Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


Wink Ranch 2022—Photo Journal

Thelma and Louise

Mom and I made a quick dash to the ranch together on her way back from Tucson. We headed out early for the drive to the ranch. The sun peeked over the horizon just as we crested the hills around Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Daddy called a little later and asked, “Am I speaking with Thelma or Louise?” Up through the mountains of New Mexico, over the plains of southern Colorado, and up to the sagebrush valleys of Wyoming, we drove. We in the Southwest have enjoyed amazing rains this summer, which has helped our drought-scorched country immensely. New Mexico hasn’t had our traditional summer monsoon rains, nor the heavy snows of winter for the past few years. The Rio Grande River is nearly dry.

Drought has touched throughout the West of the United States, with devastating results. The incredible rains of the Southwest has the dry desert literally springing to life! Our rivers are not yet filled, but we see wild grasses and wildflowers everywhere that we haven’t seen in years. Unfortunately, the rains haven’t made it very far north with devastating results that became obvious as we drove. So many heartbreaking sights. The green grasses of New Mexico gave way to the parched and bald lands of Colorado and the farther north we drove, the dryer the land. 

It has been two years since I was last on the ranch. I kept trying to make it, but work life and Covid had other plans. My big take-away from my own time with Covid was to embrace the philosophy of “Stop, Drop, and Nap.” A great philosophy for life when one thinks about it! 

Just arrived!

My time on the ranch was far too short, only three days. We fit as much as possible into that time. Mom and I pulled into the ranch exactly 14 hours (if you only stop for gas and coffee) after leaving Santa Fe. We tumbled out of the car just as the sun was setting to one of my favorite things—sitting outside on the screened-in porch on the East side of the ranch house to talk and just be together. In our family, it takes a ranch

The first morning on the ranch, Daddy and I drove around to check waterlines and cattle. Bouncing around in a pick up with my dad is one of my earliest memories, as I delved into here when I reflected on what it means when your dad’s a cowboy

Here, some photos of our time, both of the land and the ranch and the bits of beauty around the ranch house that I love. 

A majestic presence

When cows are introverts

When cows are introverts.

Ranch house

My ranch shirt — and life philosophy.

Bouncing around in the backseat with Mom and Dad on our way to the Cheyenne River breaks.

Read her shirt closely, “Just a Ranch Wife.” In sparkles.

Hauling water

A few bits of beauty—

Mom’s beloved Frankie

Window of beauty

Moss roses have a long history on the ranch.

Sunset on the ranch

Sunset on the ranch

Our time together ended way, way too soon. As I drove south in the early morning, the sunrise cast shafts of light through the clouds. It will be much less than two years when I return to the ranch again. My heart, spirit, and soul need it too much. 

For other prisms and lenses on ranch, academic, multilingual, and literary life with my incredible mom, please dive right in to WinkWorld.



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


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


Of Buffalo, Birthdays, Burned Trucks, and the SD Book Festival

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Last we knew, it was almost time for the South Dakota Festival of Books and Mom and Dad were off to ride the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Dad’s 70th birthday. 

I made it to the Festival of Books and called Dad that morning for his birthday. He had loaded the horses and was headed to the Buffalo Roundup three hours away.

An hour later, Mom called. “Perfect timing,” I said. “I’m right in between workshops.” 

“Not really,” she said, calling from her own vehicle. “Your dad’s truck is on fire.” 


“Fire. That’s all I know. I was on the phone with him and he said, ‘Whoa, there’s flames,’ and we lost our connection. I left early to drop Ginny (her dog) off with Kelly. The wild thing is, I had a premonition that we needed to take two vehicles. It didn’t make any sense at the time.” 

Dad's Truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

Dad’s Truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

“I was stopped for road construction,” Dad told me later, “and all of a sudden in the rear-view mirror, I saw flames flying out of the side of the wheels. Then, flames were flying up through the dashboard. I jumped out and unhooked the trailer and a road grader pushed it back away from the truck.” 

Dad and the shell of his truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

Dad and the shell of his truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

With the horses safe and the pickup a smoking husk, a friend offered Dad a pickup to make it to the roundup yet. Dad hooked up the trailer to the loaned pickup, and he and Mom headed to the roundup. When they reached town 80 miles away, Dad found the one of the wheels had come off the trailer. “Usually, you know when you’ve lost a tire, because they’ll roll by and pass you on the road,” he mused.  

