Trying New ThingsMay 12, 2023 09:27AM ● By Allison Eliason
By Allison Eliason
When I was about twelve years old, I was having a conversation with my grandpa that ended with him saying, “Don’t set your stakes too deep.” Being the stubborn, headstrong girl that I was, his comment only further solidified my commitment to my dream and my determination that I knew what I wanted. With my jaw set and hands on my hips, I had told my grandpa that I was going to marry a cowboy because there was nothing more that I wanted for the rest of my life than living the ranch life. I wasn’t interested in a cowboy for the rodeo trail and I wasn’t looking for someone that just did it as a side hustle. I wanted the day in and day life on the ranch and someone I could share that experience with.
Of course now I know that grandpa only shared his wisdom with me that day because I was young and had so much life left to live. He knew there would be so many developments and opportunities that could take my life in a totally different direction if I wouldn’t have my stakes set too deep. Back then I felt he really had know idea just how much I loved everything about my ranch life.
Fortunately enough, my plan for a life of ranching was in sync with God’s plan for my life and I did find just the cowboy I was looking for. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that not all ranch life is the same. To my surprise, somewhere between my youthful proclamation and actually setting out as a young wife and mother on the family ranch, my rose colored glasses lost a little tint. I began to see that there was a lot more hard to ranching than I ever remembered.
I was sure that I would simply settle into our new ranch life, but there were so many differences from what I knew and what I was already good at that I felt like I had to learn so much of ranching over again. This wasn’t true in the slightest, but I couldn’t help but feel so far from home when I looked back to where I had come from.
Growing up we worked on a steed stock operation, not a commercial herd. We were heavily focused on genetics, AI-ing, and tracking bloodlines. We had irrigated meadows that we would rotationally graze and were green all summer round. All of the sudden I found myself moving cows across the range instead of across the pasture that we would never return to until the next year and only if there was sufficient rain and snow. Instead of knowing every cow and her mother and her mother’s mother, there seemed too many to even count. It all looked so different and so hard.
My stubborn determination and commitment to loving the ranch life served me well once again as I decided to pull up my big girl pants and figure out this new sort of ranching. Like drops in a bucket, little by little, I invested in getting to know ranching out on the range without the green irrigated pastures. And while I was getting things down, there was one thing that was still so unknown to me.
For a variety of reasons, my family was never really into roping. Instead my dad loved cutting horses and they served him well for how our operation was run. He had learned well how to work without a rope which meant I never learned. But I knew not long after marrying a cowboy that loved every opportunity he could pull out his rope, that it was something I would need to learn if I was really going to enjoy ranch life to the fullest with him. I knew that it was a piece of his ranch life that I wanted to be a part of and that without it, there was a large part of it I wouldn’t quite know or understand. I didn’t have any dreams of competing or becoming the next big thing, I just wanted to rope and ride with my family.
I’ll admit I was naive and thought that it would come easily and quickly. And when it didn’t, it was frustrating and I would put off learning for a while. But my rope kept hanging on the wall, quietly reminding me of my goal, silently pointing out that I was giving up, and wordlessly giving me hope to try again. There were days that I was sure I couldn’t figure it out. That there was no way I would ever be able to swing just right or throw just so or actually catch something in my loop.
Slowly, painfully slowly, I began to learn. I had a lot of good teachers that patiently would point out those many things that I just couldn’t work out. I would try to rope calves here and there at brandings or when the others were having a little fun in the arena. As I kept trying, little bits of what I was being shown and told would fall into place and I began seeing progress.
Finally I decided to start putting my practice into play and rode into the pen to rope and brand with the crew. I almost hate to say it out loud but I was scared. What if I messed up? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I caused a wreck and someone got hurt? My highly analytical brain was going overboard trying to make plans and contingencies for what I should do in every possible scenario I could think of. I was shaking like a leaf with all the adrenaline running through my body, something that only made my task seem harder. Slowly, I took a deep breath and decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
I don’t remember the specifics of catching that first set of heels or how many (or few!) that I caught that day, if I’m being honest. What I do remember was the pure joy of roping that calf, accomplishing that goal that seemed unachievable for me, and the relief that my hard work had paid off. I was ready for another one, and another and another. Oddly enough, my excitement that day wasn’t so much about the roping itself. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but there was so much satisfaction about overcoming something that was so hard for me to do. It was more about conquering something that seemed unattainable.
Over the last few years my progress has still been slow. With so many parts of mom life, wife life, ranch life and just LIFE life, I don’t dedicate a lot of time to my improvement. But I can still see progress. Just this last weekend, I had the best few days of roping of my short years doing it that has left me both totally satisfied and wanting more.
This great industry that we are a part of is an ever evolving and changing game. Just when we think we know exactly how to get things done, things are going to be different and we just might have to learn something new. In order to maximize our outputs, we may have to consider changing our inputs and begin doing things differently. The saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and while I’m not old by any means, I can surely attest that learning new things can be so hard. But it is also so worth it. Being a late blooming prodigy sure would have been a lot easier when I wanted to learn to rope. But I have to admit that the satisfaction of learning something hard and not giving up for such a long time was made all the sweeter by having to tough through it. Progress can be messy and difficult, but the satisfaction of learning something new, improving ourselves and our operations, will always be worth it.