Friday, February 25, 2011

Growing Up Rich

I’ve never really told anyone this, but I grew up rich. 

L&L Destruction Crew, 1987

But just as there/their/they’re and weather/whether and which/witch does, the word "rich" can have multiple uses and meanings.
I grew up in a beautiful old house that was built in the 1843. It has enough character to be it’s own FFA American Degree recipient and has gone through more renovations than Joan Rivers. 

Now that I think about that, the house I was raised in actually has more character than Joan Rivers, too. 

The House that Built Me

It wasn’t always so beautiful, 
but it’s always been perfect to me. 

Thanks, Dad

Our house was always spacious, too. So spacious in fact, that one summer growing up there were no exterior walls on the first floor. We could stand on the back porch and throw water balloons to the front porch - and the same east to west. That was also the same summer that Mom tried to put all four of us (Dad included) up for adoption. 

It was so perfect that we could tie twine around the necks of our goats and chickens and parade them through the exposed beams of the house. 

Finally, The Circus Came To Rural Greens Fork

Unfortunately, prominent local farmer Richard Cranor, who's family had a fundamental role in building Greens Fork, also came to the house one of those days and the circus production was brought to an abrupt end, thanks to Mom. 

Our apologies folks, no rain checks. 

We were also rich enough to have a daily entertainment show that passed down Garrett Road every day at approximately 10:47am. When we saw the mail car go up the road for deliveries we’d get our cast together. Some days a garden snake, sometimes a chicken, often a crawdad, frequently a frog, more than once a pygmy goat went into our big, tin mailbox to provide a sweet surprise for the mail person. 

I say “person” because we went through four mail carriers during our childhood; I have no idea why? I just assumed it was because of the terrible conditions the winter brought about twice a year, having a snow plow rarely hit our township. Can you image the stress they felt driving in those conditions? I'm thankful we could brighten their days. 

Ironically, today I live on the same, quiet street as two of our former mail carriers. For as poorly as his hip replacement went, Mr. Moore sure hurries off his porch swing as quickly as his walker will take him when I arrive home from work everyday; he's never in the mood to talk. And Miss Cathy....let’s just say she now gets homemade chocolates delivered to her mailbox each Christmas.  

Did I mention that growing up we had an in-ground pool? Oh yes. It was luscious and green and perfect; a lot like Key West. I think....I've never really been that far south. 

The path that got us to the in-ground pool could have ensured our placement on the waiting list to be a contestant on “Survivor”. To get to there, we had to cross the bubbling tar road, wade through a yard filled with walnuts, walk 1/4 mile down a thistle-filled path, enter the woods, climb over two fallen Sycamores and avoid nettles, thorns and poison ivy at all costs. It was very glamorous. By the time we reached the pool we had forgotten about any lurking snakes or even defending ourselves in a water fight - we just needed cold water on our legs and bare feet.

I don’t mean to brag, but Luke and I got a new toy about once a month. I got the top half (colorful, recognizable, fun!) and of course he got the  bottom half (boring, plain cardboard, but stronger!). All we needed was string and and masking tape, and we had ourselves a real-life-double-wagon-cow-hauler. It was always a pretty big day - hauling cows all around the country, also known as our living room, in a Velveeta box.

Rich - like my favorite cheesecake from the small-town  Bread Ladies 
Rich - like the black soil in Preble County, Ohio where Momma’s family still proudly farms

Rich - like never having to buy rubber bands for a science fair project because your Momma has kept every one she's removed from broccoli in the last 7 years

Rich - like wearing footie flannel pajamas with holes in the toes

Rich - like having the very simple things in life that make you really happy

I’ve never, ever believed that having the best 
of the material things makes you rich. 
Since I was young, I’ve always known that being happy, 
means that you already are. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's A Wonderful Life

I've never asked for much, and somehow, I've always gotten away with plenty. Guess you could say I've been lucky like that. 
Except for that terribly cold winter about ten or so years ago. Now, that was rough on an old gal like me. But I made it through, always have. It’s strange to look across this land and study how much it’s changed in the last sixteen years. Countless sunrises and sets. 
Perhaps now is a good time for me to introduce myself; I'm WV Rosewood PR 107, proudly born in thistle-filled woods on the old WonderView Farm outside Jacksonburg, Indiana during the spring of 1990. I was only there four years before I took a ride across the countryside.
I was one of three cows that unloaded at Bowman Superior Genetics that particular day during the fall of 1994. I’d like to think Betsy, Janice and myself are the real “foundation females” of the program Bowmans have going now, whether we made it onto the website or not. We were the first of many, and we set the bar. We never stepped foot in a show ring, but we sure performed.  And of the three of us, I’m the lone soul that still grazes these rolling hills. 

