Scene Change! When a Surprising Plot Twist Touches Ranching…


Scene Change!

In the movies you barely see sweaty horses, even though they’ve traveled umpteen miles… Guns are full of bullets, no matter how many rounds have been fired. The guy always gets the girl or vice versa.

From the beginning of the show climax is building. There’s a problem to overcome, usually multiple problems, with endless obstacles. The viewer often wants to shout, “Don’t open that door!” What happens though? The main character opens the door and yet another issue pops up.

At the height of the conflict, when the climax can’t get any bigger, that’s when resolution enters. Resolution brings us to the end of the movie where we get to see what happens.

Wouldn’t that be nice in life?

Counselors have said that one of the problems with our modern culture is that we are too anticipatory of immediate or quick coming answers to situational problems. We are used to a conclusion in two hours like the movies or a fast romance where relational issues resolve in minutes.

Life isn’t like that.

It certainly isn’t like that on a ranch.

We’ve all ridden the rollercoaster to the top when cattle prices were high. We’ve plunked down to the bottom when they were low. We’ve ridden loops with a sudden calf death. We’ve zipped up with twins that thrive.

This past week we had a crushing blow to our ranch.

I’m still reeling.are you serious emoji

Uncertainly looms: Do we stay or do we go? Do we press forward in this agricultural lifestyle? Or do we move to town? (Don’t judge me, if you’ve ranched longer than 5 minutes, you’ve had this thought too.) What is the next best step?

Last December we leased a large piece of property. Our agreement stated there was enough feed and water for 500 head. We put 225 head in there for the first year until we were familiar with the place. As it turns out, the springs (which were full when we toured the property) only put out a fraction of what was expected. So all summer we lacked water and worked tirelessly to keep them alive, all the while hoping the cows would thrive. We thought we’d made it. Until we preg checked.


Forty percent.


That’s the amount of opens we had. We’ve been doing this many years and never had more than 2% be open. It’s embarrassing. We want to hide the truth and pretend our herd did awesome.

Our preg checker (who happens to have an advanced degree in bovine reproduction) said it was due to a huge amount of stress during the breeding season. This confirmed what my hubby thought (who also has an advanced degree, plus oodles of experience). Which was? Water. The stress of low water.

Ughh. We could’ve pulled out this summer, but where would we go? With the fire season in Montana, all the grass had burned up or was taken. Plus, we always want to honor our end of the contract and stay the course. The owners didn’t know it would work out this way. We couldn’t haul water to this place because of its remote location and the immense volume needed for 225 cows. (Each cow drinks 30 gallons a day in the summer!)

Scene change! Please?

Isn’t this where it all works out and oops, we made a mistake, they actually are bred? Isn’t this where superman swoops in and implants embryos?


Not so much in real life.

What’s next then? We don’t know.

Ultimately we are called to be stewards of the land and care takers of the animals. We tend what we have with unwavering care. It isn’t the animals’ fault and if we could’ve changed this past summer or done it any better, we would have.

We may not get a scene change or a fresh horse. We do get long hours with little pay, but it can’t change us. We might cry. Yet somehow we will move on–just like all of the folks that lost their herds, homes, and land in fires. Agriculture has to continue. It isn’t an option.

What does this mean for us? It means we have a front-lines view of hard hits in agriculture. It can be an unforgiving business. It means we creatively pursue the future with prayer. It means we proceed with positivity. It means we choose joy despite our circumstances because circumstances vary.

It’ll be okay.

We believe that nothing is ever wasted. Not our tears, not our pain, not our hurts. We trust that God will show us where to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes the hardest things we go through lead to change we needed to choose, but wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. Sometimes it brings us to a sweet spot we didn’t know existed.

We’re in this together. Keep moving forward!

Sept. 2017 moving cows to Cramp Springs 011