Home Again

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Hot, sweaty, back-breaking work. That's what I remember from my summers working as a ranch hand for Dad, the caretaker of our family's 700-acre spread. My brother and I dug post holes, planted trees, watered plants, rounded up cattle on horseback and even cleaned out smelly stock trailers. It wasn't my idea of fun, but Dad insisted we learn the responsibility that went along with the rewards of country living. While my friends sunbathed as lifeguards and helped customers in air-conditioned clothing shops in our small Texas town, I grumbled and complained my way through six summers of ranch work—and had blisters on my hands to prove it! Dad paid us well, however, and I appreciated the fact that he let us have time off for church and music camps, mission trips, and birthday parties at the roller skating rink. I knew not every job came with such flexibility. And there were other perks, too: a dip in our above-ground pool, long lunch breaks provided by Mom and quality time spent with my hilarious brother. But I can remember telling my parents I couldn't wait to leave the ranch and our small town. I felt confined, stifled and restless. There was so much more to do and see than tend cattle and watch seedlings grow. "When I grow up, I'm going to live in a city apartment and have a window box," I said to my Mom more than once. Life’s funny, though…and God definitely has a sense of humor. After fifteen years of marriage, two kids, and three cities, my husband, Carey, and I moved our brood much closer to Hay Creek Ranch, as my parents named it. One of the biggest reasons for our move? We longed to be closer to family. Not only did my mother and father reside on the ranch, but my brother, his wife and two kids live only an hour away. After more than a decade of “doing life” on our own, eight to ten hours’ drive from the ranch, we realized that something was missing. We want our boys to go to their cousins’ birthday parties and invite their grandparents to see them in school plays. Frankly, we also needed a support system. Life’s hard, and when troubles invariably arrived, we never felt quite as comfortable asking for help—or falling to pieces—with our friends (or, sadly, our church) as we did with family. Now we can be at Hay Creek in about an hour. On one of our first visits after the move, the meadow grass was green from spring rains and the home place never looked more beautiful. Following my grandmothers' death, my folks integrated some of her heirloom furniture into their home—the same home that Mom had helped her parents build when she was six years old. My sons had quite a time counting the cows, driving the mini tractor, and navigating the now-rusty slide that Dad had built for my brother and me over twenty-five years ago. I enjoyed hearing Mom tell Carey how her great-granddaddy had traded a horse and saddle for our seven hundred acres. On a ride in my parents' beat-up Suburban, we saw deer, pheasant, cottontail rabbits, quail and windmills. My son Jordan, 12, went on walks with my parents, where he chased the gentle cattle and threw a ball to the two ranch dogs. Jackson, six, fed the horses with Dad and tried on the boots and hat that had been in our family for ages, grinning all the while. My energetic children didn't want to rest during the day or go to sleep at night, because there was too much to see and do. And when Carey and I took a walk hand-in-hand one afternoon, I proudly pointed out the trees I had helped plant with my sibling's help. The once-small seedlings now grew tall and strong, providing shade along the fence near the house. As we walked along the line of trees, I heard my youngest yell, "Let's go check the cows, Papaw!" We went inside, where Mom and Jordan sat together at the kitchen table. She held her latest treasure in her palm: an arrowhead, from when the land held tepees instead of barbed wire. "Cool!" exclaimed Jordan. She saw me watching them, and smiled. Photo by Ann Voskamp. Used with permission. Post by Dena Dyer.