It’s strange, I still remember the first face I saw when they opened the trailer door the morning we arrived. That boy with the blonde flat top had such a smile on his face - he was so excited to welcome us; he gave his proud Dad two thumbs up.

It sure didn’t take long for me to realize: I was home.
I’ve come to treasure a lot of little moments like that over the years; there are more than I can recall at this point in my life. In fact, some times I find myself spending an entire day just thinking back. My bones ache, but I’m in a cozy pen under the old bank barn tonight; I suppose now is as good a time as ever to reminisce about those days of past......

December 1994
My first winter at the new farm. It’s refreshing to see how thrilled the kids are to come up and give us our feed and hay. I know we’re still new and exciting to them; I just hope that passion and excitement they have for cows today will never leave this place. It’s a nice facility, but I can tell they haven’t owned it long. I hear Phil talking often about the changes coming to the buildings and ground. I’m uncommonly anxious to know what lies ahead.

Spring 1998
There is something going on under the old bank barn that I don’t quite agree with. They wean our calves off of us then put them in pens under that barn and treat them like royalty. Fancy sweet feeds and fans and sometimes I even hear blow dryers running. How are these kids supposed to learn to survive hot summers and frigid winters when they’re up there getting cream conditioner rinses? They halter those steers and walk them around the barn lot, parading them in circles like a piece of meat - literally.   Why, they should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe I’m just bitter my day for all that has passed, but I have a very hard time supporting something that I don’t fully understand. My, how times have changed around this place...

Summer 1999
The herd is growing. This whole place is growing. There are trailers in and out, loading and unloading. Barbed wire fences are being ripped out and replaced by electric. Not my choice, but I’ve never been one to push the limits, anyhow. 

I’m glad for the Bowmans. I suppose this hustle and bustle means they’re doing well - and that we’re doing well for them. This year’s first cutting of hay smells just perfect as the breeze innocently carries the scent our way. We have plenty of grass, but if I had to guess, I’d say one of these young guns in my pasture will try something stupid soon, since we’re behind only one temporary fence wire. 

Young heifers:
Old enough to know better 
but still too young to care. 

Fall 2000
I tried to help the kid, I really did. Luke left the water hydrant on again last night. That boy sure loves us, but for whatever reason he tries to flood us out about three times a year. I bawled at him when I realized he was walking to the barn with out shutting it off. He didn’t even turn around. His mother sure threw a fit this morning when she realized what he’d done. With all he has going on his senior year, sometimes I think it goes in one ear and out the other.  

Winter 2001
I wouldn’t say I necessarily enjoy this process, but it does bring value to my own life. Tonight I’ll have my seventh calf on this farm; I have a hard time believing that, myself. While I don’t particularly enjoy the pain that naturally comes along, I sure appreciate the result and the feeling of reassured purpose.  I’ll provide another animal to the herd, and Phil always makes sure my babe and I are both going strong the next morning. It’s a nice feeling knowing you’re appreciated for the work you do. 

Summer 2002
Summer on the farm - my favorite time of year. Grass sure is plentiful and the streams provide cool, clean water we love. It’s back to days like this that my mind will drift when the winter winds blow the hair on my neck and I find my entire back snow covered. This will be my first summer with out Janice. My, how sad I was to see her go. But every cow is here for a purpose, brought on by a reason. There comes a certain peace to my heart when I remember that. She did amazing work; simply put: her day had passed. We came on to this land together; she was older than I, and I sure don’t feel like my production days are anywhere close to coming to an end. So long, old friend. 
Summer 2003
Well, I’ve just seen it all. The younger Bowman kids spent the afternoon hurling pitchforks and aerosol cans at one another over something that concerned the Indiana State Fair. I didn’t catch the details; I had just come to the main tank for water and heard all the commotion. Being one to never miss much in the last 10 years, I made the trip up the hill to get a better view from between the silos. Luke has a heck of an arm on him and Lindsay can certainly hold her own. I must say, they’re quite senseless when it comes to loading a livestock trailer. Of course I guess that happens when you’re loading hair dryers, super strong hair spray and fancy leather halters. Please, don’t get me started...

