Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On The Mic

Late Thursday night - in time to miss the Angus show - the big bird in which I was snoozing touched down in Denver for the National Western Stock Show. After being one not there for more than a week, there was no place I'd rather be. I was fortunate to even make the brief trip; I daily thank God for selflesshard-working parents

Walks through the historic yards, spending a few hours with our beautiful nice Bayler, visiting on the Hill, shifting weight the in green cheap seats, dodging tourists throughout the barn, breakfast burritos, watching Cody judge the breed I adore,  laughing with Katie from Fancy In The Country, reconnecting with old friends and red beer. This summarizes my quick trip.

But looking past all of the events watched, places seen, ounces consumed or money spent, something really struck me during this particular visit to the Mile High. 

Whether or not I recognized a showman or judge in the ring, I listened intently to reasons given by each livestock judge. 
Soundly structured. 
Heavy muscled. 
Nicely balanced. 
But I was captivated by the closing remarks which each judge made just before they chose the champion animal. The winner of the 2015 National Western Stock Show. What an honor. 

Every judge that I watched thanked particular people out of their life who got them to the place in which they spoke from today: Credible enough to judge the The Super Bowl of Stock Shows, humble enough to accept with gratitude. 
In that moment, the appointed judge had the microphone and the attention of an entire international arena. What did they do with it?

They each - in length -  justified their selections, then very briefly gave credit where credit was due. 
One thanked his wife and boys for working so hard in Texas so he had the opportunity to travel to Denver. 
One thanked his parents back home - watching the show online - for raising him the in industry that would go on to fuel his burning professional passion.

One thanked stockman showing in the opposite ring; for it was the folks in the other breed that raised that particular judge. 
And I heard one thank his wife for everything she does at home. 
She heard his deep voice crack with emotion and that was enough 'thanks' for her.

Each of those individual closing remarks initiated a tennis ball in my throat and mental notes.

If I were given the opportunity to speak at an international level in front of an industry that has become a passion, who would I thank?

Who would I mention on the mic?

It had to be someone who 
ignited a fire
fueled a passion
was a quiet cheerleader
supported you despite your shortcomings
never stopped inspiring 
showed forgiveness
was patient
was open-minded

If you were given the microphone, 
who would you thank?

And, I'm not just speaking in livestock terms. 
a teacher
a mother
an enemy
an advisor
an executive
a father
a person you've never officially met
a competitor
a soul mate you hate
a manager
a sister
a severed friend
a stranger you need to find again. 

You may not have a microphone, but don't forget to thank those who influenced where you are today - in large part or as a silent motivator. 
Send a letter. 
Make a phone call. 
Shoot them a text. 
Shake their hand. 
Thank God you had time with them while they were around. 

Because you and I both know:
Where ever you are today,
you didn't get here alone. 

Thank you, Legacy Livestock Imaging and Bailey Core for the photos. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Ones Not There

I had a friend text me the other night while he was feeding cows in frigid temperatures. He had just read The Stockman’s Wife and wheels were turning:

Just thinking...1 of ur blogs could be about the 1s not there?

His message was cryptic, but I understood it perfectly. He was one of them, as was I.
I responded with frozen fingers:
"love if.
I was cold, my fingers hurt and my phone was frozen.

If you’re connected to the livestock world even the slightest bit you know that the National Western Stock Show in Denver is currently going on. Fifteen days of history, livestock, competition and red beers. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.  

Three years ago today (crazy) it was at the National Western that I met my husband.
Four years ago this week I passionately documented the experience of The Yards.
Nine years ago this week I found it as a place to reconnect with my Dad.
Today I’m on of those not there. The same with a lot of folks.

So what is life like during these fifteen days for those not at the National Western?

The ones not there send those who are away with food. Road food. Chex mix. Cookies. Beef jerky. Vitamins. Advil. And Five-Hour Energy. The road to Denver is long, windy and unusually munchie. 

The ones not there add Denver, CO to their Weather Channel app so they can stare at the 50° display on the screen while they’re chipping ice off their windshield. Gluttons for punishment. 

The ones not there have the rare opportunity to stand in the barn lot with their Dad in the quiet darkness and find the big dipper once the clouds clear and temperatures drop. Dad can always find it quicker. 

