Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


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Photojournal of the Ranch, Spring 2017

Mom’s window, facing East

After Costa Rica, home briefly and then to the ranch. As my cousin, Janet, said, “Wait. Just. A. Minute. Costa Rica to South Dakota for Spring Break? You’ve got that flipped!” 

We loved it. We went for the college’s Spring Break. Wynn stayed in Santa Fe for her own school. This is the first trip I’ve made in over 20 years without children. This is also the longest I’ve been able to spend on the ranch in years and years. As many of the photos are worth a thousand words, I’ll get out of the way and let them speak for themselves and our time there. 

It takes 14 hours to drive from Santa Fe if you only stop briefly at the Barnes & Nobles Bookstore in CO and for gas in Lusk, WY. We always drive in one day, leaving early in the am. 

Noé and I arrived just in time for wine, cheese, and crackers.

Woke the next morning to this sunrise.

And this sign, as we walked to the ranch house for coffee.

Mom loaned me her pink Carhartt’s and Noé, Dad, and I headed out to see all on the ranch that we’d missed over the past year. 

Mom’s Little Free Library at the top of the lane.

Two beloved horses—Josie, on the right, inspired the mare, Mame, in Meadowlark. Josie’s son, Frankie (Ol’ Mr. Blue Eyes) is one of Mom’s BFF’s. To say that she adores him would be an understatement. 

Joanie and Frankie—A love story.

Josie’s coat in the sun. 

Wink’s WashoutNow open for Summer/Fall 2017!

One of the things I love about Mom and Dad’s ranch house is that it is filled with bits of beauty from our own family history and from around the world. Some beauty to share. 

Mom’s other window facing East.

Smiling tea pot and cups. The first was Bo’s and mine as children. She’s added for the grands throughout the years. 

Mom’s bookshelves of treasures, including teddy bears made of my Grandma Mary’s fur coat (one really doesn’t wear them anymore…), needle and quiltwork from dear friends, a doll made my by Great Grammie Lucille with her own hair, a pair of bootie’s knitted for Wyatt, duckies that represent the grands, and gifts from around the world.

Mom’s vintage marble collection, started in Cascabel.

Jeans hung out to dry.

Pregnant mamas ready to give birth.

We spent a gorgeous afternoon with my cousin, Missy, who has taught in a one-room schoolhouse, grades K-8, for the past several years. Her students are the most fortunate in South Dakota. Here, a storm moves in during our time there.

Storm moves in. Atall School. ©Missy Urbaniak

Storm over Atall School. ©Missy Urbaniak

Mom brought the kids books from Arizona. They surprised her with a birthday party!

Missy’s sons, Bailey, Everett, and I found the school library. While Mom and Missy worked, we found loads of books for the boys to read next. Such treasures from when my own boys were this age that brought back such memories of our reading together. It was all I could not to curl up and start reading to them in that moment.

Bailey, Everett, and books!

View from ranch house on porch facing East. Prairie Parlour on left. 

Memories of the Cascabel Ranch and Mexico.

Memories of Mexico and Cascabel

It was a week of wonderfulness. 

South-facing Porch

 


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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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Buffalo Roundup 2016

 

daddy-riding-flag

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!

mom-dad-facing-camera-flag

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.)

dean-back-to-camera-1024x670

Dad ©Sherry Bunting

buffalo-flag-in-backgroup-1024x682

Buffalo Roundup ©Sherry Bunting

daddy-flag-8

Dad carrying South Dakota flag. ©Sherry Bunting

And into the corral.

all-buffalo-1024x619

 

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

 


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Of Graduation, a 50th Anniversary, the Ranch, Laborers—and Sunsets

Dawn-Lukie-UofA-e1464385055739-768x1024

With Luke at his graduation party.

So, sometimes life is a ripple and sometimes it’s a tidal wave. The past month has been a tidal wave kind of life, resulting in both my being OBA (Officially Behind in All, including writing to you!) and so awash in gratitude that it drops me to my knees. I swing back and forth between the two and grab firm ground when I can.

