Loagan Ranch

4-H Club, State Fair, Gymkhana, Oh My!

A photo of Elizabeth FurryWhen my girls were little I oftened wondered what type of sport they would be involved in. I watched my sister, a devout soccer mom, transport her kids from one end of town to another for practices and what seemed like 3 games a week! "No, thank you!" I thought, that seemed like way too much work and to stand out in the freezing rain or blistering heat did not sound like a good time.

I knew my oldest, Loagan, would be into some sort of equestrian sport, but it didn't really occur to me how much 'time' that would require. First she joined the 4-H horse club, it started off simple enough (only because it was winter), I'd drive her to a couple meetings a month at the country extension office. No problem. But then spring arrived and it was time for spring workouts WITH the horses. So, not only do we find ourselves hauling my daughter to her sport of choice, but we have to haul horses and tack and hay. It sure made my sister's task look so much easier. That was lesson learned number one.

At some point during the 4-H years the younger sisters joined in with garden club and a short rabbit club stint. We adjusted well, it got easier as the months passed. Then one day at a parent meeting, I found myself raising my hand to volunteer my husband and myself to run the cook shack for every horse show! I'd like to say it was out of pure love for the 4-H club but honestly the last cook shack team jumped ship and the pressure and the guilt hung so heavy in the air at that meeting that I found myself raising my hand with a deer in the headlights look, no matter how hard I tried I couldn't pull that arm down.

So, now we are not only hauling kids, horses and tack, but add to that a truck bed full of Costco groceries, pots and pans, an industrial coffee pot, crockpots, a microwave and 100 pounds of ice. Nice, real nice. Lesson learned number 2, volunteer wisely.

As much work as running the cook shack was, we had it running like a well oiled machine. We knew what time to get there, how long the griddle took to heat up, what items were big sellers, what items weren't, how to keep flies out of the shack and what time we would be done. That was easy to figure out, the answer was always "dark." 4-H horse shows in our county consisted of Western and English classes. Western classes were in the morning, that's what Loagan always competed in, so had I not raised my hand that fateful night, we would get to go home at noon. But since I did in fact raise my hand, we were tied to that lil cook shack til dark.

Business was slow after the lunch break, so from 3 p.m. to dark, my husband and I could be found leaning over the shack counter with our chins resting on our fists propped up by tired elbows staring into a daze at the arena while the last of the trail class finished up. You would be amazed to know that you can actually take a lil nap like that if you didn't lose your balance and fall over like a fool. Lesson learned number 3, recruit other volunteers for a relief shift.

Loagan moved on from 4-H to other things. She started training horses and showed them in the Oklahoma State Fair – which was a whole new ball game. Shiny, glitzy, pampered, perfect, expensive are some of the things that come to mind when you see these horses. Lesson learned number 4, 4-H wasn't so bad.

Then Loagan moved to training wild mustangs and would show them in the Wild Mustang Shows. I like the mustang shows, you get to see beautiful wild horses that once roamed the west become even more beautiful with the training that their owners have put in them. At 15, Loagan trained her first wild mustang and took Grand Champion Reserve In-Hand at the Utah show and has continued to succeed each year she competes. Lesson learned number 5, my daughter's got skills.

Currently, we are all about Gymkhana. Loagan is leading in her division for the local winter series, which is pretty exciting. My other two girls, Jess and Bailey are competing as well. For those that don't know, Gymkhana consists of all the speed events such as Barrels, Poles, Figure Eights, Keyhole and Pushing Cows. The girls love this sport, mom not so much. Don't get me wrong its fun to go to, and exciting and all that, but its also a good way to throw a parent into heart failure. When the girls take off from the gate going full throttle, I take a deep breath, and I hold it til their horse comes to a complete, SAFE, stop after the pattern.

