As a general rule of thumb, I try not to “go all softie” in the articles I write. The way I see it, cattlemen and women come to our website for information to help them succeed. When I sit down to write an article – whether it’s for the magazine or strictly for the website – my ultimate goal is to provide at least some nugget of information to those who choose to read it. Whether it’s about the latest market information, a proposed policy in Washington, D.C., consumer trends or new science, I try to stick to the “meat and potatoes” rather than the mushy and gushy.
This week, however, has been quite a week for my family (and I’m talking about my immediate family as well as my husband’s family). On one side, a blow was dealt. On the other, my husband’s sister and her family are celebrating a year’s worth of hard work with their annual production sale. Considering both of them together – the gut-wrenching with the celebratory – is what farming and ranching and rural America is all about.
Earlier this week, my 14-month old niece was diagnosed with cancer. While her treatment is in the hands of some of the best doctors in the country at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., that doesn’t do much to calm the nerves of her parents (my brother and his wife) and the rest of little Ruthie Jane’s family. Ruthie is getting ready to embark on a fight like nothing I’ve ever known in my 30 years, but she’s doing so with the love and support of her family and a growing community of friends. Offers from neighbors to help my brother and dad with spring planting and the cattle herd have already started rolling in. A retired teacher has stepped up and offered to substitute teach for the remainder of the school year so my sister-in-law can be at her daughter’s side. Words of encouragement are coming in through social media, phone calls and text messages – friends near and far are offering to help my family however they can.
That’s a rural community at its best.
On the other side, my sister-in-law and her family raise Red Angus cattle in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Yesterday marked the culmination of a year’s worth of carefully monitoring their herd – from ensuring the nutritional content of the feed is just right and that the bulls are productive and ready to go to work on ranches across the country to communicating regularly with repeat and new customers, yesterday’s sale was a family affair. Cattle-raising families around the country – whether your family hosts an annual sale or relies on that seedstock for your herd – understand the amount of work that went into their sale and the sense of accomplishment my sister-in-law’s family felt once the last animal left the sale ring. They worked their tails off to make yesterday possible and their sale barn was full of folks who are their customers but who have also become their friends.
That’s the heart of farming and ranching.
So while I promise to leave the softer side and return to more information-providing articles on Monday morning, as we wrap up this week, I encourage you to take a minute and step away from the markets, the international crises, the obesity epidemic that coincides with hunger challenges, the politics and the “anti-everything we do” activists. Leave the noise at the door and take just a few minutes to be thankful for the people around you – your family and those friends who you consider family – who at the drop of a hat will put their lives on hold to help you in moments of crisis and will also stand by your side in moments of success. This business that we love enables us to live a lifestyle in rural America that is second to none. If you take a minute to appreciate that, I promise not to go softie on you again…for a while anyway.