Growing up on a cattle ranch meant there was plenty of chores to do for a little kid. I was always my dad's "right hand man," constantly ready to head outside to help get the chores done. Sometimes this meant opening gates, grinding feed, sorting calves or moving cows to a new pasture. On top of helping with the everyday responsibilities, I had my 4-H projects to take care of. I always showed a few heifers and a couple of steers each year, and my sisters and I were in charge of getting them fed, watered and prepped for upcoming cattle shows. We also kept accurate record books, and at the end of the summer, we sold quarters of beef to the neighbors. The money we made went towards purchasing new steers from Dad the following year.
When I was really young, Dad always kept the show steers in a separate pen. This pen didn't have access to an electric tank or hydrant. While I'm sure a hose would have reached it just fine, Dad insisted that I carry water for my two show steers. (I suppose he was trying to teach me the importance of hard work, or something like that). So, everyday, before and after school, I would feed my steers by hand. While they were eating, I would fill up bucket after bucket of water. Being a little girl, I could only carry a little more than a half pail at a time. Even then, the water would slosh down my legs, soaking my pants and leaving only a little bit of water to dump in the tank for the steers. Nevertheless, this water carrying tradition continued until I grew strong and capable to carry a full pail of water. At one point, Dad must have decided that I had learned an important lesson, and one day I came out to chores to discover a hose filling up my steers' water tank.
I suppose you are wondering why I tell you this story. I read an article the other day on the importance of giving chores to your children, and I started to remember the chores that I grew up with. While my friends were making their bed and washing dishes, I was spreading out bedding for the bulls and fixing fence. In the summer, while my friends were at the pool, I was out chopping thistles in the heat and picking rock. Looking back now, I don't feel deprived; I feel lucky. I'm so thankful to have grown up on a farm and for parents who insisted I learn the value of hard work.
I thought I would share the memory with you today, and ask you what kind of chores you grew up with. What responsibilities do you give your children? What lessons have you learned being involved in the animal agriculture industry?