Loagan kicking it up

Loagan and the poles

Bailey and Tess

I age quickly at gymkhanas. It's not for the faint of heart. Usually gymkhanas last all day like the 4-H days, so we make a family day out of it. Sometimes I pack a lunch, sometimes we go and get Sonic (wonderful, glorious Sonic!) and sometimes we eat from the cook shack, I resist the urge to jump in and help as the cook shack folks look like they got it handled. I don't miss that job, but sometimes I secretly envy them when its 20 degrees and windy outside, and they are inside cooking over a warm griddle. Luckees.

This spring Loagan starts the rodeo circuit ... lesson learned number 6, it never ends.

The Value of an Old Dog

A photo of Elizabeth FurryThirteen years ago, our family was complete (almost) – we had our third child, we lived in a house with a good sized yard – we were living comfortably and life was good. It was only natural to look at our kids and say, “We need to get them a dog!” In my humble opinion, I think all kids need a dog. It seems almost as natural as fireworks on the 4th of July.

So one spring day Matt and I headed out to find our girls a dog, a great dog, a dog that would be the perfect fit for our family. And that’s exactly what happened. We decided that we wanted a black lab, and when we went to pick it out, it was perfectly easy to know which dog was ours. Of all the pups in the litter, our girl was the fattest, rolliest, polliest one there, and no matter how many times she got distracted with her siblings by running off, she would quickly stop and return to me and jump in my lap. Sold! Done and done!

So we drove our lil pork chop home to meet the girls. They were 1, 3 and 5 at the time, and as expected the house filled with high pitched screams – it was enough to make the pup take off running down the hall.

We gave Matt the honor of naming her, he said it had to be manly enough that when he called her in the house at night he wouldn’t sound ridiculous saying, “Here snooky” or “Here fluffy.” It had to be manly, even though she was a she. So he decided on plain ol’ “Dog.” Done and done.

The problem with buying a cute, adorable, fluffy puppy, is that you never really think about 10, 12, 13 years down the road. You don’t really think about your dog getting grey around the muzzle, slowing down a bit each time they get up to eat, or having a hard time hearing you when you call their name. You are just so smitten with their cuteness and deep precious eyes, that is … until they eat all of your wicker patio furniture like it was a bag of potato chips or chew one of your favorite boots up, but you still wear them because the other one is in perfect condition and by golly you are gonna get some use out of ’em!

Well somewhere along the way, that puppy grows up and finds the rhythm of the family. She knows that after nap time your 3-year-old will want a pony ride on her and when the baby falls off and cries, the dog will look at you with a worried glance that she did something wrong. You tell her, “It’s ok Dog,” and she wags her tail. She’ll know when she’s been a good dog and when she’s been bad – like when you find your missing chicken in the backyard with its head gone – that makes her a BAD dog.

Years continue to pass and your loyal dog endures everything that the family does. Moving six states away? There’s your dog sitting in the back seat patiently waiting for that next backyard. She knows when to expect the kids home, and she knows when dad will be sitting in his chair, because she is right there waiting for him. She knows when the kids are sick because she sits by their bed and gets nervous with each cough.

She doesn’t get thrilled with the idea of bringing a new puppy home either. I mean she just finally got on the cats good side after all.

Dog and cats

But she trusts your decision and after awhile will take the pup on as her own lil’ mentor project. It’s not her ideal job but somebody has to do it.

Old dog and a new puppy

Eventually only two things matter to her, food and family. And so that’s how it is. Before you know it, you are 13 years down the road with your faithful dog. She lets you know when it’s time for her to go, even though she still wants to hang on for the family, after all she is a worrier, and she’s never liked seeing any of you cry. You hate the decision you have to make, but you know you can’t bear to see her suffer one more second. You tell yourself you’re not gonna cry, but you do because you know she was huge part of your family, she helped raise the kids, she knows all their secrets they’ve whispered in her ears. You cry because you know she was more loyal to you and your family than you were to her. She loved the family unconditionally, despite the cat or the new puppy or when you dressed her as Batman for Halloween. That’s what good dogs do … and that’s the value of an old dog.

