At 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning, there are few things for which I will voluntarily wake up. The promise of beating the afternoon heat for the sake of a day’s worth of working cattle is one of them.
I’m not able to work cows often (ranching day to day is not my “real job” — although any member of a ranching family would probably tell you otherwise) so when the opportunity arises, I’m more than willing to sacrifice a morning of sleeping in if it means being able to get away from a computer and trade in my keyboard and mouse for a pair of reins.
In my (very humble) opinion, there are few sounds in Wyoming that are more comforting than that of the wind traveling through pine trees and across miles of open range in front of you. It may sound poetic — but rightfully so, as my husband (who frantically struggles with what to put into words in any given greeting card) has on numerous occasions brought forth awestruck descriptions of the land, the cattle and the memories and traditions that hold the way of life for him and for so many people in our community.
So to hear the sounds and the stories I love so much, I choose to wake up early whenever I’m able. To take off my sandals and slide on my favorite pair of boots. To pull up my hair and trade my bobby pins and hairspray out for a good ball cap and a rubber band. To smell the dust and the inside of the barn as the door slides open to disperse bridles and hackamores. To feel nostalgic each time I catch my favorite mount, knowing that we both (at times, painstakingly) have traveled the road over time from 4-H horse shows to eventually finding our places amongst the rest of the family as regular hands — wherever and whenever we’re needed — around the ranch.
I choose to wake up early (and to forget every time that yes, early mornings in the summer can also occasionally call for a thin pair of gloves and a sweatshirt) because I love this part of the life I get to live with my family — no matter how occasional — and because there is a true healing power to literally unplugging. A sense of curing by getting out of cell range, forgetting about Facebook updates and trading a high-definition screen in for a mountain range, a ping or a bell for the chirp of a real bird, and experiencing an affection and admiration for the living, breathing animal beneath me and for those in front of me as they make their way one by one up a narrow, well-beaten trail.
It’s certainly not mountain biking, canoeing, hiking or skiing, but working cattle and having a role within a tradition that calls for early mornings (and sometimes very late evenings — or are those one and the same?) requires one to foster an entirely new respect for the elements, teaches things about family members I only thought I had figured out and gives me a sense of awestruck contentment and inner peace that is comparable with completing a challenging hike, running a steep hill or simply taking a deep breath in after a long day.
There are few things I will wake up for voluntarily on an early Saturday morning, but this is most certainly one of them.
Kristen Masters works with Flood Marketing in Sheridan.