For the ranch dad

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Quietly he wakes each morning before rays of sunlight make their way across the horizon. Over a steaming hot cup of coffee he spends a few moments planning out the day.

His back is strong, shoulders broad from years spent lifting bales of hay, pieces of equipment and laughing children over his head. Sometimes there are aches and pains from the weights of labor, but he remains without complaint and carries on.

Character fills his hands, telling a story of their own – rough, cracked and brown from days of unclogging balers, trimming and shoeing horses’ feet, branding calves and tending to livestock. On his right thumb is a permanent green mark from a swinging calf head and a tattoo clamp. And while he’s been married for years to the woman he loves most, his left hand remains bare after a smashing gate into his wedding band almost destroyed his finger. But stronger than the roughness in his calloused hands is a distinct softness – filled with the kind of gentleness needed to dust off a young cowboy or cowgirl after a tumble from a horse, pull splinters from little fingers, tie tiny shoelaces, and give pats of encouragement.

Calm eyes lead into a patient heart. Sometimes his mornings are slowed from removing the blade from his razor to let a persistent companion mimic his routine. Often this carries over into wardrobe – buttoning little pearl snaps, teaching the proper way to lace up boots and tie a wildrag.

Sharp and wise is his mind. For his is one who has taken calculated risks and sacrificed through the years to make ends meet, pay the bank note and, with a little luck, grow his operation, all in the name of producing the ultimate crop – the next generation of cattlemen and women. 

Heading out to do chores, little helpers insist on tagging along. At first, they serve as company, singing their hearts out to country songs on the radio from a car seat in between checking and feeding cattle in the pasture. He enjoys with great amusement the little voice calling out, “hey, boss,” to cows on the other side of the window and their sour faces when they adamantly try to drink coffee like him.

As his helpers grow older, he’ll have them open gates, pull tops of mineral bags, and once their short legs grow just long enough, teach them to drive. Eventually they become trustworthy help driving equipment in the hayfield, sorting cattle on horseback and doing the day-to-day chores.

Serving as a symbol of strength for his family, his thoughts are consumed with worry about changing markets, weather and other factors that dictate how he puts food on the table and shoes on their feet. But his face never shows it, and he remains quiet about troubles that cross his mind. His needs always come last, well behind the priorities of his family and livestock.

And finally after 18 years of raising his children, while fulfilling his passion, teaching them stockmanship and respect for the land, they will leave and continue their journey of education and life. Sometimes they decide the world has more to offer than the land they grew up on, and that’s ok. Other times, they will approach him, asking to share and be part of the livelihood, just as he did with his father.

It doesn’t matter if they continue to carry on his legacy or not, all of his sons will spend their days trying to become like him and his daughters will pray they find a man like him – full of silent and mental strength, compassion and love.

And they will. Then his days and heart will overflow with happiness as his own children gift his days with children of their own – continuing the circle over again.

Happy Father’s Day.

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