At this point, Mom is thinking perhaps God is trying to tell them something about riding in the roundup. “These are not subtle signs!” 

Onward. The next day I received a text from Dad. “We’re off.” I texted back, “Enjoy! Be careful.” As I listened to workshops and wrote through the morning, I kept checking my phone for the next text, which I finally received—a photo of Mom and the word, “Done.” I exhaled deeply for the first time that day.

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

Friend and photographer/writer, Sherry Bunting, captured this image of Mom and Dad.

Dean and Joan Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean and Joan Wink ©Sherry Bunting

At an event that evening, the speaker introduced the birthday boy, still in his riding gear, to the 300 people in attendance. I told Dad, “I think it’s only right that the state of South Dakota throw a birthday party for what will now be known as Dean Wink’s Smokin’ 70th!”

SD Festival Friends dinner out.

SD Festival Friends-Kyle Schaefer, Malcolm Brooks, Gwen Westerman, Ashley Wolff, Rachael Hanel, me.

In Sioux Falls, SD, across the state from the flames and buffalo, the South Dakota Festival of Books whirled into full swing. The panels and presentations were marvelous. I immersed myself in listening and learning from others.

Rachael Hanel (We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter) spoke on the craft of memoir and through evocative photos guided us to memories long-hidden and rich with potential for writing. Gwen Westerman (MniSota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota) on the history of the Dakota,”I dreamt about it, as if all these stories were in one voice. It is our Genesis, little ‘g’ and big ‘G.'”

Malcolm Brooks (Painted Horses), whose book I now read, “The sun pools like a molten ingot and then drips progressively away, its color changing as it descends and changing in turn the hue of the sky around it.” Ashley Wolff (Miss Bindergarten Goes to Kindergarten) led us through how life and family infuse her art and writing. Jon Lauck (The Lost Region) gave voice to the revival of Midwestern history to highlight why the Midwest matters. 

I spoke on “Writing the Land” and “Meadowlark: In Word and Image,” so grateful to share the journey of both with those who attended. 

"When we write the land, we write ourselves." © Denise Blomberg

“When we write the land, we write ourselves.” © Denise Blomberg

Two of the greatest blessings of my time in Sioux Falls were the time spent with my Aunt Elaine (Dad’s sister) and Uncle Ray, who drove from Iowa and a surprise visit from dear friend of my parents and me from forever Mary Jane Lunetta, who completely surprised me by appearing from Minneapolis.

Aunt Elaine and Uncle Ray Johnson

Aunt Elaine and Uncle Ray Johnson

Mary Jane Lunetta

Mary Jane Lunetta

All in all, an incredible weekend—filled with friends, flames, festival, buffalo, birthdays, and books.

You really can’t make this stuff up. 

Home again and on a run through the desert with Clyde.

Home again and on a run through the desert with Clyde.


South Dakota Festival of Books and a 70th Birthday

Sunrise run.

Sunrise run.

I took this photo on a long weekend sunrise run a few weeks ago. My German Shepherd, Clyde, galloped along ahead. I happened to turn to turn and saw sunbeams break over the horizon—inspired me for many miles, and days, after. Hope this will you, too.

SD Festival of Books

SD Festival of Books

Events to celebrate fill this week. I’m off to Sioux Falls, SD for the South Dakota Festival of Books, September 26-28, to bask in all things literary.

I speak on “Writing the Land” (Saturday, 9/27, 9:00 am) and “Meadowlark: In Word and Image” (Saturday, 9/27, 4:00 pm). Books signings for two days: Early Bird Mass Book Signing, 9/26/2014 3:00-4:00, and Mass Book Signing, 9/27/2014 1:00-1:45. 

For any who live in the area, I would love to see you. 

Drum roll please

Dad, branding 2014

Dad, branding 2014

Dad turns 70 on September 25th. He and Mom will celebrate his 70th by riding with buffalo. No, I am not making this up. For the past number of years, Dad and Mom have ridden in the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and they will be running with the buffalo on Dad’s birthday this year. 

It’s not everybody who runs with the buffalo for their 70th. I think this happens only when your dad’s a cowboy

Happy Birthday, Dad! 

Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.

Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.


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Rainbow Between Storms


Evening sun on clouds over the ranch.

Evening sun on clouds over the ranch.

Last we knew, my dad was out of the hospital after being thrown from his horse, Wyatt was on a plane headed for the ranch the morning after his high school graduation, and I was curled up on the couch writing by candlelight about my heroes.

