Columns: You’ll always have a place on the family ranch

When our granddaughter, Julia, heard I was writing in the paper she said: “Please put my name in the paper.”

When our granddaughter, Julia, heard I was writing in the paper she said: “Please put my name in the paper.”

My first thought was to tell her to do something worthy of news and it would be printed.

My second thought was to write about her as a grandchild, in fact the first grandchild. We also have five darling boys, rascals sometimes.

They are all often together and they are close emotionally. Especially, they are able to play as freely as possible here on the ranch.

Julia’s mother said to me shortly after her birth, perhaps prophetically: “It is nice that Julia will always have a place.”

I took it to mean, a place on the family ranch.

I was raised in the dry grasslands around 150 Mile, and I am still drawn to the area.

But our children, who were raised out in the moist lush east Cariboo valley, call this place “home.” So, this is our Place.’

I know I speak for my partner and I when I say that our hearts were classically full when Julia was born.

We enjoyed the anticipation of the births of every one of the grandkids equally, but Julia was the first and would always be the eldest by two years. To me she would be a ranch manager in the making, if she so wished.

First, she would have to enjoy the family ranch home and the activities here.

Instinct and culture both give us the inclination to burst with pride and anticipation of great things from every newborn.

For me, the hope is that the next generation will know more than we do and make up for our shortcomings.

Whatever we have to teach them and whatever they can learn by being here and observing must serve them well.

In my case, I grew up without the faintest idea of the names of the grasses and forbs in the surrounding grasslands.

Julia and her cousins would know these things as well as know about the huge communities of soil microbiology, which are foundational to sustenance and health.

When we took a family trip into the South Chilcotin, Julia was four.

Her cousins were backpacked by their mothers.

She and I rode a horse.

We had with us a plant identification book to name the flowers.

Two days into the trip, she had mastered the names of most of the flowers we encountered.

They were many. A field of new flowers excited her and she would remark: “Wait for Grandma to see these. They are so beautiful.”

Acres and acres of lupines lay before us. The wonder a child sees!

Those of us that have ranch operations care that someone will take over and keep the land in good shape. But the operation can’t be a burden, rather a blend of joy and work.  Such is the hope we have for the next generations of ranch and farm managers.

When I mentioned to Julia I hoped she would grow up and look after us in our old age, she said she would become a doctor. Now a doctor and a ranch manager: that is a challenge!

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which is starting at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.