Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


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From Ranch to Speaker

 

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

From Ranch to Speaker

Sherry Bunting for Progressive Cattleman

A gorgeous piece written about my dad, Dean Wink, rancher and Speaker of the House of the South Dakota House of Representatives, by Sherry Bunting for Progressive Cattleman. Bunting conveys my dad’s spirit and the ranching and political life, no small feat. Enjoy. 

South Dakota cattleman reflects, looks ahead

He may have grown up on a typical 1940s diversified farm in Iowa, but Dean Wink and the South Dakota prairie adopted each other decades ago.

The longtime rancher served eight years, representing Meade and Butte counties, in the South Dakota House of Representatives and termed-out as speaker at the end of 2016.

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

His time in the legislature was marked by the balance a rancher understands – that of knowing limitations, seeing short-term decisions in the context of long-term outlooks, building relationships, relying on gut instincts, appreciating how a mix of views – like a mix of grasses – strengthens the land and “following your heart on the right way to go at a given time.”

After graduating with degrees in biology and physical education from Yankton College in South Dakota, he made a brief pro football career with the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by earning his masters in physical education and teaching at colleges while his wife, Dr. Joan Wink, followed her educational pursuits.

From there, he went back to a ranching partnership in Cascabel, Arizona, and time working for a Texas cattle company. He ultimately returned to South Dakota in 1988 to establish roots on land first homesteaded by Joan’s grandparents in Howes – about 65 miles east of Rapid City.

Roots for the long run

It is this ranch on the western South Dakota prairie where Wink seems most at home, managing the cattle, horses, grasslands, wildlife – and their biological interdependence. “The grasses depend on the cattle, and the cattle depend on the grasses, and we depend on the cattle and the grasses,” Wink explains.

The Ranch, South Dakota Sunset ©Sherry Bunting

The Ranch, South Dakota Sunset ©Sherry Bunting

Such interdependence followed Wink to the legislature where, as speaker pro tem and then speaker, his goal was “to always respect the process, so colleagues could be assured their bills would have a fair hearing.”

“I always recommend to concerned citizens that they get to know as many legislators as possible before asking them for their vote on a particular bill,” Wink relates.

“Both parties need a chance to express their points of view before critical votes are taken. There may be insights that both sides need to know, where amendments can be offered to bring parties together.”

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Round-Up ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink, Custer Buffalo Round-Up ©Sherry Bunting

The South Dakota legislature is one of only 15 with term limits, something Wink has always supported. But he admits that it has a downside: “It does give more power to the administration.”

When legislatures turn over, the administrative bureaucracy continues on through these changes and can gain the upper hand in regulation ahead of representative legislation.

Ranchers understand the limitations of the land. At the Wink ranch, cows are moved once every 30 days so that each of the 12 1,000-acre pastures get grazed once per season for 30 days.

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

Stocking densities are 20 acres per cow for six months and 10 to 1 over the summer. In Arizona, the limitations were different; his stocking densities were 100 acres per cow.

As we drive, he points out the projects he is glad to be working on to make the management more “hands-off” so he and Joan can travel more. After Winter Storm Atlas devastatingly downsized the herd in 2013, Wink began renting pasture to young ranchers from June through September instead of building his own herd back up to its pre-storm numbers.

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

We talk about the variety of native grasses from the short curly buffalo grass that greens up quickly after a rainfall to the western wheat grass, tall green needle and bluestem. Each has its place and time in the life cycle of the prairie.

“A mix of warm- and cool-season grasses is always the goal,” he says, noting that this year’s drought punctuates two years of ample moisture following the previous three years of drought.

Such is the dryland prairie. “We have to know the best use of the land, the limitations – soil type and moisture. I would like to see it stay in grass, and we need cattle on this land to do that,” Wink observes.

“Most of these ranches do not have enough water in the wells to irrigate for crops, but this land works well for livestock.”

A future for producers

We stop at a break in the fenceline. While he helps an escaped calf back through to its anxious mama, Wink talks about the future of the beef industry.

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

Wink Ranch ©Sherry Bunting

“Concentration in the packing industry is at a worrisome level. The cattle market has the influence of hedge funds driving cash markets via the futures markets,” he observes. “At the same time, the cash markets are razor-thin because packers have controlling interest in the cattle supply, even in cases where they don’t own the land.”

