By Tami Blake copyright September 2015
We work for a corporate ranch in Eastern Montana. It’s big — so big we haven’t seen the owner for years. The owner possesses several “sister” ranches to this one, all scattered across the West.
The ranch we work for is called the PV. I was born here — my parents have worked here for nearly 50 years. We don’t own the ranch in a physical sense… not unless blood, sweat, and tears count for anything. Most years we’re here 365 days.
The PV has a headquarters and four cow camps. Cow camps are remote outposts strategically spread out over ranch land. The employee at a cow camp is responsible for caring for the cows grazing pasture near his home.
My husband and kids and I live at a cow camp called the VX. So we work for the PV, and brand the calves raised here with the PV, but our “physical address,” you might say, is the VX. And the VX is remote indeed… 17 miles from the nearest highway, 50 miles from the nearest grocery store, and 41 from ranch headquarters. We’re the only ones here. Just us Blakes, lots of cows, the horses we use in our work, and lots of country.
As any corporate job is, ours can be frustrating at times. There are decisions made from far above that don’t seem ideal for our day-to-day. And we surely don’t work here because great things are happening: we’re not getting rich, we’re not getting our own start in the cow business.
We work here because lots of good, little things happen every day. Every day we get to take our kids to work. We teach them to count as we count cows through a gate. We have miles and miles of uncharted land all to ourselves to explore. We go days without seeing anybody or receiving orders from our manager.
There are too many good things here at our cow camp to name, really, but here’s a start: A paycheck that is small but comes regularly. A warm, safe house (with a dishwasher!). Pushing the kids out the front door for a breath of fresh air and not worrying that they’ll be ran over. Helping Daddy feed cows on gray winter mornings. The kids riding his horse from the trailer to the barn and telling big stories about when they will riding their own horses.
Pastel sunrises out the kitchen window and sunsets off the deck — not another soul within the horizon. A lazy old cow dog who has taken to baying at the rare vehicle that passes on the county road. A Polaris Ranger to cruise over two-track roads together. Clean air. Quiet.
So many good things. And we happen to believe that if you have enough good things, they add up to something great.