The ones not there have the guts to set a live trap, then are absolutely horrified when they catch the wrong (angry) animal. Now what?

The ones not there spend far too much time on the Internet trying to watch shows live (cursing their rural internet) and catch up on show results via social media. Social media posts are like salt in a wound to the ones not there. 

The ones not there thank God they're not a single parent. Getting little ones to school, programs, supper and bed is tough alone. And FaceTime is just really poor with the blowers fired up in the background. 

The ones not there schedule every social event they’ve been unable to plan for months. Dinners, drinks, reunions, coffee and antiquing – all things that may take second fiddle throughout the year. She also may be sadly ready for bed by 8:30; frozen valves do that to a person.

The ones not there control the thermostat, television channel, menu, bedtime, grocery list, laundry schedule and bed covers. The ones not there remember what it was like to be single.

The ones not there don't mind the hassle of getting ridiculously bundled up - and unbundled - several times a day because frankly, it's like a mini work out. The same with the burning lungs. Spend an hour outside in below zero temperatures and it's like you just ran a mini marathon. Assuming you know how that feels...?

The ones not there wait on phone calls for placing outcomes, sale reports, latest news and family updates. The ones not there usually fall asleep before these calls come due to the time difference.

The ones not there watch heifers start springing, cows start bagging and new calves figure out this big old world. The ones not there spend a lot of time in the barn thanking God that they were given the responsibility to keep all of these creatures - the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50- alive.  

 The ones not there find a certain luxury in the fact that they don’t have prepare as much supper, as half of the consumers are gone. Some nights, the ones not there gladly suffice with cheese and crackers. Several nights, actually. Maybe four nights in a row. 

The ones not there navigate their way through frozen pipes in the house, frozen valves in the pasture tanks, over flowing commodes after young company, curious heifers who snap temporary fence (twice), a full 15° day without a door on the house and also an ice storm for good measure.  Now you know why I’ve looked so incredibly strung out since last Wednesday.  I’ve learned to let my hair dry under a toboggan.

 The ones not there are reliable, optimistic (typically, but not always), 
humorous (typically, but not always), understanding (typically, but not always), and patient (typically, but not always).

They survive pleasantly. Because they know the worst that could happen is frozen valves, and they've already mastered those. 

The ones not there don't complain, they just get things done because being the only one home for a while means one wonderful thing: 
For two Saturdays in a row they can sleep in past 5:30 and no one knows. 

They're not talking.
They get fed too well. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Winter On The Farm

Winter on the farm. 
Not a season for the faint of heart, soul or mind.
It's a rare breed, those who can wake up to -30ยบ windchill and still look forward to the opportunity that the day presents 
before them. Somewhat

Winter on the farm. 
It is wondering how in the heck cows can walk across broken, frozen lots in hooves when Mucks boots are barely saving your ankles. "That broad gives a whole new meaning to sound footed," you think to yourself, tip-toeing as though your life depended on the next step. Which, it might. 

Winter on the farm. 
It is defined by the shrieks of pure Christmas morning joy when the youngest opens a new pair of Carhartts or a conditioned show halter. Nothing pink, chargeable or begins with "i". Rather something to be grown into, both in size and spirit

Winter on the farm. 
It is staying up late to figure rations on your bred heifers' feed plan, meticulously planned so they don't over gain.... then not thinking twice about the frozen pizza
- Or two frozen pizzas -
that your family just devoured. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's trying to follow tracks in the snow then feeling small when your legs don't quite make length. Winter on the farm is the first place you learn this lesson: Staying on the path is important; each time you stray it shows. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's being certain you'll know no other pain than when snow gets packed between your glove and your coat, convinced the ice will erode your veins. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's all about blame. 
It's about trying to remember who was supposed to drain the hose. 
Because, obviously, no one did. 
And this has ruined your morning routine. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's electric blankets, extra insulation, stacked straw, constant weather watching and chili. It's spending three hours moving snow just so you can get down your long lane in order to go shovel the neighbor's drive. Winter on the farm is losing your head because your husband bought a heated water bowl for the stray cats in the barn. It's slamming the door in his smiling face once you hear his claim that it was 75% off.

