Let’s put ranch families out in space

By Baxter Black: PNT columnist

One of the qualities that characterize dedicated ranchers and farmers is a joyous commitment to hard work.

It’s sort of an odd combination of curiosity, independence and bravado. They actually crave the struggle like long-distance runners crave the race. They love their job.

Ranching is not a sport. It pits man against all that nature can throw at them year after year. It takes a hard-headed person to keep pushing back.

That’s how frontiers were conquered and the west was won.

Today’s ranchers possess the same qualities exemplified by the 18th and 19th century pioneers. The origin of the word pioneer comes from the native Indian language pi, as in “pie in the sky,” and near, meaning “it’s just over the next hill, Mother!”

They battle the same obstacles encountered by the early settlers: drought, blizzard, disease, despair, and predators both wild and packing guns or toting regulations. It is simply nature trying to take back its own balance.

When we received our Christmas newsletter from long time friends in Wyoming, calmly listing all the highs and lows of the past year, I was inspired. Their mettle is strong as individuals but as a pair they seem invincible.

Their union began when he put an ad in the livestock paper for a ranch hand who could cook and keep house. She was, in essence, a mail-order bride. One who grew up in suburban California.

With a tip of my hat to Wyoming, it can still be as formidable to settlers today as it was 150 years ago. It’s one of those places where you always keep coveralls, a bedroll, moon boots and a shovel in the trunk of your car.

Where you never take four-wheel drive for granted, keep a generator handy during a snow storm, check the antifreeze in your tractor in September and snow plow the road to the pasture. Not to mention the spring breeze that can turn a hard hat inside out.

But she came, this California maiden, they wed and went to raising corrientes, mules and blue heelers, animals they could relate to.

Everything they have gotten out of that tough country they have worked for. He’s a heavy equipment operator, welder, farmer, mule skinner and carries the burden of his daily labor like Atlas.

She has that same toughness, nerves of steel, generous heart and can make lemonade out of lemons or jerky out of old reins.

I hear about NASA postulating what will be needed to establish a base on the moon or Mars. They debate the technology required, the clothing, diet, sanity and the structured-monitored work and rest schedule. Then consider intensely the qualifications necessary for the astronauts selected to make the arduous journey.

My first thought was, call Louie and Ann. Give him a backhoe and fencing pliers, her a saddle mule and sourdough starter and come back in five years. You’d have a place good enough to build Wyoming a new community college.