I grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota, and although I have a deep respect and appreciation for the ranching lifestyle, I knew early on that I would most likely live in a town or city once I left the nest. However, now that I am a parent, I am profoundly grateful my daughter gets to experience ranching first-hand when visiting her grandparents, which she does regularly.
There is no better place to get your hands dirty and experience the miracle and beauty of life than in the sheep barn during lambing season. This past weekend my 2 1/2-year-old daughter felt a baby goat move inside its mother’s womb, fed bottle lambs, played King of the Mountain on a pile of dirt (not really dirt) with some rambunctious sheep, and rode in the tractor feeding cattle with her grandpa.
It’s not always fun and happy. Recently, we have had to navigate the rocky waters of one of my daughter’s favorite ewes dying while delivering twins. Fortunately the abundance of playful lambs has dominated her attention so Floppy’s absence has gone largely unnoticed.
I know these painful life lessons are a large part of ranching, but the value of learning to care for other living creatures and put the needs of others ahead of one’s self far outweighs the few inevitable sad moments. And the site of a dozen energetic lambs and a happy toddler playing together on a sunny day should be enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.