Winter on the farm. 
It's bedding expectant mothers nightly. It's pitching frozen manure and spreading dusty straw and- through your sneezes - wondering about the last time you changed the sheets on your own bed?

Winter on the farm. 
It's sitting in the warmth of your own bathroom and trying to teach a newborn calf - half frozen - how to suck. It's exhausting your patience and heart while breaking your back as you force feed a baby who was born early in arctic temperatures. Winter on the farm is talking to God: "I know I ask for a lot, but please, please God place your arms around his baby and warm her up. God, let her live. God, please, save this calf." Winter on the farm is wondering how parents with sick children get through it. Winter on the farm is falling asleep against a washing machine holding a 70 lb. "baby".

Winter on the farm.
Winter is trading fashion for function. It's strategically layering cotton under wool under waterproof. It's being so bundled up that - unless you're going to be in the house for more than two hours - you don't unbundle until you're done for the day. Winter is replacing your image with warmth. 

Winter is also following the BYOHH rule: 
Bring Your Own Hot hands

Winter on the farm. 
It's rolling over to realize you'r husband is gone. 
And for a second you're concerned - but then you wake enough to remember.
You know he's gone to check on things in the barn, too tired to sleep

Winter on the farm.
Hay is like gold and it's treated that way. Stockpiled, rationed and  sought after. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's not being mad that the winter weather alert blasting through your stereo speakers interrupted your favorite song as you blow out heifers. 
Winter on the farm is spending extra time in the barn at night because you  know you won't have school tomorrow. Winter is that confident excitement. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's waking to the dark and breakfasting in the dark. 
It's working in the dark.
It's feeding the the dark then sleeping in the dark. 
Winter on the farm is dark

But winter on the farm brings great light. 
Fresh snow. 
Young life.
New year. 
Soft beginnings. 
Another notch on the belt if you don't play your cards right. 

Winter on the farm. 
Not a season for the faint of heart, soul or mind.
Rather, one worth bundling and blowing through in order to get to something different. 
Something warmer. 

Something like spring mud. 

Have you read about the life of 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Faster Than The Egg Nog

The last blog post of 2014. 
Where does the time go?
Down the drain faster than the egg nog. 

I called Cody, just after hitting the road for work:
Me: YUCK! I'm going to PUKE! I just took the last of the milk for breakfast and I took a big gulp of it as I pulled onto the highway - IT WAS SOUR! And I couldn't spit it out because I was on the highway. BLAH! I need a toothbrush!
Him: It's funny you called. I saw that you took the last of the milk so I just chugged some egg nog on my way out the door. Definitely bad. DEFINITELY. BAD.

I laughed - and gagged - all the way to the office. 

That sums up 2014 for us. Week days drag on, then all of the sudden sour milk makes you realize just how quickly time moves: Faster than the egg nog. 

I'm generally not one for annual resolutions because...well, they're a part of my life only until March. But in 2015 I feel compelled to share a few big things I'd like to accomplish, ongoing throughout the year.

1. Take Care

I'm committing to taking better care of myself. Not only does this include eating better, it also entails flossing and not popping my knuckles. Also, exercising if there is time. Baby steps. 

I'm committing to taking better care of this house. I mopped with my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser this week and was so embarrassed by the dirt found on the sponge by the end of the task that I removed the eraser and wrapped it in a plastic bag then disposed of it, as if to hide evidence. It was as though I was disposing of a smoking gun. Momma would have been mortified. 

I'm committing to taking better care of my husband. No husband should be left to suffer through a breakfast of sour egg nog. I could have at least offered him some of that Dollar General Wonder Bread he kindly provided me................

2. Find Beauty

My friend Laramie (remember the gal who - for once in her life - was on time and it saved her life?) is my best example of finding beauty in every day. I don't know how much time in a day she spends taking photos, but if I had to guess  I'd say it may account for a second job. But she's damn good at it, and I'm grateful. Sunrise to sunset: She has a great eye and a trigger finger. Her ability to see things reminds me to open my own eyes

Photo by Laramie Smith 
How does she do that?

In 2015 I'm committing to finding beauty in the strange world around me. Everyday: To finding, studying and appreciating the beauty. 