Horses on prairie.

Horses on prairie.

Dad continues to heal. While our time on the ranch last year was filled with horses and rafting, this year’s time was all about Dad’s healing. The latest X-ray revealed that he broke seven ribs, rather than the five we originally thought, and his collarbone is held together by a piece of metal and a comb of screws into the bone. He’ll light up security at the airport like a firework display. 

While the kids were on the ranch, I made my yearly trek to Chicago where one week a year I work instructors in the construction industry, essentially, teaching construction workers how to teach. For this brief week each year, a group of teacher educators from around the world comes together with instructors in the construction industry from across the US, and we spend a week of intensity in which we bring different areas of expertise to work and learn together, with the construction workers learning about how to compose an engaged class and the teacher educators learning about hoisting, rigging, scaffolding, and other aspects of the construction industry. I look forward to this week all year.

Dad, branding 2014

Dad, branding 2014

My plane from Chicago landed on an uncharacteristically wet June western South Dakota prairie – lush and green as Ireland. Our group from Chicago was returning home to places across the US and the world. Branding was the next day on the ranch. Thinking about the different worlds we each inhabit and move between, I wrote of the mosaic of each of our lives the morning of the branding. Mom wrote back, “Mosaic? It’s all about mud and manure!”

Dad oversaw this year’s branding on foot and all went well. Most notable among the conversations at our branding and others, was how many hours shorter brandings are this year,  due to the losses of the Atlas Storm

Wink Branding, 2014

Wink Branding, 2014

Tommy, roping.

Tommy, roping.

Dad and Billy

Dad and Billy, laughs amidst the work.

Kids hanging out between calves.

Kids hanging out between calves.

Mom and Dad, lunch.

Mom and Dad, lunch.

Four-wheeler with neighbor girls!

 Four-wheeler with Mom, Wynn, and neighbor girls!

With Mom, final walk on the ranch between storms.

With Mom, final walk on the ranch between storms.

A series of storms blew in trailing thunder and lightning on our final night on the ranch.

Thunder and lighting storm blows over ranch.

Thunder and lighting storm blows over ranch.

I watched the clouds ebb to the north, as others approached from the south. A rainbow slipped in between storms. I thought of Dad’s healing, of all happening, and the unknown yet to come.

Let us enjoy the rainbow between storms.

Rainbow between storms.

Rainbow between storms.


What Creates Heroes

Mortar boards fly!

Mortar boards fly outside the Cathedral!

My oldest son, Wyatt, just graduated from high school. One year ago, I was asked to write a letter to him. When I sat to write, I thought of the mosaic of our lives.

Wyatt and The Mommy Lady, 1996

Wyatt and The Mommy Lady, 1996

February 22, 2013

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Wyatt,

I remember the first time I felt you move when I was pregnant with you. I was reading and resting the edge of a book on my tummy. Suddenly, the book popped up. I knew then that there was no way I was imagining you and your movement. When I think of this now, I think of your love of books, reading, and ideas and wonder if you were anxious to read yourself and trying to grab the book!

What a journey, our lives together, Wyatt. I don’t think there was ever a child more loved or cherished than you. You were born into a world of love. 

My journey with you as your mom has been, and continues to be, the most important in my own life. When you were 2 1/2 years old, you started calling me The Mommy Lady. Of all of my names, this one remains the most cherished. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The best journeys are like those of the great novels, those of Tolkien – journeys of both beauty and hardship, of love and despair, of being tested and tough decisions made, of sorrow and joy. And what a courageous and honorable path you’ve walked. This has been your journey, dear Wyatt. Like the heroes of these tales, you’ve experienced all of this and more.

What separates the heroes, from those lost to history, is not the circumstance of their birth and not their wealth. What creates heroes is their courage and willingness to make the difficult decisions for Good. Think of Aragorn, Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf’s paths and all of the times it would’ve been far easier to succumb and give up on their journeys. For Aragorn to continue to hide in shame for what his father had done, Frodo to deny his destiny, Sam to leave Frodo in the Shire or on the mountain in Mordor, and Gandalf to stop trying to slay the dragon as they hurled into the depths of the crevice. And yet, they rose above again and again, living out Gandalf’s wisdom, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Wyatt, Black Belt test

Wyatt, Black Belt test

This is what you have done, Wyatt. There were times in your journey when it would have been the easier decision to give in darkness, and a few times, you did, as we all do.

