By Leigh Walkup
I grew up on a farm. Other than my time in college and a couple of years after, I’ve always lived on a farm. Being out in the country among the green grass, the trees, and all my animals is where my happiness truly lives. Of course, there was a time in my life when I adored the bright lights, but even then, I had my horses, so I could always retreat to the barn and the quiet when I needed to.
Growing up in the country makes you into a specific type of person. Hard work is literally in you. Feeding livestock every morning and evening, cutting firewood, baling hay, bushhogging, tending to sick animals…it’s all part of the deal. It’s your life. You don’t know any other way when you grow up in that environment. I’m so thankful that was the way my parents chose to raise me and my sister. I look back on my childhood, and honestly, I can’t remember us ever really sitting around watching TV. I remember the chores and the sweat, tears, and laughs that came with them.
I remember the winters. Winter in the country is hard. Growing up on a cattle farm and having to feed hundreds and hundreds of hungry animals can be long and tiring. There are no sick days, no snow days, no days off. I have always said that life is a bit harder in the winter. The weather makes everything take longer. We get a lot of ice in our part of the country, and it can make the everyday chores a struggle. I can remember so many times being so cold that I just didn’t think I could make it. My hands and feet were in pain from the freezing temps, and my body was shaking. However, the job has to get done. You learn that on a farm.
Farm Kids Never Get a Day Off
When I was a kid, snow days meant nothing. I remember city kids getting so excited about snow days. I knew if we had a day of school called off for bad weather, I would be working. Livestock demands a ton of care in the winter. We were always up early to feed on snow days. Anne and I would bundle up and tread through the snow to the truck while Dad loaded it with hay. The cattle had to be fed, and we would spend most of the day ensuring they were all OK and that the weather hadn’t caused them to get sick. We would load up in the old feed truck and head to all the fields to drop hay so they could eat. Dad would give us his pocket knife, and we would jump out and get in the bed of the truck, freezing and cold. Anne, I would cut one bale and toss it over the tailgate. Seeing the cattle come running in the snow to get their breakfast is a sight. Dad would ease along as we dropped the hay in a line across the field, making sure all the cattle came up to eat. Dad would yell, “Count ’em girls,” and Anne and I would count separately to ourselves to make sure we both came out with the same number. We were to make sure every head of cattle came up to eat. Then we would jump down, grab the gate, and scramble back in the cab of the truck, trying desperately to get warm till we got to the next field and had to do it all over again.
Responsibility is Important
As cold as we were, I always enjoyed those moments. The quietness of the snow, the brightness of it all, the breath of the calves as they ate their hay. They would look up as if to say “Thank you so much,” as we would head on to finish the feeding. Taking care of a living thing is a privilege. It requires discipline and kindness. It’s something that is taught and required. I’m forever thankful that I learned these gifts as a young child. Today, taking care of my horses, dogs, and farm is one of the highlights of my life. It’s a true treasure for me, and I know I would not understand these gifts if it hadn’t been for my upbringing. My mother and father showed Anne and me a life that I feel very few get to experience today. It was about hard work, perseverance, and grit. Gosh, I’m so glad they did. So when ole man winter gets you frustrated this year, remember that when life gets a bit hard, the real magic comes through. I have learned now to see winter for what it is. It comes each year to teach us to slow down while pushing through and to find the beauty in both of those things. Happy Winter!
Our Winter Issue is now available!
We are offering it in PRINT, DIGITAL, and a DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION. Our magazine is all content, no advertising, and has delicious recipes, country charm, and simple living!