family riding horses
Photo courtesy Marisol Tarango

By Marisol Tarango

Reprinted with Permission from R-Calf USA

Dear Retired Ranchers,

I know that ranchers really never retire, that you keep going until you just can’t anymore. I have listened to you at the cowpens, in the diners, and at the stockyards; I have heard your stories and wanted to be just like you. The skinny kid that you showed how to tie a knot, never forgot that knot. When you thought I was playing with rocks in the driveway, I was listening to the stories and news that you told my dad. So, thanks for the stories and wisdom, and for sharing the tricks of the trade.

I know that you are tired, that it is disheartening to see what you have worked so hard to establish be etched away by the quick but subtle tide of progressive generations. Thanks for hanging in there for us, the generations that follow you. I may never be as good of a hand as you, I will probably never ride out cows or catch gates to your standards, but I will try my hardest to preserve what you have tried to hand down to me.

Dear Current Ranchers in the Trenches,

I know that your back is sore and that your mind is worn out with BLM, BMPs, and mCOOL. I know that you are trying to raise kids, send them to college, and help them get a start in life, on top of everything else. Thanks for fighting until I was old enough to help. Thanks for teaching me how to ranch and tolerating my obvious questions and mistakes while I was learning. Even though you had to repeat the instructions three times, I was just trying to make sure I didn’t screw something up really bad. When I was staring down, plucking at my horse’s mane, I was really paying attention to every word that you said before we left the pens.

Now I’m ready to help you in the trenches. I know my innovative ideas are probably going to be the oldest ones in the book; I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to help pull my weight and preserve what you have been fighting for, for so long. I want to give you a break and make you feel that your efforts in helping me were not in vain. The clumsy, clueless kid wants to do you proud.

Dear Up and Coming Ranchers,

I know that you are ready to start your flight but feel weighted down with worry more than someone your age should be; I feel the same way. We have heard of the days when ranching was good, and we know the story of its downfall. We want to be as strong as our elders, but all we see is the doom, before we can get our roots deep into the soil. It feels like the world is against us, demanding that we feed them, yet trying to tie our hands at the same time. We wake up on Monday ready to fulfill our dreams and live like our ancestors, but by that night we are considering selling out the empire we have been handed. Yet, we are at it again Tuesday morning. Up and Coming Ranchers, I’m proud of us, we can do this, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Our grandparents and parents are right there behind us, they can provide us with the knowledge and know-how, but it is our turn to pick up the reins. Yes, we may still get hollered at like we are kids, but they believe in us too. If they could get us this far, we can finish the job. I know that you would rather be ranching in the middle of nowhere, with nobody but your horse, than educating people on the internet that we do not hurt little fuzzy calves for sport, randomly dose our cattle with antibiotics, and that we are not just rolling in money from our cruel gain. Keep your head up and remember Who you ride for.

Dear Future Ranchers,

You are the little brothers and sisters, the toddlers and those not yet born. You are the ones we are all fighting for. If it weren’t for you coming up behind us, there would be nothing worth fighting for. I hope when you are ready to take control, that you will only have to face hurricanes and blizzards, droughts and floods. Mother Nature is an honorable opponent because her intentions are unbiased with no hidden meanings. She does nothing for selfish gain, and there is an end to her strong-willed ways. When you are old enough to understand, know this: If we have fought and won, remain humble and vigilant. If we have lost, know that we fought to the last and look to you to take up the fight again.

Sincerely,

The Rancher’s Daughter