While he knows that farmers and ranchers, like himself, are used to the market cycles, his concern is how the captive supply adds another dimension that farmers and ranchers can’t prepare for.

He cites the cow numbers being down to 50-year lows in 2013-2014, with the world looking for beef. “We usually see three- to four-year cycles, but this time we saw just one very good year in 2014 and then it crashed.”

It’s not a complaint so much as a desire to see cycles based truly on supply and demand, where producers have some opportunity to prepare for the bust during the boom.

“Agriculture is unique. We have no control over aspects of weather or markets, but the things we can control are the antitrust issues,” he says.

As the industry moves toward fewer independent feedyards and a growing sector of captive supply, he wonders how long it will be before packers having formulas based on the weaned calf, making it tough for the cow-calf operators to get the bids for their calves.

Independence and resilience

The challenge going forward? To have a beef industry that works as a team while realizing the combined independence and interdependence of the farmers and ranchers within that team.

Dean Wink, Philadelphia Eagles, 1968

Dean Wink, Philadelphia Eagles, 1968

“Playing football in the NFL was probably the most memorable time of my life,” the South Dakota rancher reflects. “I came into it as an undrafted free agent and got the call from the Philadelphia Eagles to be activated to play.

I will never forget Bob Brown (Hall of Fame offensive lineman known as “The Intimidator”). I lined up with him at practice every day for two years. I learned from him to hold my own.”

In the same way, he says, farmers and ranchers can hold their own in a changing beef industry and, if given a fair shake, can do so long term.

“Globalization is taking place whether we want it or not, and we have to adapt to it,” Wink affirms. “But if we can’t compete with Brazil on our scale or cost of production, then we should be able to differentiate our product with labels and let consumers decide.”

He and others were devastated three years ago by the ill-timed Storm Atlas in the Black Hills region – home to a large source of cattle, where the grasslands and livestock and rural economies are interdependent.

“Storm Atlas demonstrated how tenuous being in this business of agriculture can be. Most people who are not involved don’t realize that the two main criteria for success and profit (Mother Nature and the market for our products) are things for which we have very little control,” Wink relates.

“The biggest regret I hear and feel is that we couldn’t benefit from the best cattle prices ever in the following year due to our loss of livestock in that storm.”

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean Wink ©Sherry Bunting

But ranchers and farmers are a resilient bunch. They accept that being involved in agriculture comes down to “the job we do, the lifestyle we live and the joy and satisfaction we get from being involved,” he suggests. “Both the good and the bad come with the territory.”

As Country of Origin Labeling was repealed, Wink observes that it may be more important than ever to communicate with consumers about where their beef comes from, not just in terms of safety and regulations but in seeing that the U.S. beef industry is about more than being the most efficient beef producer or in contracting everything down to its lowest global cost.

There are livelihoods, legacies, limitations and the land to think about, including the interdependence of the cattle to the grasslands and prairie ecosystems, and of the people and rural economies that depend on both. 

Sherry Bunting is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania, who has covered livestock markets and production for over 30 years.

Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

Custer Buffalo Roundup 2016 ©Sherry Bunting


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“The thing you think you cannot do.” A Marathon for Every Mother Counts

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Team Wink, Every Mother Counts, Tucson Marathon, AZ

 

Every day, nearly 800 women and girls in the US and around the world die due to complications around pregnancy and childbirth—303,000 women every year. That’s one woman every 2 minutes. Up to 90% of these deaths are preventable.

Every Mother Counts raises funds and awareness through running to support their work to bring healthcare to women who otherwise would go without. Founder Christy Turlington chose running as the metaphor for the distance that some women have to travel, often walking, to get quality healthcare.

early-morning-running-with-clydeMy own running has always been private. This work inspired me to take my running public and commit to running a 26.2 mile marathon. I was more than a little bit terrified. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I didn’t finish and was found in a heap at the side of the road? What would I tell the people who had contributed funds? The fiction writer in me had all kinds of creative narratives created—just in case. 

A combination of inspiration to contribute to the work of Every Mother Counts and sheer terror of public humiliation spurred me forward throughout my training. I ran in the early morning hours before work, my headlamp bobbed in the darkness and bounced off the glow-in-the-dark leash of my dog and running partner, Clyde.

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After first 20-mile run.

Three months later, it was time to head to Tucson for the marathon. I packed my running bag…

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…and painted my toes, the 26.2 reminder to finish.