Fall 2007
Try as I may, I always struggle with this time of year: Weaning Week. I know it’s coming, I know it must be done and I understand the reason for it. But my heart aches for my child and I wish I could relay to them that everything will be alright. Sometimes kids just have to find out on their own, I suppose. Year after year, I want to let them know their time in the corral won’t last long, and they should be grateful they’re even being taken care of in such a wonderful way. It’s part of life for all of us, I guess. At some point you have to learn to let go. And it's in that moment, the one when you don't want your baby running back to you, it's then that you want them to remember the roots you provided to them, and to use the wings you instilled in them. 

Isn't that what this life is about - Roots and Wings?

Spring 2009
Unlike some, I never minded this furthest back pasture; I love how it is so far removed from the beaten path. From here I’ve watched many semis rush across I-70; unfortunately, I’ve even seen a few bad accidents on this stretch of road. The sirens always scare the babes and they take off in a rush, tails flying every which way. Other than that, it's quiet and rolling and simple. There is a tree up there, along the eastern fence row, that intrigues me. For whatever reason this tree always attracts the eye of the youngest Bowman, Lindsay. When she was just a young girl, she'd give that tree a little wave when she’d walk back and check on us. I always wished I had a way of telling her it’s just a tree, one that can’t hear or see you - but as with most things, I just let it be.

May 8, 2010 
Phil and Linda didn’t have to tell me why they got me up from the pasture tonight and put me under this old barn. I’ve been on this farm sixteen full years and I have served my exact purpose: Fifteen calves. They even let me stay around an extra year to ensure my production days are over. Thank you, Linda.  My teeth are gone and that sure makes it hard to eat and maintain my weight. Though my time here at Bowman Superior Genetics is coming to an end, I have to say - I’m thankful they’re shipping me away now, before I get in bad shape. Twenty years isn’t bad for a cow this day and age; in fact, it’s pretty darn great. I’m proud to be a part of a program such as this, one with mighty humble beginnings. They’ve certainly come a long, long way since I got off that trailer in the fall of 1994. I’ve seen folks from all over the country come here to evaluate my brood, and proudly stood in the background admiring our own successes. I can honestly say I'm glad they moved away from glue and blowers and paint, and focus now on the production, promotion on longevity of our Shorthorn breed. It's painfully important to realize why we're produced in this country: to feed the world. 

It's incredibly easy to be happy when you're part of a team you believe in. 

May 9, 2010
I still haven't come to the realization that this day is here. They're backing the trailer up to load me off this old farm; I can hear the diesel engine growl and the trailer door being propped open. I suppose this is the last time I’ll ever stand in this historic bank barn and look out across the pastures. My goodness, friends - time sure passes quickly; remember that. I think back to Luke as a little boy on the day I arrived and it seems like one hundred years ago but yesterday, all at the same time. The excitement on his face from sixteen years ago is now replaced with sadness, and he’s moving with great hesitation. Of course, I'm not able to tell them thank you for all they've given to me, or that I whole-heartedly understand the reason why this is happening or that I knew this day would come; I can only cooperate. 

And that.........that, is exactly what I do. 
I’m thankful for the opportunity 
and for the faith they had in me all these years.

And I'm proud of the work done well. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Hundred Bucks and A Cheap Motel

One day, I’ll tell my kids: “When I was in my twenties, before I knew how my life would unfold in this old town, I took a solo trip out West.....”
Experiencing stress from more than one thing in my life, I found the tiny town of Greens Fork, IN to be too confining....and I ran. I booked a flight and a rental car and tore my map into tiny pieces before I threw it in the trash can  sitting on snow covered Maple Street. I longed for open spaces and a car with an empty passenger seat. I didn’t want to talk to anyone I knew for a few days; and in fact, I couldn’t. 
Looking back....
When I interned in Washington, DC during college, a successful lobbyist in the agriculture industry took me to lunch. There, I drilled him on everything from life growing up in Texas to his transition to Washington and several stops in between. The best advice he gave me was to “Go West. Pack a bag, a journal and go." Even though he had more than one degree, moving west and working on a dude ranch for a year was like setting his soul free. And although I didn’t exactly follow his route, I knew this weekend away would feed my own soul. 
And it did, indeed.
I learned a lot in that long weekend. 
  • I learned to fill up on gas at every opportunity, no matter where the needle sits. 
  • I learned that if it looks like a scary hole-in-the-wall bar, and it smells like a scary hole-in-the-wall bar, it really is a scary hole-in-the-wall bar; make note of where the nearest exit is. 
  • I learned to get out of the mountains before sundown. 
  • I learned to take your camera, everywhere. 
  • I learned that you can’t wait until you actually do “have the time and the money” to take a trip like this - as long as you make the time, you can adjust your lifestyle to find the money. 
  • I learned that it’s okay to talk to yourself when you're driving, because at some point, you realize Someone else is listening. 
My weekend can be pretty well summed up in one song and several pictures: 
Miranda Lambert’s, Mama I’m Alright
Enjoy the photos; a few have a story behind them. 