What demonstrates the greatness in you is that you looked within, learned from these experiences, and set about doing the hard, hard work of creating a person founded upon the very best of you –integrity, willingness to work hard, honor, kindness, intelligence, compassion, respect, trust, and goodness. What a young man you’ve created!

One of the things I most admire about you, Wyatt, is your courage in looking within yourself and choosing kindness, and respect for all, honor, and love. Often, this is the most difficult journey of all. And—as with all great adventures—the one most worth taking.

Wyatt, hurdles 2014

Wyatt, hurdles 2014

I burst with pride for you and with excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead in your life. Whatever comes, I know you will rise to the occasion to create a life of wisdom, adventure, wonder, I fill with gratitude that I am blessed to take this precious journey with you.

I love you to the moon and back,

The Mommy Lady

Wyatt’s journey of courage and integrity continues. Last week, Mom had just arrived for Wyatt’s graduation from high school. Dad was to arrive the next day. Two hours from Santa Fe, Mom received a phone call that my dad had been thrown from his horse and was en route to the hospital in Rapid City, SD with a crushed lung, five broken ribs, two cracked ribs, and a collarbone broken in five places. A dear friend forwarded this piece about Dad and the horse wreck, Lawmaker, rancher in hospitalized after being bucked off horse.

“If he goes into surgery, I have to drive back,” Mom said, having just completed the 15 hour drive. She left the next morning to return to South Dakota, putting in 30 hours of driving within two days. The poignant aspect of this horse wreck is that less than ten years ago, I was with Dad for another awful horse wreck that left him with a separated pelvis and shattered hand. I wrote about life when your dad’s a cowboy.

Wyatt and The Mommy Lady, 2014

Wyatt and The Mommy Lady, 2014

“Wyatt,” I said, after Mom arrived in South Dakota and we realized the extent of Dad’s injuries, including his all-too-early release from the hospital. “What about heading to the ranch earlier than planned? It’s your decision. I know there are graduation festivities with your friends for the next weeks. This is your time. What do you think?”

“I want to go with Bop Bop and Grammie, Mom,” he said, without hesitation. “I want to be there and help.”

Let me say again, so there is no romanticizing any of this, that Wyatt and I shared several very dark and difficult years—years in which I had no idea what the future for either of us held. Yesterday, Wyatt graduated at 10:00 am in a beautiful ceremony in the Cathedral on the Plaza of Santa Fe. This morning, he was on a plane to South Dakota at 6:00 am. Tonight, Wyatt is with Grammie and Bop Bop on the ranch.

As I wrote to Wyatt in his letter, What creates heroes is their courage and willingness to make the difficult decisions for Good. 

Wyatt, you are my hero.

The Mommy Lady


Kindnesses and Bones

Cottonwoods along the Rio Grande draped in gold.

Cottonwoods along the Rio Grande draped in gold.

Cottonwoods draped in gold lined the Rio Grande. My mind was miles away on the Great Plains when this sight pierced my thoughts. I pulled onto a dirt road, and got out and walked. The red New Mexico dirt drifted up around my feet and dusted onto my black boots. A light breeze rustled through the leaves. I kept my eyes on the golden cascade pouring down through the deep green of the cottonwoods, the Rio Grande flowed lazy and calm beneath. Nearly three weeks have passed since The Blizzard hit South Dakota and my parent’s ranch.
In Riding the White Horse Home, Teresa Jordan writes of the bone pile on every ranch, that area where ranchers take animals taken by time or illness.  Animals naturally shy away from this place. While the bone pile is a physical place for animals, writes Jordan, it can represent deeply felt emotional places for many ranchers. “Ranchers walk up to most bones. They look physical danger right in the eye and don’t blink. But there are other bones that scare them. For my family, the pile we shied away from was grief.” Bones of all kinds now fill the plains.
Amidst these bones, come waves of the kindnesses of strangers. To any who ever doubted the open kindness of the human heart and fierce nature of the spirit, a few notes from strangers, whom I thanked for lifting up what is happening now on the Great Plains:

Rebecca Farr

Rebecca Farr

“I believe in the power of the internet, but even more in the kindness of strangers.”

“BostonStrong paying it forward>RancherStrong.” 

Lorraine Lewandrowski lifted the events on the Plains to an international voice.

Grass roots initiative Help for South Dakota, where one can pledge livestock. Contact volunteer Wendi Lankister, ranchwife@gmail.com

“I have to do something,” wrote artist Rebecca Farr, before diving into creating t-shirts, all of whose proceeds go directly to South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund.

