Cowgirl Up

Autumn in the western states, specifically on cattle ranches involves what is commonly referred to as ‘Fallwork’ – one word. Ranching, like all agriculture, revolves around the seasons. For ranchers on the northern plains, autumn is less about colorful leaves and more about golden grass. The prairie is busy getting ready to close up shop for the coming winter and the rancher has a long list of chores to do in preparation for the changing out of seasons.

Cowgirls: Cowboys come in all shapes and sizes

Blackbirds flock in huge numbers as they ready themselves for their trip south. Lark Buntings and Meadowlarks head out after the first cold snap. As autumn progresses, ranchers ride as much as they do in the spring of the year during calving. We are at the opposite end of our work on the ranch now. In the spring, we welcome birthing and eagerly anticipate the return of green. In the fall, we watch as plant life slips off to bed, while listening to migrating cranes and geese as we ride, gathering and moving cattle to different pastures.

It is a common reality that ranchers rely on their friends and neighbors for seasonal help like fallwork. You need extra manpower for gathering and for some of the other work detail – vaccinating cattle and shipping the calf crop. However, ‘manpower’ only paints 50% of the picture. The other half is an old saying that goes like this: “Some of the best cowboys are cowgirls.” Most ranch daughters grow up learning how to do all the things that fall under a very general heading called ‘ranch work’. Translated, it means “everything”. The lady rancher can cook a meal for a work crew and slip back into the saddle to do outside work with the cattle. A key element in the making of a well-heeled ranch gal is attitude. Wherever you’re needed most is the place you ought’a be and you do that job happily. Those of us that love to ride might admit to resignation when we’re called to be cooks instead of cowpokes. But, you smoke peace pipe with the idea because you realize how much the help enjoys and appreciates good food after long hours of work. You embrace the job and take pride in wowing the crew with a fabulous meal followed up by an array of desserts to choose from.

Soon enough, you’re outside again and in the saddle. Sometimes, the idea that ranching is a romantic lifestyle is justified. After all, you don’t hear of ballads and poems about electricians or lawyers. But, the cowboy life isn’t all wildflowers, pretty scenery and colorful western sunsets. There are days when a sudden change in the weather finds you without a slicker or enough layers of clothing to keep warm. You know you’re going to get cold. No whining, you just ‘cowgirl up’ and take it. There is also the inevitable heartbreak of animal loss, but if you’re going to have livestock, you’re going to have dead stock – a harsh truth in this lifestyle. All things considered, would I trade this line of work for any other? Not on your life. Where else would the dashboard of my ride to work offer a view through the ears of a horse? There is no high-tech car gadget that will turn and ask with sparkling brown eyes, “Where to next, over that far hill or home?”

Leave a comment 23 Comments

  1. Judi says:

    For someone who lives in a midwesttern area of the nation, this sounds like a whole nuther world. The close’st I ever got to a cowboy, was an uncle who wandered the west moving his family every two years or so. We never knew where he would show up next. But he had wonderful stories! And to be a cowgirl or to live on a ranch sounds like a lot of work! But having five sons, I often wished they could have been raised up out west on the backs of horses, learning how to really grab hold of life! Keep on writing, you have a fan in me,and I am up for an adventure even if it only consists of words on the blue screen! Thanks!

  2. Dalyn says:

    Great post! Love the pictures ")
    I have a "hobby ranch" only 11 acres- so I "get you" but on a smaller, way smaller scale. Love fall!
    Gorgeous.

  3. susan says:

    I just love your writing and the great pics that go with it.Makes me feel like I am there.I am a frustrated cowgirl with no ranch so for now I will live vicariously through your writings.Thank you.

  4. Thanks so much for the ‘birds eye view’ of life on a ranch. I believe I secretly coveted this life but being a city girl most of my life has only gotten me as far as ‘small town country girl’. And at my age that is a far as I am going to get. It sounds like it can be a very hard life but super rewarding. I love reading about it, keep it up.

  5. Reba says:

    Thank you for letting me "see" life as a cowgirl, and "hear" the reality of it instead of idealism. Attitude is the glue that makes any job worth doing. And what an awesome way to do the job. None better than with a ride from such a beautiful animal–your horse.

