Do you ever think about what you’d be doing if Life hadn’t brought you to where you are? If you hadn’t chosen the exact paths and trails and turns that you did… but instead, at one juncture or another, followed a different fork in the road?
Like: What if I’d gone to college with some sort of specific plan in mind and chosen an area of study through which I would have received a title? Then I wouldn’t have to spend any time at all wondering exactly what I am. I would just simply be… a psychologist, an architect, a chef, a teacher, a welder.
Instead, I went to college with really no plan other than achieving a degree, and I did receive an agribusiness degree, which I suppose has many applications and which has served me well. Still, once you get an agribusiness degree, you aren’t truly anything. You aren’t an agribusinesswoman, because I just made that word up.
Sometimes I wonder: What if I’d gone to school to learn graphic design? I’m a little bit artistic, and a lot interested in visual layout. It seems like a background in graphic design would be useful in so many areas of my life. Even today, nothing more than a stay-at-home mom with some hobbies, I’m always needing something graphic… like a logo designed for our ranch rodeo, or a poster for an event I’m helping with, or I’m stumbling around on my blog’s design features, or toying with the idea of putting together a book. For all of these projects, a graphic design background would be very useful.
(As an aside, here’s a logo that my friend Robin, a real, true-blue graphic design artist, made for our ranch rodeo. It’s based on a photo of my husband. Robin is lovely and talented.)
This is the sort of work that people with educations in graphic design do. But I don’t have an education in graphic design. So I just kind of wallow around, learning as I go and turning out some very amateur-looking posters for the ranch rodeo, the prime rib dinner at church, etc.
Then, yesterday, I took my first turn at logo design. I’m in the middle of building yet another (amateur-looking) poster for the ranch rodeo, and this time I’m trying to include a logo for each of our sponsoring businesses. The ranch we work for, the PV, is a sponsor. So I shot an email to our corporate office wondering if a ranch logo was in existence. The reply was no, with no plans for obtaining one… but they did send back a copy of the official brand paper thinking that might help.
I was mowing the lawn a little later, which is not so great because when I’m mowing I have lots of time to think up time-consuming ideas which I will never, ever have the real, hands-on time to accomplish. But as I mowed I convinced myself I could make a logo for the PV Ranch. Darn it, I could do it! Back inside, with just a few minutes at the computer, I came up with this:
But Beau complained about the brand. You see, both he and my dad are convinced that the PV brand — the V specifically — is recorded incorrectly in state brand books. “It’s not the Pee Yoo Ranch,” Beau pointed out.
So I searched through all the fonts at my disposal, and through some on the internet too, before I finally found some pictures of Texas brands on a website. I stole a picture of the perfect V (don’t tell anyone in Texas), added a little more TLC, and ta-da! Here it is:
I love it. I’m proud of it. I almost can’t stop looking at it. My mom and I are joking that if the corporate ranch office had hired a real graphic design artist to do it, it would’ve cost at least two thousand dollars.
And I did it for free!
Which brings me to another point. I am following in the footsteps of my mom in many ways, acting as the promoter, supporter, consultant, advisor, and all-around right-hand man to my husband, an employee of a corporate ranch which tends to overlook the efforts of a ranch wife. For nearly 50 years, my mom — who is about to retire — has performed duties here at this ranch which greatly contribute to the well-being of the place but which no one important realizes she is doing and for which she generally isn’t paid. These are the sorts of tasks which are difficult to quantify: She shops for the snacks that go out to the brandings. She packs the snack cooler, loads it in the pickup at 4 a.m., then unloads it when the branding truck rolls back in after the branding. She sorts through the junk in the branding truck and burns barrels full of empty ear tag boxes and styrofoam cups, then hauls sacks full of empty vaccine bottles and needles to the county dump. Year round, she takes phone messages, ferries pickups to meeting points, whacks weeds, cleans out empty employee housing, nurses bum calves back to life, scrubs the toilet in the bunkhouse, locks the horses in the corral when they come out of the hills for water, jots down tally numbers when the guys get in and later compiles them all for the monthly cattle inventory, keeps track of payroll, and often makes lunch for the crew.
For some of these tasks she is reimbursed; others she does just because she possesses a woman’s attention to detail OR because she would try to get to the moon if she thought it would help Dad. It’s hard to put a value on a gal who’s been the heart and soul of the place, who’s treated it as her own and who has more than pulled her weight, who really could run it from behind the scenes, who’s too often been not-noticed as simply Harold’s wife. There’s been no other title for her. And for the most part, her aesthetic pay — the chance to live out her life on a big cow outfit, the glorious sunrises, the big crew laughs around her dining table, the times when she herself has had the chance to ride — has been enough to compensate.
But she has also warned me about how one’s efforts being continually overlooked can threaten a gal’s self-worth.
I’ve done plenty of free work for the outfit myself already — check out The mowing of the weeds — and I move forward leerily now, desiring to live the lifestyle, unwilling to leave the ranch of my childhood, not wanting to seem materialistic and desperate for money for which I insist I have little use… yet concerned for my self-worth.
There are many questions to ask: Is it enough for me to “share” my husband’s job with him? Or will I need my own job when the kids are older? Am I helping my husband when I pitch in around here, or am I helping his employer? How much ought one do for “free” for one’s husband’s and dad’s employer? Should one be reimbursed for doing a job that no one officially asked her to do and which probably would never get done if she didn’t do it? At what point is it ridiculous to keep track of and turn in on a time card every single hour one is contributing to the good of the ranch? Can it be enough just that we “have” a ranch for which I can create a free logo?
Can this reputation, old-fashioned Montana ranch provide for me the cocktail of appreciation and recognition ranch women deserve (and in some places, demand) here in the 20th Century?
I mean the 21st?
© Tami Blake