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True Country

CONTENT

True Country

Ben Ashby

 

ESSAY BY: BLAKE PACK

When people dream of living in the country, I imagine they don't give much thought to the flies, pollen, grain chaff, and heat; the smell, wind, or dust. Growing up, the five-hundred head of livestock we owned consumed several tons of grain, hay, and corn each day; Let's just say not all of our dust was made of dirt. I don't know how the West was won, but I can imagine it probably conquered a few indomitable wills along the way.

 

I worked with these cattle in these conditions and I couldn't fathom thatthis land, this plain, was someone's romanticized dream of country life. I hated the work most. You couldn't escape the filthy combination of dust and grime, of animal and earth. When Grandpa said to be at the barn by seven, he didn't mean 0700, you were expected be there at 6:45 A.M. The cows wouldn't milk themselves at four in the morning, nor would the grain irrigate itself. The calves had to be fed, and the horses caught, all before nine if we were going to get to horse breaking.

 

I will admit the chore of breaking mostly fell to my Grandpa and father, but my brother and I had the privilege of holding the ropes as the colts kicked up the aforementioned dust. After several days of this repetition, the time came for my brother and me to run the horses like we were being chased by hellfire. It will never fail to amaze me how a colt in full sprint can reach back and bite his rider's shin without ever breaking stride.

I won't say it didn't have its rewards. We had our fair share of trips to the Palisades and Grand Tetons. Even if the trips required a wake-up call at five in the morning to catch horses, pack saddles, and load trailers. Six butts crammed into an extended cab '88 Chevy Dually for a two-hour drive, it wasn't ideal but it was all about the destination.

After several hours of riding, in these watercolor landscapes usually right about the time the pain from the saddle fell numb we'd return to the truck and, in reverse order, undo all the work of saddling the horses, repack, cram our butts back into the truck, and return home. Only this time, we'd stop by the first gas station we met where Dad would buy us whatever treat we wanted. At the end of our drive we'd drop the cousins and uncles off at their homes, leaving the work of unpacking to my brother, father, and me. Only when we had unpacked the horse trailer could we waddle home with our saddle-sore thighs and crawl into bed; Just to repeat it all the next day.

When people dream of living in the country, I don't imagine them giving much thought to the work and sweat that goes with a true country life, but that's just what I'll never forget.