Fall Weather Brings October Eves

A photo of Elizabeth Furry“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, we have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” 

I love this quote by Humbert Wolfe; and no truer statement for our lil corner of the country. The last weekend of September gave us 90 plus degree temperatures and just like magic overnight the winds kicked up and blew in a fall chill. The winds may have been a bit overzealous as yesterday brought our first snow.

It was a very bold reminder that winter is not very far away and that autumn truly is the time to be stocked up and ready. Here at the ranch we had been so busy getting new stalls arranged for the winter boarders that we have still yet to get our woodpile stocked. You should have seen us scrambling for some kindling around here. This week we’ll be heading to the backwoods for a couple cords, nothing says preparedness like the site of a well stacked woodpile just waiting to keep the family warm all winter.

Speaking of being stocked up, the fruit trees were very generous this year in the Carson Valley, which found me with several friends canning day after day. I labored many hours over a hot canner processing peach chutney, peach pie filling, peach jam, apple chutney, apple pie filling, apple butter and apple jelly. What we didn’t can, we froze. And what couldn’t be used went to the horses and chickens; needless to say we had some very happy animals here at the ranch.

I’m so ready for October eves and November ones and December ones. Fall and winter for me says family time. Not only will the wood and the garden harvest be stocked up but so will the hot cocoa, cider, popcorn, books, movies and board games. Cold evenings spent around a crackling fire is the perfect time to enjoy the family. In fact, that’s where I’m heading right now. It’s 35 degrees out, the chilly autumn wind is kicking up, the horses have all been fed, and it's time for a good story in front of the fire.

Happy October Eves everyone!

Foaling Season: A Little Grit and Grace

A photo of Elizabeth FurryA few months back we brought in 5 new mares to board here at the ranch. We were told 3 were in foal for sure and the other 2 were questionable. Well this was exciting news for the whole family (which includes 3 horse crazy daughters, also known as Loagan, Jessica and Bailey) as it had been a long time since we had a lil' foal around. The only draw back was that we had no idea when these mares would drop. Could be tomorrow, next month, 2 months, who really knew? (Have I ever mentioned we are an impatient lot here at the ranch?) Every day we checked the mares in the pasture for any sign and every day was the same result, a big fat nothing. Just when we started thinking we would never have a foal and that all those mares were just a little on the hefty side Loagan noticed one of the gals, Cowgirl, was starting to bag up. We put her into a foaling stall and kept our eye on her for the next few days. Each day brought more hope that we were getting close, really close. So then we started setting alarms every 2 hours in the middle of the night, we were all walking zombies – a tad cranky, dangerously over-caffienated, walking zombies.

Then the day finally came –

At feeding time Loagan said that Cowgirl looked really really bagged up and that she was getting close. (Yeah right, how many times had we seen this?) So around 10:15 pm all of us were watching a movie – odd that all of us were still up – anyhow, Jessica looks out the kitchen window and says, "Oh my gosh, there's a baby!" You never saw so much commotion in all your life. Loagan, jumps over the couch, Bailey and her friend come running down the hall like a herd of buffalo, the dogs are running in circles, and Matt and I jump up from the overstuffed chair we were sitting in. Chaos I tell you! We both fly out from this chair, I'm carrying a bowl of freshly popped popcorn, yes fresh and buttery, I was so aware of this subconsciously that I didn't want to toss it aside like yesterdays trash, this snack was valuable ya know. So I'm running with this bowl and I trip over this little milking stool, who knows how this stool got there cuz normally I have it on my hearth. Here I am in slow motion, both hands on the popcorn bowl, trying to get my feet to cooperate as I keep tripping on this stool because its rolling along with each step I take. I hit the floor, popcorn goes flying everywhere, Matt says the 'S' word and asks if I'm ok. The girls are laughing as they run out the door and dogs are going nutso because they just scored a tasty snack. All I can think about is my luscious popcorn, and how I can get to the foal faster than the rate I was going. So I get up and run outside where everyone else is already (this was killing my competitive nature). The foal was half way out so we were just in time, SORTA. Rats! It was an exciting moment, the lil' filly, Grace, was adorable and it was a neat experience for our family despite pulling my back out trying to save my popcorn.

