Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination

Boys on the Ranch


Luke on south porch

Luke on south porch.

This summer I read a marvelous book about boys on the cusp of adulthood growing into men. Boys in the Boat details the journey of nine boys scraping their way through the Depression and life and into the 1936 Olympics. In our life, this summer would be titled Boys on the Ranch.

Wyatt and Luke, 2001

Wyatt and Luke, 2001

Wyatt and Luke drove to the ranch to spend weeks living and working with Grammie and Bop Bop. As they headed out at 4:00 am one morning, I marveled at the different chapters of life. For 19 years, I’ve loaded up one, two, then three children into various car seats, packed around them with snacks and books, all their suitcases, loaded the dog, and headed the 28 or 14 hours north (depending on where we lived) to the ranch. For the first time in 20 years, I won’t make it to the ranch this summer. Work, the move, and life have kept my own 4:00 am headlights from heading north to South Dakota. 

This year I made Wyatt and Luke coffee, poured into thermoses, waved good-bye, and watched their headlights cut through the darkness. 

Of their time there, I received photos and brief phone calls. In the images received, the life stories of the boys shone through. 

Wyatt, Bop Bop, Grammie, Luke

Wyatt, Bop Bop, Grammie, Luke

Bop Bop and Wyatt, branding day.

Bop Bop and Wyatt, branding day.

Gone were the little boys who ran around there ranch in hats, boots, and nothing else. Gone were the boys of early teens, trying to find their way in the world. In their place, young men coming into their own walked, laughed, and worked across the prairie. 

Wyatt mowing.

Wyatt mowing.

Boys wrestled calves for branding. It had been a year since they’d done this. Better to remember in the corrals, rather than branding day. 

Boys tackling calves

Boys wrestling calves.

Boys wrestling calves.

Boys wrestling calves.

Neither of the boys ever had much use for toys, it was always about something real, a task with purpose. On a ranch, everything is real and has a purpose.  

Luke branding

Luke, branding day.

Alongside them in every chapter, my mom and dad, walked, laughed, and worked with them. 

Wyatt, Tommy, Bop Bop - branding day.

Wyatt, Tommy, Bop Bop – branding day.

Ranch life wears a fellow out.

Wyatt nap.

Wyatt, nap.

And sometimes a guy just needs a nest… Luke spent every moment not working, reading on the couch by Grammie‘s desk.

Luke's place.

Luke’s nest.

Within these images, I see not only my sons and parents, but generations around the world who have shared all chapters – the joyous and the dreadful – to create this messy, wondrous thing we call life.

Wyatt, Luke, Bop Bop

Wyatt, Luke, Bop Bop

Back in Santa Fe, new rose after a monsoon rain. A storm-birthed rose.

Storm-birthed rose

Storm-birthed rose.


Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination.

26 thoughts on “Boys on the Ranch

  1. Life on a ranch is always good. What great boys you have to still help their grandfather. Love blooms in your house like your monsoon rose.

    • Carmen, and you know this and have raised your own family in this tradition. Thank you so much for taking the time to connect! Here’s to your own house blooming with love – and that house has such a fabulous jacket from last year’s WWW! 🙂
      With love,

  2. Dawn,
    Thank you for sharing your boys photos and experiences. I don’t know if you know, but I grew up with horses (not cows and branding!) and this piece brought back many great memories.
    With Gratitude 🙂

    • Hi, Lisa! No, I hadn’t realized that you grew up with horses. How did I miss that at book club?! Amidst all of the books, babies, and wine… 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this and I’m so glad this brought back great memories.
      Love to you and yours,

  3. Hi Dawn Wonderful post with such lovely photos. It makes me want to pack it all in and move the family to a ranch – except I also know how hard it is, thanks to you! Your boys have turned into fine young men. I am very glad to see your dad back at full strength. So sorry you missed the trip this year, but for a very good reason. I second one of the comments fr your prior post- that photo with the cloud in the mirror was just magical.

    All the best to you in your wonderful new home, Harlan

    Harlan Zimmerman


    • Dear Harlan, so wonderful to hear from you!
      As I read all, I thought of you in London, experiencing the ranch. Yes, this is the summer of “shifting,” – where my boys have truly become young men. I kind of just watch them in awe. And feed them. I’m determined not to let not making it to the ranch this year a trend for the future. This was just one of those years, as you say.
      So glad you enjoyed the photo of the mirror and the clouds. I saw that moment and thought it was just gorgeous, too. So grateful to share the journey.
      Love and hugs to you and yours across the seas!