As practice, I took these two shots as I wrapped up my evening:

I call the left one "Toothpaste on Faucet" and the right one "Dirty Dishes"

Move over, Laramie. 
There's a new Beauty Finder in town. 
Kind of. 

3. Communicate

In 2015, I commit to writing again. 
Not for work (though I will because my livelihood depends on it). 
Not for this blog (though I will because my sanity depends on it). 
But for the sake of connecting. Or, reconnecting. 

And to keep my handwriting in tact. I wrote a check two weeks ago and could barely decipher my own script. 
I'd hate for someone to try to cash my check for "Two Hungry and Fifty Six Daubers". 

58 Daubers are just too many. 

In My Life, B.C. (Before Cody) I wrote one letter a week to friends or family across the country without second thought. With an ink pen. The kind with no backspace. 
It was natural. 
It was easy. 
It was fun. 
I had time. 
I did laundry occasionally because I had four closets and no one questioned it. 
I didn't have a husband...or cows. 
But now I have grand responsibility and even bigger love

In 2015 I commit to starting again, to writing one hand-written note a week. The kind of letter - that - three decades from us will find in a shoebox tied with string. And they'd read in it in awe, trying to match my handwriting with a font. And they'll wonder what a New Years Resolution was. 

My Goals for 2015 Summarized 
(see, you could have skipped to the bottom and saved some time)

1. Take Care
What have you neglected?

2. Find Beauty
What have you overlooked?

3. Communicate
What words do you need to speak?

I hope that when I awake from the holiday haze in February I've stuck to my written words. I wish the same for September, when I'll wonder where the summer went. And next December, when I sit down to reflect again, I hope you can hold me accountable by thinking to yourself: I saw one of her letters. 

Or, you could think: She definitely looked 
thinner when I saw her in June. 

Whatever comes to your mind first. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fourth Annual Jean's Boots Christmas Letter

It's the evening of December 23rd and I'm just sitting down to write my obligatory Christmas letter that outlines the middle-of-the-road happenings in our world for the last twelve months.. 
For the sake of time, I hope none of you have dial up.

Though there were no earth shattering events to fill the last twelve months that went by so quickly, 2014 was good to us.

We logged countless outdoor hours while making improvements to the farm we bought last August:

  • New electric in three barns
  • Outdoor lighting 
  • Created a working system
  • New high tinsel fence on the west property boundary
  • Cody installed four new waterers
  • Converted the crop ground into pasture
  • Caught two stray cats eating our barn cat's food

The inside of the house got a little attention, too, as I discovered the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and spent many Sunday afternoons "erasing" things. Just get the deal wet and wipe away! Note: The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is, in fact, an eraser. It WILL erase paint. From walls. 

Though we've made awesome progress on the interior of the homestead, it's still an old farmhouse. And mice like old farmhouses when the temperature drops outside. After nagging (guilty) about setting a trap, one morning I found Cody standing in the middle of the kitchen with a mouse trap clamped on his finger and a teaspoon of peanut butter plopped on his forehead. And on the cupboard. And the window over the sink. Trap setting gone wrong. I made a sincere effort to not laugh aloud but it made my insides burn and I had a mouth full of coffee. PS Prayers were brief - and sticky - that day. 

In 2014 we celebrated one year of marriage and continue to charge through year two. Daily we learn more and more about one another and how we process thoughts differently. A brief, recent example:
After discussing dinner options one Friday evening:
Him: Let's go there. It's low-lit, kind of dark...
Me: Whoa. Is this really a date night? (optimist)
Him: No, I just don't want anyone to see the mud on my jeans. (realist)

Cody was on the road often for work in the last year,  so I enlisted the help of my family to keep this place operational. This plan typically worked. Typically. Until one Saturday when Luke and I were feeding hay and we were reminded why Dad generally gave us to-do lists for different farms growing up. Even in our thirties, we tend to get ourselves in situations

These photos were all taken after we miraculously got the tractor pulled out. 

This place could really use a good freeze. 

In May great friend Katie Mae, of Fancy In The Country, and I took our annual girls' trip and decided to head east rather than west.