Last I wrote, dirt was flying, cement was being poured, and flowers planted in preparation for Luke’s high school graduation. The flurry of activity continued up until the last minute (reminding me Noé and my wedding!), including the great ramada-raising, which now included the arrival of the mounties to help.

ramada

Wyatt, Noé, Dad

 Luke graduated in fine style with the most enthusiastic cheering section.

winks

Noé, me, Wynn, Wyatt, Luke, Dad, Mom

Every minute of planting, building, copious amounts of watering and wine was worth it. 

View from the roof. ©Rosemary Dunston

View from the roof. ©Rosemary Dunston

‘Twas the season of celebration. Immediately after Luke’s party, we headed to the ranch to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. We arrived just as the sun was setting on the lane.

Wink sign arrival

If you look closely, you’ll see Wyatt and Wynn fishing amongst the clouds here. 

Fishing in the clouds.

Fishing in the clouds.

Wynn and I went to spend time with my favorite horse, and inspiration for Mame in Meadowlark, Josie. 

Wynn and Josie

Wynn and Josie

I was taken with Wynn’s hair next to Josie’s mane – the colors and textures of both…

Hair:mane

…and made a ring from strands of Josie’s mane, now in my jewelry box. 

Horsehair ring

One of my all-time favorite photos of Wynn, now on the ranch. I have no idea why we called her the The Pink Pistol…

Wynn, the Pink Pistol

Wynn Elizabeth, The Pink Pistol

What began with this June 4—50 years ago…

Mom ad Dad wedding

Dean and Joan Wink, June 4, 1966

…now looks like this. What a life Mom and Dad have created.

Whole fam-damily

Whole fam-damily, June 2016. Bo, Austin, Garrett, Dad, Mom, Wyatt, Wynn, Luke, me, Noé

Cousin time!

Cousin time—Wyatt, Austin, Wynn, Garrett, Luke

Came back to head to Tucson for Orientation, where Luke will be studying International Business at the University of Arizona—because, he is the luckiest guy we know.

Bear Down, Wildcats! #WildcatMom

With Luke Orientation

And then to Chicago to meeting again with two incredible communities that come together once  a year at the Annual Instructors Conference (AIC) for the LIUNA Training and Education Fund. Once a year in Chicago, instructors in the Laborers’ International Union of North America and international educators from all over the world come to work together in an incredible week. Through the years, I’ve come to love the people of these communities deeply. People always ask me what we do at this conference. There is so much happening here, better to watch for yourself.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/131241866″>The 2014 Annual Instructor Conference Recap</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user17215533″>LIUNA Training &amp; Education Fund</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Home to teach three classes of Orientation to the Teaching Profession. Clearly, we needed flowers and stones for our first night of class. 

Flowers for first night

After class, watched this sunset unfold from our roof…

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Peace.

 


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A Cascabel Birthday

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Cascabel Birthday Cake

The month of March in our family is known as March Madness for the multiple birthdays. Luke kicks off the month the 10th, then Grammie on the 20th, Wyatt is the 25th, and I bring things to a close on the 28th. I’m 48 this year. No need for mystery. I love growing older. A friend recently referred to our family’s Birthday Gauntlet, which I loved and is a perfect description!

Mom, Dad, and Wyatt all came for our tradition Birthday Party (all thrown into one lump day), which included an ecumenical walk around the Plaza for Palm Sunday.

All Family

Wyatt, Wynn, Grammie, Bop Bop, me, Noé, Luke – Palm Sunday

4 bop bop grammie

Palm Sunday walk around the Plaza.

Road to Cascabel. As Mom said, "The road to Dawn's heart..."