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We left frozen Santa Fe to arrive to blooming bougainvillea in glorious Tucson.

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I decorated the drop bag to make it easier to find. Plus, when in  doubt, add calavera skulls. Works for all occasions.

drop-bag

I woke the morning of the race to this beautiful haiku poem:

feet pound, lungs burn

frost silvers arroyo

earth turns toward dawn

~ Susan J. Tweit

Off we went. Noé dropped me off at the buses to take us to the starting point.

before-the-race

I sat amidst runners discussing in-depth their caloric intake planned per mile. They had cut up energy bars into bite-size pieces and planned the exact miles they would eat throughout the race. Stress mounted. What?! Was I supposed to do that?! I had eaten a handful of nuts in the car on the way to the bus and not given it a second thought. 

I moved seats and called Noé, who has run three marathons. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Just make sure you drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.” 

An hour later, the announcer counted down, and we were off. With each step, through each mile, I thought of the women I ran for, the blessings in my own life, the beauty of the surrounding Sonoran desert, and back to the women and girls who walked this distance for basic health care. I imagined the feeling of galloping horseback through the desert. The miles slipped by.

the-route

Prince’s song “Little Red Corvette” came into my mind. I sang along. I timed my mileage and kept each mile under my goal of 11-minute miles. Mile markers 7, 8, and 9 passed behind me. My calf which had been bothering me acted up. I popped Advil like Pez candy. I didn’t care if I had to put that leg in a sling and tie it around my neck and hop across the finish line, I was going to finish. More thoughts of women and girls, blessings, and the chorus of Little Red Corvette.

Mile 22 appeared. Only 4.2 more miles! As a runner, you always hear about The Wall that hits around mile 23. Wall, what wall? I felt great. My son, Luke, joined me as planned. 

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We ran. Luke told me all about his classes, his friends, anything. 

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Mile 23 ©Luke Wink-Moran

Then it hit. It hit hard. The Wall. Mile 25. The last five miles of the Tucson Marathon are uphill. I looked up the hill ahead of us, stopped, and bent over. I could not move my legs. I thought of everything that inspired me—blessings in my life, the women and girls who walked this distance while pregnant, the beauty of the desert, galloping horseback, every Prince and 80’s song I could think of… I dug deep. Nothing. I could not move.

“Mom,” Luke asked, “Where does it hurt?” 

“Everywhere.”  

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Mile 25 – The Wall

Luke got down, stuck his face in mine, and bellowed, “THIS IS WHAT YOU TRAINED FOR, MARINE! YOU PAID FOR THIS PAIN. YOU GET YOUR ASS UP THIS HILL!”

It worked. I laughed. I ran. 

100 yards from the finish line I grabbed Luke’s hand. We ran the final stretch and across the finish line holding hands. As we approached the Finish line, tears ran down my cheeks.

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Crossing Finish with Luke. ©Action Media

I did not let go of Luke’s hand. Not when we crossed the Finish line. Not when they draped the medal around my neck. Not when I threw up and he held the medal out of the way. Love this guy.

dawn-luke-marathon

Love a medal with a skull.

with-medal

I had wanted to run a marathon for more than 25 years. Every Mother Counts and their work inspired me to do so. As I ran miles in the early morning darkness and cold, imagining all kinds of scenarios in which I did not finish, I thought again and again of Eleanor Roosevelt who taught us, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

logoI want to give special thanks and love to generous friends and family who donated.  Together we raised nearly $1,500.00 to provide accessible healthcare to save the lives of women and girls giving birth in the US and around the world.

I realize that on the global scale, this is a drop in the bucket. Yet each drop represents lives. If we each add a drop, we can fill many buckets. 

I’m already thinking about my next marathon…

dawn-running-2

 


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Invisible Borders of the Heart

glass-heart

©Wynn Wink-Moran

santa-fe-literary-review(A version of this essay was published as a Letter to the Editor months ago. That letter focused on Syrian refugees after the bombings in Paris. This new essay is published in the Santa Fe Literary Review (Fall 2016) and weaves together the experiences of Syrian refugees across the sea and Mexican migrants across the border.  The final message feels even more relevant today than it did the day I wrote.)