We antiqued, dined and explored all that West Virginia had to offer....including the Mystery Hole. In my thirty years of life, The Mystery Hole was one of the most strange, creepy, this is how Dateline always starts, places I've ever been. But we took the tour, experienced the bizarreness that is The Mystery Hole and lived to tell about it. 

In November I was fortunate enough to spend ten days in Argentina studying their culture, economics and agriculture systems. What an amazing opportunity. While I was enjoying the land of red meat and Malbec, Cody was judging the junior Angus show at the North American. I was bummed that I wasn't able to be there to support him, but modern technology really pulled through for us.  


As did the wine.

I did try to focus on personal development a bit in 2014 and really challenged myself to do better. Some personal achievements only worthy of sharing in this obligatory Christmas letter:

1. Made gravy from scratch that was digestible:

2. Took this panoramic shot of Buenes Aires without puking on the glass:

3. Got on a real serious health kick and used the local trail to walk three miles 
for three days straight. 
Three months ago. 

My goal for 2015 is to fine-tune my organizational skills so that Cody doesn't have to call me at work looking for the 4-wheeler keys. Or, send this photo two hours later illustrating where he actually found said missing keys. 

As soon as I saw it, I remembered: I hung them on that random wire on the side of the barn so I could run out to the mailbox. I was afraid if I carried them, they'd get lost in the shuffle....Hopefully my fine-tuning in 2015 brings Cody some sort of relief.

While we gladly spend the great majority of our evenings on the farm, every once in a while we leave the farm - together. In 2014 I surprised Cody with George Strait tickets and he returned the gesture with Eric Church tickets months later. How lucky are we to see two great ones in one year?

I think it's only fitting:


Another year turned into a memory. That's so hard to believe. I sure appreciate you keeping up with Jean’s Boots as I wear out more soles than I care to count. 

The Sankey’s wish you the best in 2015.

Lindsay Jean

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In Sickness And In Health

Well, we're there. 

This week I've been in bed with the flu that seems to be sweeping the area. It's been so bad that I asked Cody to find other things to do because I didn't want him around the house with me. 
I didn't want him to see me in that state? 
Rather, I'm more like a sick dog when I don't feel good: I don't want to be seen, talked to, bothered, acknowledged, etc. I mostly want to hide under a tree in the woods and die. 
Or, under a blanket on the couch. 

In the three years we've known one another, neither have been in this state of sickness. 
He nor I. 
It was time. 

Cody tried to both 1) respect my requests to leave and never come back (unless wielding a gun) and 2) be a caring husband. 
I woke up Monday morning with he looking over me. 
I wasn't startled; I could barely open my eyes. 

"Linds, Linds are you alive?" he whispered, kneeing the edge of the mattress, obviously smart enough to not touch me. "I went to the Dollar General and bought some things to get you better."
I rolled over to see his arms full. 

Two bottles of Pepto-Bismol, 
a box of saltines, 
a block of cheese, 
one loaf of Wonderbread and 
a 64-ounce orange Gatorade. 

Poor guy. He'd been listening to me from outside the bathroom for 24 hours and no idea which end the problem was coming from. 

I rolled over and tried not to throw up into my pillow just imagining all of that combined. The next thing I knew it was 11:00 pm and CS was climbing the stairs for bed. I had lost 36 hours of my life. 

Yesterday, Cody put things in perspective as I was somewhat on the mend.
As I refilled my water jug Tuesday evening, from the kitchen window I watched Cody walk halfway to the barn - throw up twice in the driveway - then do the feeding. Watching with a dropped jaw, I didn't know if I should throw up to prove my allegiance to our team or give him a round of applause for his stamina. 

It ain't pretty around the Sankey homestead right now, but at this rate we both should be well by Christmas. Or, at least not grocery shopping at the Dollar General. I wish I had something more - or even funny - to say about the situation but frankly I think I saw my sense of humor go out in the last trash bag. 

Wash your hands, friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Deer Wrangler

Bear with me, it is an interesting story. One of which I forgot until I was in Argentina in November.

We were dining before a tango show and one of the gals at my table decided to begin the dinner/drink conversation with this question: "We've spent seven months together in class and traveled to Argentina as a group; what is one thing other participants don't know about you?"