Road to Cascabel. Mom said, “The road to Dawn’s heart…”

Dad hauled a pickup, El Blanco, that has been in our family since 1984 and the Cascabel Years. It has been a ranch truck all the past years. With all of the garden work and hauling we’re doing in our new home—and for unabashedly sentimental reasons—I wanted El Blanco in Santa Fe. Dad hauled it down. As most trips involving my dad and vehicles, this one also included an adventure. His pickup and the trailer hit black ice in Colorado, the trailer jack-knifed and his F350 pickup and trailer all plowed for several hundred yards down the interstate. Spinning the steering wheel back-and-forth throughout, Dad kept all tonnage hurtling down the interstate on the road.  Somehow, no one was hurt and the truck and trailer didn’t flip. He was pulled over by an officer several miles later for “losing control of his vehicle.” 

“If I hadn’t kept control of the vehicle,” Dad told the officer, “I’d have been in a ditch back there!”

What Daddy didn’t tell me was that he’d had new magnetic signs made for the side of El Blanco, exactly like what had been painted on there 30 years ago.When I saw, it hit the Cascabel Button and immediate tears. 

Dawn sees Cascabel sign

Dad Dawn El Blanco Close up

Wyatt and Wynn helped unload.

Wyatt WynnPickup

 

A 30-year old ranch pickup from Cascabel? I am soooooo ditching our mini-van!

Reflections of memory. Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

I have had exactly one kind of birthday cake in my life that I remember—the Cascabel Birthday Cake. Cascabel (‘rattle of a rattlesnake’ in Spanish) is the area in southeastern Arizona nestled within the San Pedro River Valley where I grew up. We’ll refer to it as The Holy Land. The sandstone bluffs overlooking the river of Cascabel framed the valley and framed my childhood. These bluffs, these years, these memories, and this cake are inextricable intertwined.

Mom said that original recipe was in some a magazine long lost to memory. In our March Madness of birthdays, this cake is sort of the grand finale of fireworks for me. The rest of birthday rhythms can be consumed by the waters of life—but the cake, the Cascabel Cake, we do not miss. Traditions ground us in the whirlwinds of life. This cake remains one of my own anchors. 

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Always the same cake: Angel Food cake with the topping of a mixture of whipped cream, crushed pineapple, and lemon Jello. Always cut into thirds with layers of the topping amidst. Whip the jello, so all blends together. Essential to the Cascabel Birthday Cake are the purple irises atop. Purple irises ringed two of the trees in front of the ranch house in Cascabel. They always bloomed right before my birthday. Mom always decorated my cake with them. Yes, bulbs for purple irises will be planted in the gardens of our new home. 

Mom 4 years old

Mom, 4-years-old

Mom’s birthday this year was an especially poignant one for all. Ten years ago on her birthday, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five years ago, Noé and I walked the Pilgrimage to Chimayó to celebrate her five years as a survivor. This March 20th, she celebrated her 10 years as a survivor. Mom writes of this beautifully here: Joan Wink – 10 Years Cancer FreeMy Uncle Jim surprised us all with this photo of her taken when she was four-years-old. 

My mom and dad, my heroes. Always and forever. 

With the passing of the incredible Cara Esquivel, all feels especially vulnerable and tender. In the midst of these national and international times so filled with so very much tragedy, the events in Brussels and conversations and happenings impossible to understand, a tiny group of people who loved Cara have come together around her passions and fierce love of Oaxaca and the the world. These past weeks, amidst all, I’ve experienced the very best of this tiny circle of people giving all to bring beauty to the world, out of love, out of passion, and out of loyalty. This experience again and again reminds me of what really matters in this world. What a blessing to experience the very best of humanity. 

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Spring buds

 


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When Moments Reflect a Lifetime

There are some things one simply must do in life— attendance when your dad/BopBop sworn in as Speaker of the House of the South Dakota Legislature is clearly one of them.  Better yet to tell The Speaker that you cannot possibly attend — and surprise The Speaker with your arrival.

