Day Six: Contemplative Ranching

Today was our last full day at the Padlock Ranch in Ranchester, Wyoming.

Tomorrow I have to ride in one of those little airplanes again.

Pavement, traffic, and my desk chair await.

I could attempt to describe the day we had, as I’ve done in previous posts. I could summarize our conversations, the things at which we laughed, the views at which we gazed.

But I think, if you’ve been reading along this week, that by now you get it.

At one point this afternoon, our group gazed out over a long valley after having pushed 100 or so cattle through it and up the mountainside. We sat on our horses, side by side, and watched a few bovine stragglers weave their way out of the brush and up through the tall, waving grasses. Someone remarked that watching cows was fascinating. We all agreed.

After a week of moving with the cattle and learning how they communicate, what they notice, when they walk and when they run, Martha and I continue to be endlessly amused by their curiosity. They crowd around you, ears forward, eyelashes long, with a look of bemused wonder. Even when a comrade is roped (this time of year, most likely for doctoring purposes) and her or his bellowing must certainly communicate stress and/or anger at such an affront, cows will generally stick around, stick their nose in, and “ask” what’s going on.

It might be fascinating watching the cows, but the cows spend a lot of time watching us, too.

This mutual character study can’t help but be good for both sides. In the cows’ case, a little human presence breaks up their long days and offers a little adrenalin rush…after all, it must get boring working one’s way from grass patch to grass patch, brush to meadow, lying down and standing back up.

In the humans’ case, we have a chance to slow our usual manic pace to match the cows’…we can breathe more slowly, consider the landscape before we move across it, and think a lot about mealtimes.

The Padlock offered me a chance to leave the world of Apps and deadlines, reach down and touch the ground I’m standing on, and look up and acknowledge the heavens above. It made me think, but not in the sense of buying or selling or making a living. It made me think about earth, wind, and sky. It made me think about land stewardship. It made me think about the food that I eat and the hands that grow it, raise it, and harvest it.

I joked a lot this week about leaving my brain behind and actually gave myself permission to let my head “run on empty.” But the truth is, I had more opportunity to indulge in quiet contemplation and deep thought this week than I have in a long time. The Padlock Ranch experience wasn’t a frenzied rush to get things done; it wasn’t programmed from sunup til sundown. It wasn’t forced, or exhausting, or overwhelming–all of which I can imagine are possibilities on a ranch “vacation.” Martha and I were masterfully woven into the fabric of daily work on the ranch, so that we weren’t just along for the ride. But, at the same time, our hosts respected our comfort zones and allowed us to decide how much we were ready or willing to give. We didn’t ride nose-to-tail; we had freedom of movement. We didn’t chatter incessantly, but spirited conversation flowed easily between and around comfortable silences.

Basically, it rocked.

We hope to get one last ride in tomorrow morning before we go to Sheridan to catch the first of two planes home. In the days ahead, I’ll share video and more photos, as well as detailing symptoms of Padlock Withdrawal. I can’t believe the week is over already.

At least I have an awful lot to think about.

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Managing Editor at Trafalgar Square Books, world's leading publisher of horse books and videos. View all posts by

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