For as boggled as my classmates appeared to be by the challenge, they sure offered up some incredible stories: 
1. As a young gal, one woman found a bear drinking fresh milk out of the can that her cows had just filled, so she got a gun and shot the bear...which proceeded to run around the Minnesota countryside with a metal milk can stuck on it's head. 
2. One guy was a hired man on a ranch in Texas where a triple-murder took place. He had to testify, then went on to help arrest the killer....who happened to be another ranch hand at that time. 
3. Me? I only tackled a deer. 

I was thirteen years old when a stray deer decided to jump into Momma and Dad's herd. And let me tell you: Cattle don't take too kindly to rigid, awkward visitors. 
In fact, when this particular deer jumped the fence and joined the BSG crew, it chased our animals and scared the cattle greatly - causing them to find any way out: Over or through fence. 

Since I was small, cattle getting out has sent me into complete shock. Crying, puking, shaking - no matter if I'm 13 or 30 - my reaction is the same: Bad. 

Darn that random deer, shaking up my world that day. And the thing about deer: they never really slow down. 
The deer ran. 
Across pastures. 
Over fences. 
Along borders. 
Until finally, Dad and brother Luke corralled it onto the feedlot floor. 

It was a scrappy thing, ramming and jamming into the red gate at the south end of the feedlot floor. The deer really wanted out of the situation (as did I), but seemed to have lost all sense (as did I). It repeatedly ran full force into red metal gates that were going nowhere. What an idiot. 

Luke and Dad were lined up one behind one another, preparing (kind of) for the deer's next move. 
Momma and I stood at the end of the feedlot floor, as spectators next to the barn. I wasn't the best spectator; my head was yakking between my knees. 

Below, a true-to-life sketch of the layout just before running. 
The deer (brown stick deer) is by the red gate between the south silos. 
Luke is the first green X. 
Dad, the second. 
Momma and I are to the left, by the barn. 

Back to me with my head between my knees: Suddenly, the deer calmed down a bit, as if scheming. Breathing. Preparing. 

And he turned around. 

The deer charged full steam ahead, northbound, head down, towards Luke and Dad. The hooves scrapped across the concrete bottom. Scampering. Scuffing. Speeding. 

Luke leaped towards the deer - missed him. 

Seconds later Dad did the same - and the deer flew by him, too. 

At this point in the day, I was frustrated, scared, freaked out, sick, confused, and mostly just flat out MAD
This deer was the reason that our cows were out all over the farm. 
I decided to take matters into my own hands. 

I stepped out in front of the the raging reindeer, grabbed the SOB by it's belly and took it down, rolling the animal on top of me. He was such an angry little elf carrier. It's legs flailed aimlessly (actually, he was trying to kill) and it's razor sharp hooves whipped around like knives. 

 I held the Edward Scissor Hands Jerk as close to me as I could while Luke yelled out, "Hold on to him, Jeany! I'm going to go get a halter!"
Yeah, thanks Luke. Least you could do. Literally: The. Least. You. Could. Do. 

I managed to hold the deer as tightly as I could onto my chest until Luke and Dad took him off my hands. They tied him up and - because he had an identification tag - called the DNR. When the officer arrived he gave me some long speech about how I should have never tackled the deer, how people die from getting cut by their hooves, what a risky decision it was, blah blah blah. I must have given the guy a really bad look looking during his dissertation because Momma squeezed my arm really hard.  

Much to my dismay, I was then known as "The Deer Wrangler" in places far and near. I just wanted to be a prom queen. 

Seventeen years later (wow), it is strange how I remember it all so vividly. I remember punching the deer once before they loaded him onto the trailer. Hateful? Maybe. But hell hath no fury like a thirteen year-old-gal who despises anything which causes the cattle to get out. 

Weeks ago, while I was in Argentina Cody left a gate unchained overnight and woke to a woman pounding on the front door, letting him know that there was a cow grazing in the front yard. 

"Yeah," he said - in his calm, cool, collected, Cody tone. "It was one of those mornings when it was a good thing you were countries away."

I nervously laughed as I sat in my Rosario hotel room, envisioning the entire event. He was totally right: No one wants to see a gal flat tackle her husband because he was the reason that the cows roamed boundlessly. 

But then again, 
maybe that comes in year three?