Maybe it is night calving, or worry, or working two jobs…whatever the source, lack of sleep messes with people. I’ve misplaced my keys after just having them in my hand and forgotten what someone told me… in addition to yawning my way through the day. At some point, it seems sleeplessness affects everyone.
In keeping with the unwritten laws of cowboy culture, plans do not change because of exhaustion. After repeated cups of coffee or several pinches of chew, the cowboy keeps going as if nothing had ever happened. Life doesn’t stop because we are tired, I understand. It’s just that after decades of pushing through, it can catch up with a person.
There are a couple of old wives tales or pioneer remedies for lack of sleep, like drink a glass of warm milk before bed. (This has actually been proven to have some merit because of the soothing effect of a warm drink as well as a tidbit of tryptophan in milk.) My grandpa used to put a big rock in the oven, then put the warm rock in his bed before climbing under the sheets at night. Early settlers used to pick hops, dry it out, and put it in their pillows. Hops are still recommended as a natural remedy for sleeplessness. (This doesn’t include passing out from drinking your hops.)
If you google insomnia, there are more websites than I can count with suggestions for sleeping. There are many helpful tips. Yet hearing people in agriculture talk about difficulty sleeping makes me wonder: Can a lack of sleep come from adhering to past cowboy culture in our modern world? In other words, how much pressure is there to work sun up to sun down because that’s what ranchers “do”? Does an unwritten mentality–I must do x y and z today in this particular way because otherwise the neighbors might think I’m lazy or incapable–keep us from a peaceful night of sleep?
Ranching is hard work no matter what. It is rarely a lack of exercise that keeps a cowboy or cowgirl awake at night. Many days our bones melt into our beds. What I’m wondering is if old mindsets effect new circumstances. I think they do.
There are worthy traits passed along in ranching: good work ethics, caretaking, respect, joy, nurturing, tenacity, etc. May we always hold on to these! However, if we are doing something simply because that’s the way it has always been done (even if there is a simpler method available), maybe we can save ourselves some hassle and catch a few more zzz’s. In our place that we bought last year, we are modifying the irrigation system because what’s always been done here is wasting water and causing soil erosion. Upfront, it would be easier to just leave what’s here, but in the long-run, we’ll have some mighty dry and unproductive pastures. We are looking to enhance productivity for the future–not just for us, but for those who come after us.
I’m also reevaluating my daily process because doing what I think looks good to others or continuing in something because that’s what’s always been done has cost me some sleep. I certainly don’t want to do the opposite and tick everyone off just because I can, but I think remaining true to how God made me, even if it doesn’t fit the mold, is of high priority. I may not get it right all the time, but I suppose that’s why there is grace.
May we find grace for one another, our mindsets, and our ranch–and may this lead to some restful nights.