In an effort to get me to write more, my Mom sent me this picture. I must have been about 6, because I was riding my unicorn horse Sequoia. I called Sequoia my unicorn horse because he was a mustang from the BLM and at some point during his life he had run into a barbed wire fence which created scar on his face that reminded me of a unicorn horn. This was taken on one of the cattle drives we had. We would spend a week pushing the cattle up to the Plumas National Forest, where they would spend their summer grazing high country meadows.
Most of my childhood memories involve horses, cattle or the Ranch. When you grow up an only child on a large cattle ranch in the country, your activities do have a tendency to be limited. When I was a little girl, the Ranch was very old school. My Great Aunts and Grandfather were still alive and running the Ranches, that means everything was done just like their Parents did it.
My Dad was the ranch-hand during this time. Like all successful ranchers, my Dad was lucky enough to have a wife (my Mom), that worked in town. This was awesome because we had health insurance and a steady income, unlike most people in my Dad’s position.
One of the many unique aspects of my youth was instead of going to day care or having a babysitter like normal children with working parents, I had a horse. This horse made me an asset at an early age. Of course, to me, this was normal. Until I started school, I thought everyone had horses and cows. That cattle drives high into the mountains was what everyone did during their summers. It was quite a shock to my little 4 year old self when I realized I wasn’t normal.
By age 4 or 5 most ranch kids are professionals. We work, we have responsibility, we have jobs. I was no different. By the time I started Kindergarten, I had life experience that most adults would never have. From getting a piggy back ride from Mr. Clint Eastwood, to going on weeklong cattle drives twice a year.
My Great Aunt Mary lived on the same Ranch as we did during the winter. I had a wonderful relationship with her. I spent a lot of time with her, because she was our only neighbor. Instead of going out and playing with neighborhood kids I played with animals and old family members. She grew up during the Depression; therefore she saved everything from old mayonnaise jars to the twist ties that closed bags of bread. In fact we are still finding these “treasures” in our barns.
One item reminds me of Aunt Mary more than anything else, and that is maple syrup. Every time I see a bottle of it, I am instantly whipped back to 1986. Aunt Mary would save all of her empty maple syrup bottles for me and whenever my Dad and I worked for her in the summer, she would bring me cold water in an upcycled syrup bottle. To a hard working 4 year old cold, maple syrup flavored water is just about the best thing ever.
Recently upcycling has become trendy and green. A fact that never fails to amuse me since it seems like most farmers and ranchers were upcycling long before it was cool. Currently I battle with my Parents over old barn wood, I NEED it for my various pinterest projects and my Dad keeps trying to re-build corrals with it. It’s a vicious cycle of recycling.