Surprise - 2007

Surprise – 2007

Eight years ago, for Dad’s first term in the Legislature, my brother, Bo, Mom, and I conspired for Bo and me to surprise Dad on the first day of Session, as he was sworn into office. Bo arrived first and told Dad that he needed to shower, went to his hotel room, and promptly slipped out the door to come pick me up at the airport. My plane was 45 minutes late and by the time we arrived back, Dad was ready to break down the door to Bo’s hotel room, convinced he had fallen and knocked his head in the shower. 

This time, we got the kids involved and Bo and family headed the 10-hours west from Wisconsin and our family (minus Wyatt in the midst of an avalanche course and Wynn who needed to be in Santa Fe) headed the 17-hours north from Santa Fe. We arrived in Pierre, South Dakota within minutes of one another at the Capitol building. We threaded our way down the hall in single file, whispering, peeking, and finally arriving to Dad’s office, where we entered en masse. One look, two looks, a triple-take later, Dad believed his eyes. 

Surprise, Mr. Speaker!

Surprise, Mr. Speaker!

Surprise, Mr. Speaker!

Lisa, Garrett, Austin, Bo, Mom, Dad, me, Noé, Luke

Cousins in the Capitol

Cousins in the Capitol

The South Dakota Capitol building is simply gorgeous. We explored the building, looking for the famous cobalt blue tiles amidst the 30,000 square feet of tiled floor. Legend has it that the Italian craftsmen who laid the tile were each given a single tile to place wherever he wished (South Dakota Magazine). Apparently, 66 tiles lie within the terrazzo floor and 55 have been found. The cousins roamed the halls found four, including some hearts.

Cobalt blue tile in capitol floor.

Heart within tile floor.

I loved the miniature replicas of each dress worn by a First Lady of South Dakota for Inauguration and the soaring stained glass ceilings above. The cousins were not nearly as taken with these and ditched me to keep looking for tiles. 

Dresses of first ladies

Stained glass ceilings.

We arrived prepared. “Oddly,” Bo said, “the Winks were the only family to show up to the Session Opening with sideline signs…” 

We love the Speaker signWith Bo, very proud of our dad.

Bo and Dawn

Dad took the Oath of Office and my heart overflowed with pride and love. Life is so very busy and so often we fly through days in a blur of all that must be done. It was a rare moment to sit and allow all that Dad has done in his life to wash through me. When your dad’s a cowboy there is never a dull moment. Of the many life lessons that I’ve taken from my parents, one of the largest has to be their steadfast determination to create goodness in life, no matter the circumstances life may toss their way. This moment in time reflected Dad’s strength-of-character, integrity, resiliency, vision, leadership, hard work, and sheer generosity and goodness of spirit throughout his lifetime. I burst with pride.

Daddy waving Speaker

After Dad took the Oath, he acknowledged each of us beautifully. I was doing okay until he started talking about Mom. He spoke of their 50-year marriage, of what an incredible mother, wife, friend, and all she’d done for our family, all while creating an international career and writing five books, with a sixth on the way. He spoke of the emails she receives from students around the world who tell of the difference she’s made in their lives. “And,” he said, “on top of all of that, she’s a GREAT dancer.” At this point, tears streamed down both of my cheeks. So much for legislative decorum…

 

We love the Speaker

Noé, Luke, and I slipped out right after his speech and started back to Santa Fe, via the ranch. It had been far too long since I’d been there and I savored those precious hours. As we made a final trip to the car, I looked up to see horses on the ridge above the ranch house and drank in the beauty.

Horses on ridge above ranch house.

We headed up the lane and out past Mom‘s Little Free Library. 

Wink Ranch Little Free Library

I give thanks for every single second of the journey. The photo of Dad and me below was taken on the Cascabel Ranch in 1977. I love this photo for many reasons; the sense of fun, our Wink eyes that close when we laugh, that this was clearly a break in the shade on a hot ranch day of work. What I love most about this photo is that my love for my dad shines through. 

Cascabel Ranch, 1977

With Dad, Cascabel Ranch, 1977

Some things never change.

Daddy and Dawn


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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.