs, and lots of work dogs (blue healers for the cattle and German shorthairs for hunting).
Just thinking about this place makes me happy. It was a different pace there. Relaxed. Accepting. Valuing.
Cowboys, and I mean real cowboys not just guys who try to look the part, are different. They are hard workers. They don't feel the need to impress people. They are not easily impressed. Nor are they likely to be judgmental. Everyone is accepted. I loved my time with cowboys.
And I wanted to be a cowgirl. I wanted it desperately. But I always felt a step away. Like a visitor.
I knew how to saddle, bridle, and ride a horse, but I never shoed one. I watched calves and colts being born, but never assisted. I played in the alfalfa fields, but I never participated in the harvesting. Little things like that. I felt like I fell short as a cowgirl because I didn't live on the farm and do all those things. I didn't have horse toys (the expensive kind) or the little John Deere tractors. I didn't know the names of all the different horse breeds. And I wore tennis shoes when I rode a horse.
I recently took my family to the rodeo. It was so much fun. I felt like I was reliving a part of my childhood, a good part.
As I mentioned the rodeo to others, I found that many of my friends have only ridden a horse once or twice -- some not at all. They really didn't know much about horses, cows, or tractors. It got me thinking.
So I reevaluated.
I have ridden horses more times than I can count. On the mountains, in the fields, through the town. I spent most of my childhood in a pickup truck instead of a car, sometimes in the cab but more often in the bed. I crossed many dirt roads, very bumpy dirt roads, on a regular basis. I had to get out to open the gate. And close the gate. I bottle fed lambs and a calf. I herded sheep. I fed horses. I've seen, touched, and tasted a salt-lick. I've been to many, many rodeos. I know the proper way to shape and store a cowboy hat. I've helped butcher elk. I know how tall horses are and how long they live. And I spent many Saturday mornings and afternoons at the auction, in awe of the auctioneer and the entire bidding process. Watching as men nodded or tipped their hats to buy this lot of cattle, this horse, or that saddle.
I had so many experiences that others didn't. Incredible experiences. Joyful and miraculous experiences. That I didn't appreciate at the time.
But all things are relative. And looking back I can see that, compared to most, I was a cowgirl.