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

I appreciate any educational institution that houses the county feed supply, and stock trailer, in the same parking lot as the athletic team mini-bus. 

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

Who doesn't like a post office where you can grab lunch while waiting in line?

This tree was familiar to me...

Railroads built Wyoming - Did you know that?

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

My Granddad loved to read. His favorite was an old western, “The Virginian”. When he passed away, I found his copy of this book (dated 1922 by his mother, who was not yet married to my Great Grandfather - let alone have Granddad). It’s about a cowboy’s struggle over cattle theft in Wyoming in the late 1890’s. When I crossed the Wyoming state line, I was determined to find Medicine Bow, where part of the novel took place. Below is an excerpt from the novel describing the old one-horse town. Over a hundred years later, The Virginian's depiction of Medicine Bow is nearly spot on. Go ahead and read Wister's excerpt; it will take you there....

“Town, as they called it, pleased me the less, the longer I saw it. But until our language stretches itself and takes in a new word of closer fit, town will have to do for the name of such a place as was Medicine Bow. I have seen and slept in many like it since. Scattered wide, they littered the frontier from the Columbia to the Rio Grande, from the Missouri to the Sierras. They lay stark, dotted over a planet of treeless dust, like soiled packs of cards. Each was similar to the next, as one old five-spot of clubs resembles another. Houses, empty bottles, and garbage, they were forever of the same shapeless pattern. More forlorn they were than stale bones. They seemed to have been strewn there by the wind and to be waiting till the wind should come again and blow them away. Yet serene above their foulness swam a pure and quiet light, such as the East never sees; they might be bathing in the air of creation's first morning. Beneath sun and stars their days and nights were immaculate and wonderful. 
Medicine Bow was my first, and I took its dimensions, twenty-nine buildings in all,--one coal shute, one water tank, the station, one store, two eating-houses, one billiard hall, two tool-houses, one feed stable, and twelve others that for one reason and another I shall not name Yet this wretched husk of squalor spent thought upon appearances; many houses in it wore a false front to seem as if they were two stories high. There they stood, rearing their pitiful masquerade amid a fringe of old tin cans, while at their very doors began a world of crystal light, a land without end, a space across which Noah and Adam might come straight from Genesis. Into that space went wandering a road, over a hill and down out of sight, and up again smaller in the distance, and down once more, and up once more, straining the eyes, and so away.”

And then, I left Medicine Bow....

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

Note how deep the snow is compared to the corral...

On my final day I woke up to snow clouds across the plains....and temperatures that had dropped significantly.

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

God Bless American Agriculture. 

I marked Shawnee, WY as the next "town" where I'd fill up on gas. I didn't exactly do my research before going out on that limb...

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

Old school house in Shawnee, WY

 I anxiously awaited Lost Springs - where I'd surely find fuel...?

Some background (from Wikipedia):
Lost Springs was first inhabited in the 1880s, when it received its name from railroad workers who could not find the springs shown on survey maps of the area. The town was incorporated in 1911, and it originally had 200 residents, most of whom worked at the nearby Rosin coal mine. After the coal mine closed around 1930, the population of Lost Springs steadily declined. By 1960, the population of the town had dropped to five. In 1976, both the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Bicentennial Commission designated Lost Springs as the smallest incorporated town in America; its population was then eleven.
In 1983, Lost Springs became involved in a court battle with the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company. The railroad, which ran adjacent to the town, attempted to seize 5.2 acres of land to build a 22-foot  railway embankment. Lost Springs Mayor Leda Price alleged that the embankment, which would lie between the town and U.S. Highways 18 and 20, would separate the town from traffic on the highway. A Wyoming district judge ruled in the town's favor, and the railroad ultimately agreed to build an unobstructing track bed and use its own land for track.

Lost Springs: My Kind of Town

Population went from 1 to 3, some where between the county highway and the church.  

Seems legit. 

They really made it look exciting. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder, is that you?

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
- R. Frost