Grace the foal

Sadly lil' Grace passed the next day, the vet said she was a dummy foal and that the placenta had detached before she foaled causing a lack of oxgen to lil' Grace before she dropped. It was a pretty devastating time, the hardest part was listening to Cowgirl whinny for her baby the next few nights while the other horses answered back in sorrowful condolences. These are the times when you ask yourself why you're even in this business

The days passed, and all of us fell into our regular ranch routine. Before we knew it another mare, Bodie, decided to step up to the plate. Loagan noticed her out in the pasture biting at her belly so we pulled her in the foaling stall, and within 12 hours we had a big ol' colt we named Grit.

A colt named Grit

It was a perfect delivery and it was like night and day with how healthy Grit looked compared to lil' Grace. Needless to say we were very relieved to see Grit nursing and wobbling around within the hour. Grit is a little over a month old now and he is full of energy, getting into mischief and driving his mama crazy. These are the days when you KNOW why you are in this business! Now, about those other 3 mares...

Raising Country Kids in a Modern Society

I come from the mindset of “you either lived on a farm or wished you did” – growing up I was on the “wished I did” side. I was raised in a new suburban neighborhood surrounded by farms and ranches, and in my heart I knew I was supposed to be farm kid, no doubt about it. I was supposed to be in 4-H clubs showing my prized calf or perfectly shaped pumpkin, and oh how I envied the FFA members and their blue corduroy jackets, but alas I was stuck in suburbia. Instead of big oak trees to swing from, I had a perfectly mowed yard with plain pitiful excuses for trees that wouldn't see a tire swing for at least 15 years. I knew back then that when I grew up I was gonna be a rural kid – or at least my kids would be. And that's exactly what happened.

rural kids

We have managed to raise three totally countrified daughters in a day and age of the Internet, video games and electronics of all sorts. For 18 years our days have consisted of feeding the stock, mucking stalls, gathering eggs, growing gardens, working on 4-H projects, hauling horses to shows, driving old pick up trucks and playing in the dirt. When most kids spend their summers at the movies, the mall or vacationing, country kids are making big plans for the local Elk's Club Carnival that is setting up at the park on the edge of town – but only if the ranch chores are done. Money earned at a homemade lemonade stand goes towards the cost of ride tickets, corn dogs and cotton candy. And that's the way its always been in the country.

Country Girl Jessica

One summer our girls had some cousins from the city come for a visit. The city cousins were hesitant about the visit and had been heard telling Grandma, “Them are rural kids!” They were afraid they would be bored with no satellite TV (gasp!) or video games. At first, upon the city cousins arrival, it was a little quiet and awkward. I thought, “this is gonna be a long weekend,” and I could tell my girls were thinking the same thing with their eyes big as saucers looking at me. “Why don't you show them the horses?” I say, because as you know not everyone owns a horse! Who needs satellite? From then on I barely saw the kids all weekend. Horses, chickens, rabbits, ducks, oh my! Forts to build, dry creekbeds to explore, bugs to catch and redneck rollercoaster rides (our version of 4-wheelin' in big ol trucks) – who could resist the rural life? Not to mention topping off each night with a trip down to the General Store (and yes it literally is still called a general store) for ice cream and candy.When it came time for the city cousins to leave, they were a little sad, but to this day they still talk about how much fun they had. I know they will look back on that summer and remember how cool it was to be a “rural kid” for a short while.

My girls are all teenagers now but still spend the majority of their time on the ranch working with the horses, wrenching on pickups, and sitting around the firepit at night with the family gazing at the stars. Going “into town” is still a pretty big deal even though the town seems to be getting a little closer to us. But no matter, “us” rural kids will still be found roaming the town in our muddy boots and jeans shopping for chicken scratch, halters, lead ropes and the newest line of Cruel Girl clothes. Ain't country life grand?

Loagan and her horse