My dad, Dean Wink, articulates this experience with insight and eloquence, in his interview with Sherry Bunting. “We had a few hours of rain,” Wink recalls the afternoon of October 4. “Then, just hours before sundown, it changed to blizzard conditions. There are some things we could have done if we had known it would be this much of a blast. But it was the perfect storm stacked up against the cows: Rain, then sleet, and with no winter coat yet, they chilled down faster than normal. Then it turned to snow and we had white-out conditions for hours, and then the 70 mph winds snapping a reported 4300 power poles in the next county over. It was the combination of things — and the timing — the cows were not prepared for it. We were not prepared for it. Mother nature can be pretty brutal at times, and people in cities can’t have a true appreciation for that unless they are in it.” For the rest of the article, ‘Big Shot’ news organizations: Get out of town!.

I am crazy-proud of my dad.

I thought of all of this as I walked through the red New Mexico dirt, eyes on the gold-threaded cottonwoods ahead. The kindnesses of strangers mix with the bone piles, both physical and emotional. All is too new and raw to make much sense of right now.

Patricia Frolander, Poet Laureate of Wyoming, voices the ephemeral and visceral.

Grassland Genealogy

Prairie seeds, dirt and thistle

          borne on biting wind,

          adorn wooden crosses,

          mausoleums, marble stones,

          and the small chapel steps.

This last refuge, draped over a hill

          bears its earthy blanket with dignity.

          Tears more frequent than rain

          nurture native roots, their grasp

          as tenacious as the pioneers they embrace.

I greet the ancient ones.

          Spirits move with the breeze,

          hover beyond my shoulder

          wondering why I am here.

          I whisper my answer to the November sunset. 

I stood under the cottonwoods and looked up into the green, gold, and blue.


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It Takes a Ranch — How to Support South Dakota Ranchers Affected by the Blizzard

Dad horseback.

Dad horseback, after the blizzard.

“This is a tough ol’ deal,” Dad said. 

Six days after blizzard, fences still buried. Photo ©Missy Urbaniak

Six days after blizzard, fences buried. ©Missy Urbaniak

In a culture that prizes stoicism and reserve, this one phrase speaks worlds. When your dad’s a cowboy these words go straight to a daughter’s heart.

Ten days have  passed since the worst blizzard on record in South Dakota ripped through the state, leaving an estimated 65,000 dead cattle and shattered lives in its wake. “People are in shock,” Mom said.

Families caught away from the storm returned home, “I didn’t make it 5 miles from home before the tears started. A single mile didn’t pass by that we didn’t see at least one black mound sticking up from the snow,” wrote Missy Urbaniak. “I knew it was bad, I was bracing myself for how bad, but you can’t prepare yourself for such a heartbreaking sight. Later, we headed to Rapid City on the New Underwood Road. We have driven that route a hundred times. It will never be the same again. I will never forget seeing mile after mile of black mounds in the snow. Gruesome. Wishing the boys weren’t in the pick-up with us, but not having anywhere else for them to go. Trying to explain it to them.”

“I was driving a corridor of death and broken dreams. No words will ever adequately explain it,” writes Jodi Shaw in Storm Aftermath: Moving Forward with Character and Hope. “I called my mom, my voice cracked and I just started crying. “Mom, there are dead cattle everywhere. The electric poles are broke off . . . all of them. There’s more cattle, Mom, and more and there… is…more…” 

One pole left standing. Grand Elec. Coop.

One pole left standing. Grand Elec. Coop.

Phone calls began once electricity was restored after a week with no power. “I go out and try to take photos of our place,” continues Urbaniak.  “Try to find the right perspective to show what our life is like. It seems impossible. We begin hearing more about families. They still have no power.  Some of our dearest friends. Their cattle were out on summer gumbo. Their losses were staggering. We hear word that it was not just one family… no… seven families. Our dear, dear friends who lost so, so much. They don’t want anyone to know. Tears over the phone. Joe takes our spare generator to them. Dreaming at night of moving cows by four-wheeler, of cows everywhere, helping them, checking them.”

One week after the blizzard hit, Mom said, “We finally slept a little last night. There has been no sleeping.” Stretched between the brief bookends of sleep are long days of work nobody wants to do – cutting the ear tags off dead cows, disposing of the carcasses, finding yet more dead. “There is nothing romantic about living this,” Mom said. My brother, Bo, drove from Wisconsin to be with my parents this week. Together, my brother and parents ventured into those hard places, physical and emotional. 