  6. CC says:

    Oh how nice that sounds! Sitting here at my desk day after day. I’m not complaining, I have a job, with this economy and many wonderful things….but that is just it, they are "things". How lucky to be born into the Cowgirl life. Being outdoors, simplicity on many levels…all of it. I can smell it from here by reading your blog and remembering my summer trips to Cody, WY as a kid and I used to dream about being a cowgirl. It’s not really something one just changes careers and gets into I suppose…you kind of have to be born into it I’m finding, but I sure wish it were an option. I would switch today. I can relate to cooking for people-I bake for everyone and enjoy seeing the delight when I bring a pie to work or cookies… Thank you for sharing your life I look forward to reading more!

  7. Teri says:

    Great article. It really put me out there with you. In fact, I wish I were there, just not when it gets cold, wet or blustery. vbg

  8. Julie W says:

    Outstanding, Shery!!! Thanks for taking me along for the ride! jw

  9. Patty says:

    I love your writing!! I feel as if I’m right there. I am on a farm in OH and I know what fallwork is here. Harvesting, shearing, putting the land to bed, and making sure I have enough hay. You keep up the joyous work cowgirl.
    Patty

  10. Margie Smith says:

    Hi Shery,
    I have enjoyed your blog about working on your ranch. I understand what you are saying about being a cowgirl or boy is not all wildflowers, beautiful sunsets. I work in a public library. People will tell me they would like to work here. But it is not all reading books. Some patrons make my day go all wrong. But I know these things, so I just keep plugging along, as you keep riding into the sunset!!!! Let us know about calving in the spring. I love baby animals, but to sadly they grow up. Keep blogging.

  11. Ann says:

    We always have a rule here on our farm/ranch…
    #1. Animals die
    #2. Can’t change rule #1.
    It’s what life is made of.
    We start the road to our death on the day of our birth.
    But we try to pack as much fun and love in the middle.

  12. Peggy says:

    Shery,
    I really enjoy reading about your ranch life. It brings such a close feeling to what ranch life is all about for a woman ,instead of just reading about it.

    Thanks for sharing the good with the bad.

    Peggy

  13. RanchFarmgirl says:

    I’m new to blogging and being a blogger. I hope it is ok to add my own comment here. I would like to thank ALL of you, new friends and old for your kind words and encouragement. I can’t express how good it makes me feel to know my writing is worthy of your time. Happy Trails to you all and thank you for tuning in.
    Shery, the MJF Ranch Farmgirl (‘shery on the prairie’)

  14. MartiBee says:

    Just wanted to tell you that I love your blog. I’m always tickled pink when I get a notice that you’ve got a new one up.

  15. JudyR says:

    Shery,You know I love your pictures and your writing is exceptional. Thanks for taking me along. ONe day I hope to actually get out to meet you and your great Morgans….Keep up the blogging you’re a natural :)

  16. Grace~katmom says:

    Hey Shery,
    Thank you for sharing ‘Ranch Girl’ life from behind the ears of a sweet Morgan….not an easy life but truly a life connected with the land.
    Today we are having 45mph winds out here on the West Plains(W. Spokane)but all in all, I love the mornings, as I walk about out on our little 5 acre parcel of heaven, I follow the tracks of visiting deer & geese….as well as survey the latest damage to out seedlings thanx to those stinkin’ gophers! Can I send ya some? lol!
    Happy Trails!
    gracie

  17. Megan says:

    Great post Sherry! Thank you!

  18. Tammie says:

    Sherry,
    I love your blog and the pictures you post with it!

  19. Jeri says:

    Hi Shery –

    I can totally identify with the cowgirl up mentality! As kids, we were workers, and riders, and chefs in one afternoon! We were wherever we were needed and it was one of the best jobs in the world! You can ride some of the most beautiful country in the world, work cattle, and feed your helpers without missing a step. Wonderful memories! I think it also shows our strength as women, that we can do all these things and feel completely at home. :-)

  20. Kelly says:

    I enjoy all MaryJane’s blogs, but was especially happy to see a ranch girl one. You are a terrific writer and a realist. I have always thought it important and valuable that my farm/ranch kids got to learn about life cycles and have a connection with nature, no matter where life takes them. I too can relate to all the jobs and love "Some of the best cowboys are cowgirls." Working cattle from a horse is one of the greatest jobs. I look forward to more of your tales. Enjoy!

  21. Carolynmst says:

    Your site is like a blonde with a brain. I love it. Jokes aside, very informative article and equally impressive design.

  22. AshlySanda66 says:

    Stupendous post thanks!

    Mars Venus Coaching :)

  23. Meridith says:

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the page layout
    of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with
    it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for
    only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

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