 

Invisible Borders of the Heart

                                                                                by Dawn Wink

The waves toss the boat from one side to the other. I know within the boat are many more people, much more weight, than the boat was designed to hold. My eyes scan the endless water on all sides in hopes of seeing land across its expanse. I’ve chosen to put my children and myself in this place, because my homeland has been destroyed, family killed, nothing is left of our home, but rubble, blood, the dreams it once held, and the memories of what once was and will never be.

A Syrian mother, children huddled at her side, peers out over the ocean. I read of the Syrian refugees and try to imagine the horror necessary to drive people to make this choice. I sit surrounded by food, electricity, running water, and home. I try to imagine a life so desperate to force people to leave behind homes, bank accounts, their entire world–and walk to the edge of a sea to climb aboard a small boat to head out across the water.

Half of all the pre-war population of Syria–11 million people– have been killed or forced to flee. More than half are children. We have all seen the photo of young Aylan Kurdi’s body on the beach, drowned along with his mother and brother. In the month following Aylan’s death, 77 more children that we know of, drowned. In the wake of the Paris bombings, voices rise to close the borders to Syrian migrants. It feels impossible to read of the tragedy in Paris, to look at the photos of those killed and those left behind, and not weep. yet, to imagine that the terrorist who committed the horrors in Paris somehow reflect the whole of Syrian refugees supports the terrorists’ wishes and perpetuals the tragedy. “I have many emotions running,” wrote Brussels resident James Wilson in personal communication. “We have refugees at the train station in Brussels. It is raining. It is cold. We are on a terror alert. But today is the first day of advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of a Middle Eastern refugee in a cattle stall. We have to go with the heart and do what is right.”

A world away and closer to my home, migrants flee north across the once invisible border between Mexico and the U.S. “It used to be a slow time in Arizona when people from south of the border drove to Tucson to work and then returned home to live, a time when the US-Mexico line was a wire laying on the ground,” writes Kathryn Ferguson in The Haunting of the Mexican Border, “and we crossed the border like birds.”

The consequences of NAFTA and increased border security after 9/11 have been a deadly combination. The closure of the urban areas where people historically crossed pushed undocumented border crossers into desert and mountain terrain. This funnel effect is the main reason for increased migrant deaths, with over 7,000 human remains found since 1994. The rhythm of deaths in the desert borderlands continue unheeded in conversations around immigration, replaced with the thumping beats of helicopter blades as they “dust” migrants in the desert, lowering their helicopters close enough to the desert floor to kick rocks, sand, and cactus into people and force them to scatter. Separation can mean death.

The causes of these migrations are lost in public discourse around Syrian and Mexican migrants; instead the war drums beat with furor, hands and hearts drive by fear increase the violent tempo.

It is the invisible borders around our hearts that create the most tragedy. So much energy spent on keeping people out restricts our own ability to expand and allow love in. Invisible borders, through fear and hate, take shape in the form of barbed and iron fences that slither across the desert border, and shape the votes to deny entrance to Syrian migrants. 

As we wrestle with what the future holds, with the calls to build borders around our country and within our hearts in the name of self-protection, it is our individual and collective potential and possibility that withers. Invisible borders bind and diminish the hearts and spirits of the people in whose hearts they live. May our hearts know no borders. 

The waves toss the boat from one side to the other…

~ ~ ~


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Every Mother Counts – Running for Global Maternal Health

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Finish line! Duke City Half Marathon, 2016

How about we do something great for the world that is far more expansive than political parties or elections?

A few months ago, I discovered the organization Every Mother Counts (EMC) an organization founded by Christy Burlington Burns to raise awareness and funds for global maternal health.

Run through the desert

Run through the desert with Clyde.

I’ve been a runner for 30+ years. For the past 25 years, running a marathon has been one of my life goals. My running has always been private—a sacred time to be alone, dream, plan, laugh, cry, sweat, push myself, connect with the elemental; the land, my spirit, possibilities and potential for the future. The 3 R’s of constant inspiration and partnership in life: ‘Reading, Running, and ‘Riting.’

O'Keeffe on the ranch.

O’Keeffe on the ranch.

My only partners as I run are first the four-footed kind, first my beloved O’Keeffe and now the indomitable, Clyde. I don’t run with headphones, music, or people. That is my time to be and listenWith the discovery of Every Mother Counts, this sacred, private time had the potential to make a difference in the lives of women and children around the world. This organization inspired me to bring the very private to the public. 

