WHAT A RANCHER KNOWS

a poem by Will Frost

A rancher knows
what it’s like to wake before dawn-day-light
before even the creaks in the failing
wood floors speak.

A rancher knows
what minute the sun peeks over horizons speckled
and freckled with silhouette-calves sticking
close to their mother’s flank.

A rancher knows
how soil feels smeared between the valleys of fingers
on hands scabbed and nicked and smooth
from rough work worked quickly.

A rancher knows
that a body’s strength is only useful part of the time
that a soft touch and thoughtful eye
accomplish more with less.

A rancher knows
what death and life have to do for each other
renewing and destroying and rebuilding
as a steward of a greater land.

A rancher knows
what it’s like to watch the bearing-sun cast kaleidoscope
twinkles through rippling irrigation-water pulled
across waiting fields.

A rancher knows
how to hold a flustered daughter between 1am and 2
so that she falls back asleep just in time
for an hour’s nap.

A rancher knows
that the day starts and ends at the same time
that Exel spreadsheets and TurbotaxTM
are worth utilizing.

A rancher knows
that depression isn’t just being sad
it’s a rotting within, a gnawing at something
words fail to capture.

A rancher knows
how to feel the weight of forces uncontrolled
and still carry on, that it’s a great life
if you don’t weaken.

A rancher knows
which storm clouds, blue and inaudible
will bring rains and which only bring false hopes.

A rancher knows
how dangerous hope can be and how necessary
it is in every day’s tasks when you step forward
once and back twice.

A rancher knows
that fires start easier with petroleum assistance
and that mattresses burn like hell.

A rancher knows
how to cook minimally on two pans
reusing them for breakfast the next morning.

A rancher knows
that reliable equipment
is worth the money.

A rancher knows
how to make it through when the market is down
and gramma-grass pastures look more like desertification.

A rancher knows
the weight of legacy, their ancestors ever present
in the decisions made for the next generation.

A rancher knows
how to change and morph and adapt
to their environment.

A rancher knows,
is intimately familiar with, the warble and songs
of every bird that calls the land home.

A rancher knows
that they are only stewards, protectors
of culture and ecology.

A rancher knows
how to dance, not well, but good enough
to get your attention.

A rancher knows
not to walk in the house
with muddy shoes.

A rancher knows
how to drink whiskey late with friends
and brunch early with local politicians.

A rancher knows
that one’s candor is all they have in this life,
that their character speaks more than their voice.

A rancher knows
fossil names, plant types, market prices
and this week’s weather conditions.

A rancher knows
the difference between cool season grass
and late summer feed.

A rancher knows
sorrow and peace,
they know speed and serenity,
they know horseback belly laughs
and silent tears at sunny-day-wakes,
they know construction, demolition,
growth and decay,
they know the heaviness of 25 year leases
and urban encroachment,
they know pressures from society
they know their worth,
they know their faults.

All in all,
I think you’d be surprised to learn
just what a rancher knows.

Will Frost moving cattle at Fountain Creek Ranch. Photo by Zara Saponja

Will Frost is the farm manager at Frost Livestock Co and employee supervisor of The Fountain Creek Ranch.

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