Ranch Diaries is an hcn.org series highlighting the experiences of Laura Jean Schneider, who gives us a peek into daily life during the first year of Triangle P Cattle Company, a new LLC in southcentral New Mexico. Installments are every other Tuesday. This is the final installment.
The view of Pajarita Mountain in front of me is familiar, but the chair I sit in is not. A sheer curtain blurs my view just enough to soften the outlines of my surroundings: dark green juniper in the distance, the foreground of waving grasses, the wire squares of the rusty fence that surrounds the yard. We’ve officially settled into our old-new home, but it’s taking some adjusting: the sound of the refrigerator, waking up to a much higher ceiling, the brightness of a house with real light bulbs.
We’re approaching weaning season. Already. With house construction, graduation, and interns, our summer feels like it has disappeared. Hana, an engineer from Colorado arrived on Saturday, one travel-weary palomino gelding in tow. She’s here to help us gather and wean the Triangle P calves, sort off bulls, and start getting the 1,000 steers in Lower Elk rounded up for shipping in October. It seems she’s already settled in, waking before I did this morning to milk Tinnie with Sam. Last night we sat in my tiny garden and ate raw peas and harvested the last of the lettuce. We dug a few hills of potatoes to share as we talked about her family’s Wyoming place. It has a complex history like so many Western spreads do: Some folks get along, some want out of ranching. We were drawn to Hana because she wants to learn new managements skills and animal handling practices to take back to her family ranch. She’s not naïve; she admits it might only amount to her planting a seed for future generations.
Planting a seed. A metaphor I’ve heard countless times. Why so poignant this go-round? I think it’s because I’m starting to see the seeds others planted in me long ago sprout and grow. I’m thinking back to my childhood cowgirl dreams, and the reality of where I am in the present, ranching with a whole herd of horses to love.
Opening graduation cards this July, I read notes from people I have known my entire life, telling me they knew I had it in me to get a master’s degree. In the way I handle my new palomino weanling, I see the hands of the women who taught me about communicating with horses half a lifetime ago. The Montana Quarterly recently picked up one of my short stories, and I recalled my desire to write from a young age grown and encouraged by my mother, my friends, my teachers. As I sift salt into the ragu I’m making for lunch, I realize that my cook-by-feel style was planted multiple generations ago as my great-grandmother taught my grandma, who in turn taught my mom, who in turn was patient enough to let me learn it too.
Writing for High Country News from the kitchen table of a renovated home on a half-million acre Indian Reservation — those seeds were planted long before I was even aware they existed. As others nurtured, mentored, and challenged me, they started to sprout. Without these influential people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, I simply wouldn’t be here today. It’s humbling to think I might have knowledge to share: I’m 32 years old, a spring chicken in the eyes of many Westerners. But the history of a generational chain of sharing knowledge gives me confidence that I, too, have a place within it.