With the discovery of EMC, my running takes on new purpose. I think of the women featured in documentary film by Turlington, “No Woman, No Cry.”

wyatt-and-luke-1998

Wyatt, 2 years old; Luke, 3 months, before the race.

dawn-runningI ran half marathon 18 years ago. Luke was 3-months old, Wyatt was 2-years old, and we loaded up and drove from California (52 feet above sea level) to Steamboat Springs, Colorado (6,732 ft. above sea level) the day before the race.

I had never heard of acclimating for altitude. One really has to question running a half marathon at high altitude 3 months postpartum. Yet at the time, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. I ran the next morning. 

When I completed the race altitude sickness set in and my main memory of this time is  of intense pain and being curled up in the fetal position on asphalt on the side of the highway, breastfeeding a 3-month old Luke, my head on the paint lines of the highway, the wheels of vehicles speeding by. I thought, “This must be the lowest moment of my life.” Yet, I had finished.

Through the years the goal of running a marathon stayed with me. With the discovery of EMC, running now had the potential to create positive effects in a world desperate for it. I trained for the Duke City Half Marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico to raise awareness for Every Mother Counts.

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Before the race, October 2016.

Of course, I had my Frida Kahlo earrings on and her spirit ran with me. 

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Cottonwoods lined the trail and hot air balloons hung above.

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Cottonwoods and hot air balloons along the trail.

I crossed the finish line in 2:23, my main goal completed—to finish. Turlington describes best the inspiration and work of EMC:

25 years after setting the goal, I now train to run the Tucson Marathon on December 10, 2016, in support of Every Mother Counts and global maternal health. When I listen to the news the national discourse in the US that defies belief and the faces of migrants forced from their home around the world desperate for safety and peace, the need of the world overwhelms. But perhaps if we each do one thing that calls to us, what may seem small may make a world of difference. Please join me in the journey: 

Now, I just need to run those 26.2 miles for us.

early-morning-running-with-clyde

Early morning running with Clyde. #everymothercounts


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Buffalo Roundup 2016

 

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Dad, Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup ©Sherry Bunting

Imagine–Buffalo stream over hills and through gullies like water, whoops of the riders float through the air as they gather the herd.

Every year, Custer State Park in South Dakota hosts a buffalo roundup to ensure the health of the herd. For the past several years, Dad and Mom have ridden in the roundup. Each gather has presented its own set of adventures, including Dad’s pickup spontaneously bursting into flames as he hauled the horses to Custer.  This year, the pickup made it without flames, Mom decided not to ride, so she could enjoy the whole, and Dad was asked to carry the South Dakota state flag.

Thank you to Sherry Bunting for these gorgeous photos!

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Dean and Joan Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom, Custer State Park, 2016 ©Sherry Bunting

buffalo

Buffalo ©Sherry Bunting

A video of the roundup. (Turn up the volume.)

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Dad ©Sherry Bunting

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Buffalo Roundup ©Sherry Bunting

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Dad carrying South Dakota flag. ©Sherry Bunting

And into the corral.

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Daddy with calf. ©Sherry Bunting

Daddy with calf. @ Sherry Bunting

A few years ago, I wrote a piece titled When Your Dad’s a Cowboy about my dad and what life is like when your dad is a cowboy. This came about after one of Dad’s horse wrecks that landed him in the hospital. I wrote then:

When your dad’s a cowboy, you think he’s invincible.

Seeing Dad in such pain led me to the previously undiscovered wonders of straight tequila and cigarettes. At one point after a long day of painful tests for him, he was getting an MRI and for the umpteenth time that day I thought I was going to pass out. I lay down on the cool tile floor right there in the office, cheek to the tile, bum in the air.

“The doctor saw me and said, “Um, ma’am? Would you mind waiting somewhere else, please?” No problem. I crawled out of the office and into the arms of José Cuervo and the Marlboro Man. When your dad’s a cowboy, I recommend them for fainting spells in the hospital.”

With Dad, Cascabel Land & Cattle Company, AZ, 1978

With Dad, Cascabel Land & Cattle Co, AZ, 1978

… A separated pelvic bone, shattered wrist, internal bleeding—and, one week later, Dad was released from the hospital. His first day home, the yearling fillies got out of the corral. Dad was out there shuffling long with his rolling walker, trying to bring them back in, with Mom carrying his catheter bag.

Is it any wonder my heroes have always been cowboys?

And they still are.

Cascabel Ranch, 1977

Cascabel Ranch, 1977