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.