As events unfolded, writers wrote eloquently and wisely to the questioning of cattle deaths and questioned why this isn’t receiving national attention: Lapsed Farm Bill Leaves SD in LimboSouth Dakota’s Cattle Cataclysm, About 75,000 Cattle Died in SD Oct. 4th Blizzard, Time to Have a Cow About Dead Cows.

Prairie in summer.

Prairie in summer. © Dawn Wink

It is easy during great tragedies for those involved to become a faceless mass. Here is a photo journal of our ranch last summer. For all of these thousands and thousands of dead cattle, are the families living this devastation. My friend and ranching wife, Jodi, wrote to me, “I am going out to pick apples from our broken trees with my kids.  We need to do something…”

A ranch is a world unto itself. To feel a shard of understanding for what has happened and what ranchers now experience on the plains, this knowing is essential.  What lies on the prairie now along with the physical dead are the dreams, years, decades, generations of back-breaking and soul-hoping work, all with the dream of creating a life for one’s family. 

The separation of land and human cease to exist on a ranch. In Meadowlark, Grace writes of this, “Sometimes when all was very quiet, she would find herself drawn, as if in a trance, into her own depths. Down she traveled past the layers that composed her, through the skin of the surface crust, and the few inches of topsoil, down through the intermittent stratum of soft, pliant sand and hardpan dirt. The layers reflected the story of her life…The prairie was Grace and Grace was the prairie.”

A ranch is a life story. We are all the prairie, the land. This knowing touched people around the world as the prayers, sympathies, and well-wishes for ranchers poured into the comments of The Blizzard that Never Was —over 1,100  as of this moment. I invite you to read and share these messages. I now work to get these messages to ranchers. 

So many wrote, what can I do? And now I have a response! Artist Rebecca Farr has created a way for us to contribute:

SD Ranchers

SD Ranchers

On October 4, 2013, South Dakota was hit with an early blizzard that left tens of thousands of cattle dead. The devastation and loss was tremendous. Some ranchers have reported between 20% and 50% of their herds were killed.

This tee shirt has been designed to support the South Dakota Ranchers in their time of need. Proceeds will go to the Black Hills Rancher Relief Fund which as been set up specifically for the victims.

Tee shirts are $25.00 each. Shipping and handling is free to anywhere in the world. The shirts are available in Large and X-Large. When you purchase a shirt, you will have the option of signing up to get updates on how much money we have raised! Locally designed and printed in Santa Fe, NM!

www.rebeccafarr.us to purchase! Thank you for your support! © R Farr 2013

Or contribute directly to South Dakota Rancher’s Relief Fund here: https://www.giveblackhills.org/27677

It takes a ranch.

It takes a ranch.

What has sustained our family, and what we have said through heartbreak and joy is, “It takes a ranch.”

I hope we’ll dissolve the borders that separate the state of South Dakota from the hearts and understanding beyond its borders, beyond the borders between urban and rural, the borders that would rather be “right” than understand, and the borders between countries. For this moment, let us be that ranch that comes together to sustain, support, and care. 

Thank you and with love,


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One Year of Dewdrops

Bouquet from garden

Bouquet from garden

Today marks our One Year of Community within Dewdrops. August 4, 2011 I wrote this and sent to those and sent to those near and dear:

Welcome to my blog, Dewdrops.

The Hummingbird's Daughter

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

One evening this past week, I went to Luis Alberto Urrea’s (author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter, The Devil’s Highway) blog and read “Love and Discipline” about his brother’s recent brush with mortality. I wrote Luis a note thanking him for sharing his heart and soul in his blog, my own initial resistance to writing a blog and recent reconsideration, and thanking him for a blog written as doses of writing that knit us together in this wild, heartbreaking, exquisite experience of life.

And Luis Alberto Urrea wrote me back how his fans on Facebook formed Team Juan for his brother, started a prayer chain and Juan is now doing great. Luis finished his note with, “I think you should blog! Yrs., Luis”

When Luis Alberto Urrea tells me, “I think you should blog!” — I listen.

So here is my hope – that this blog will be doses of writing, dewdrops, that might knit us together in this wild, heartbreaking, and exquisite experience of life. Inevitably along the way, there will be thoughts and questions about language, culture, writing, teaching, the land, kids, and anything else that composes the chapters of life. I look forward to our journey together.