  4. I say amen to Dan’s comments. What lucky boys, yes. Again my heart jumps to your front door wanting to enter for a visit. Using Joan’s words, looks like all of you are thriving. I remain your admirer and friend, Cathy

    • Cathy, you and your heart coming in our front door would be beyond wonderful. So grateful we can share hearts and visits here and hopefully one day, in person. I want to show you my flowers! So much love, Dawn

  5. Thanks for sharing the photos and thoughts. I love the pictures….with your writing skills and the photos, you can “feel” what’s happening. Being the mother of two sons myself, it is a combination of emotions watching them turn into men. You have done such a good job being a mother! And, I know, you were well parented. 🙂 I called a couple of days ago. I was in Santa Fe overnight and hoped your schedule might allow a meet up. Call if you ever have a minute. It always warms my heart to get Dewdrops!!

    Love and hugs, Nancy “Yates”

    • Hi, Nancy “Yates,” Yes, I know it is Bartlett, but to me, you will always be Nancy Yates from our Arizona roots of 40 years! Oh, I’m so sorry I missed your phone call. I am so glad you were in Santa Fe! I listened to your message too late. So sorry. I would love to see you and will call, so we can at least talk. Thinking of you so much. Love you! Winkie

  6. You must be so very proud of your sons and the opportunities your parents continue to provide for them! They have got to be the luckiest young men in the west to continue in both worlds!

    • Charlotte, you express here what I’ve so often thought—that we get to live in the West in both worlds. We live in the world of Santa Fe and the world of the ranch in SD. So very grateful for both!

  7. Fabulously touching story, Dawn. Thanks for sharing from a mother’s perspective. Will you be at the SD Festival of Books? We’ll be there. Hope to see you.

    • Dear Stephany, so wonderful to hear from you! So grateful to share mother’s lens of life with one another. I won’t be at the SD Festival of Books this year… need to get that next book out! Hope to be there with the new book, Love Stones, next year! I’ll miss you and hope you’ll write me after. I’d love to hear about your time at the Festival! xo

  8. Hi Dawn,
    It is always so beautiful to “see” the richness of family still existing! You create and support it so well!

    • Hi, Barb—I’m thinking of you on the beach of Maine. Love, love that image and can almost feel the wind and smell the sea. Thanks so much for sharing that with me!

  9. I really enjoyed this. In 1961 at 19, I started working with Uncle Irwin at the Red Owl ranch in Marcus. That summer changed my life in a wonderful way forever, and I’m sure your boys will always cherish their memories of the summer of 2015.

    • Cousin Kurt—oh, you were this age when you spent time on the ranch! Thank you for sharing your own memories and what time on the ranch has meant for you in your life. I hope the boys and Wynn will one day look back on this time with these same feelings. Thanks so very much for taking the time to connect.

  10. Such fine, handsome cowboys/gentlemen you have raised. And clearly, being part of that ranch and working hard next to their grandparents has helped shaped Wyatt and Luke (and no doubt Wynn, too). Great job!

    • Dear Liz – I look at those handsome cowboys/gentlemen and am a bit in awe of them myself. The ranch and my parents have been foundational in their becoming the young men they are – such a gift to have in our lives. As are you! XOXO

  11. I really enjoyed this! Luke wasn’t gone very long, but I bet he had a wonderful learning experience…the ranch stint is also always a good experience!!! Love M

    • Micki, so glad you enjoyed this! Luke did make the most of every minute in Shanghai. I love the juxtaposition of his experiences this summer–Shanghai and the ranch, a perfect combination! XOXO

  12. Oh, Dawn, what an amazingly wonderful, beautiful story. What memories this will bring in the years to come. And just as wonderful is the time – the quality time – your boys are sharing with their grandparents.

    • Dear Lindy, so wonderful to hear from you! What a time the boys had on the ranch. Yes, filled with memories for a lifetime. So grateful to share with you. Wyatt is back up there now for another couple of weeks. Mom said he inhaled three hamburgers last night and then went for a smoothie. 🙂

  13. Dear Dawn, That’s a lot of earned experience packed in the last three months, state track meet, graduation, moving, painting the house, Shanghai, leadership camp and jumping the generations, helping the not so old grandparents on a working cattle ranch. Lifetime memories are established in a such a short time! It boggles my mind Dawn! Big hugs, Dan

    • Dear Dan, it has been quite a summer of learning and experiences for the kids in lots of ways, hasn’t it?! I’ve thought of this myself. Each has had experiences that expanded their worlds in different ways. And always the ranch. Lots of good talks and story around the dinner table in the evenings. Very, very grateful. Big hugs to you! Dawn

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