I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My life seems to be a series of, “Leap, and the net shall appear.” I had no idea of magic possible, across miles, mountains, deserts, prairie, and oceans. At that time, 39 brave souls subscribed to Dewdrops. I knew they did this out of love and friendship, probably knowing in their hearts that I had no idea what I was doing, yet another leap of faith, and out of love, they leaped into the unknown with me. Our community has grown exponentially since that time. The vast majority of our community has joined since Dewdrops inception. 

Clouds outside our front door.

Clouds outside our front door.

I look with amazement at the past year. It has been, and continues to be, a year with ever-increasing blessed busyness. There are light years between the busyness of crisis and the busyness of blessings. When the days feel far too short, and I wish I could add hours to each for all that that needs tending, I return again and again to this thought. Energy builds and attracts similar energy. Vast worlds of positive energy swirls and whirls around Dewdrops, because of You. What I have experienced in the past year:

• The paths of life expand and deepen when shared. Life without community of kindred spirits begs loneliness and a mistaken sense that we alone face the hurdles of life. We are all in this together. Each of our lives overflows with blessings and challenges. Alone, this often feel overwhelming. Together, we recognize this shared experience of humanity and are strengthened. Our individual laughter, tears, challenges, loneliness, and wisdom gained flows when shared. I believe this is why we read—to know that we are not alone in this life. 

In honor of our one year of community, I include a few of the writings of the past year. I composed many of these pieces, and many were composed by the members of our community. I only organized and shared what you wrote. For those 39 souls who have been members of our community since August 4, 2011, perhaps (I hope), you’ll find some old friends. Those who are newer to Dewdrops, perhaps some new friends along our shared journey:

The Nest

The Nest

Textures of Guatemala

Early morning editing

Writing Meadowlark

Vincenzo’s Ghost

Words to Write By—for Writers, Teachers, and People Experiencing Life

The Nest

Will This Book EVER Be Published? What To Do in the Meantime


What I Wish for You—Wishes for Teachers


Dreams and Deadlines in 2013: Some Ideas on Organization

Doris Quintana Brandt, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Doris Quintana Brandt, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Writing Spaces of the World

Mosaic: Creating Beauty and Wholeness from the Broken Bits of our Lives

Artists Among Us

Meadowlark—The Veil Thins

Dear Wyatt, Luke, and Wynn—Why We Go To Church

Teaching—Freedom Within Structure and Teaching With Stones

TESOL and Veins of Turquoise: Migration, Immigration, and Language

Good Friday Pilgrimage to el Santuario and Chimayó

Meadowlark—Publication Announcement

Dewdrops, Brian Carnation

Dewdrops, Brian Carnation

Dewdrops Quotes

Anne Hillerman on Writing and her Dad, Tony Hillerman

The Nest Behind the Skull

Lifelines—The Fierce Love of Grandmothers

My Mother’s Hands

Authentic Creative and Professional Community Through Social Media

Raven’s Time: Wildness and Beauty Online Class



When Your Dad’s a Cowboy

Photo Journal of the Ranch

Pre-Order Meadowlark and Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Book Launch for Meadowlark at Collected Works, September 14, 4:00 pm

You will find it necessary to let things go…

Meadowlark on Amazon and Discovered Reading Treasures

Dawn Wink

One year ago, with no real idea of the path ahead, I wrote, “So here is my hope – that this blog will be doses of writing, dewdrops, that might knit us together in this wild, heartbreaking, and exquisite experience of life.” 


Photo by Michael Brandt

This past Friday, we experienced the potential and possibility of sharing, friendship, and love. Our dear friends, Rachel and Taylor Gantt, surprised us and another couple with the gift of sharing what they’d won at a fundraiser for our kids’ school before Christmas. We were told to be at their house at 4:00 pm. We didn’t know anything else. Imagine our surprise when a limousine rounded the corner into their driveway to whisk us off to wine tasting, dinner, and sunset on the rooftop terrace overlooking the plaza! Here, a photo of the women’s hands as we rode.

To me, this photo symbolizes that essence of shared humanity, of we’re all in this together, of love. This has been my experience with Dewdrops and remains my hope. From my heart, thank you.



We rise

We rise

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To subscribe and receive Dewdrops in your email, please enter your email address in the box under “Follow this blog via email” or click on the ‘Follow’ icon in lower right-hand corner of the blog’s screen and ‘Confirm Follow’ in the email you receive. To return to website: www.dawnwink.com