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Ranch & Real Life

The Write Stuff

I don’t typically consider myself to be a writer. If asked to describe myself, I usually stick with wife, mom, rancher, Gelbvieh breeder, and sometimes range ninja (or in other words, a prairie plant geek). I even still refer to myself as a piano player before a writer, although based on my behavior, I’ve pretty much retired from tinkling the ivories.

I do not possess an English degree and I haven’t taken any classes in journalism or communication. In fact, I only took one required English class in university where my biggest victory was the fact that we covered Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the very same play that I studied a few years earlier in Grade 10. Having kept all of my old high school notes, they came in very handy that semester and I didn’t overexert myself in that class.

These characteristics do not a writer make. In fact, these are the very characteristics that annoy actual, legitimate writers. I recently discovered, however, that I do have a voluminous lifelong portfolio of mediocre writing to my credit.

In a recent fit of productive procrastination, I decided to clean out numerous boxes of childhood mementos and made some interesting discoveries.  These boxes, which I had “accidentally” left behind at my parents’ when I moved, and were now taking up prime real estate in my basement, needed to go. Opening them up, I found the usual doodles and school pictures, comic books, and science fair projects. I discovered binders full of class notes from university that seemed much more relevant in the olden days before smart phones and Google. Among these time capsules were extensive archives of written stories. They were all in my hand writing and they looked somewhat familiar, but I didn’t remember writing so many.

There was one story I recall pitching to a well-known author who happened to be a family friend. While that particular venture didn’t go as my eight-year-old-self had imagined it would, apparently it didn’t dampen my spirit because I continued to write volumes. As I got older, I moved past writing fiction (where the main character was inevitably name Sarah) and delved into the non-fiction that defined my teenage years. Somehow I had also forgotten that I wrote page after page in journals, documenting the angst and drama that apparently permeated my teenage rural Saskatchewan existence. There were also never ending dramatic letters that friends and I wrote to each other about our perceived teenage struggles. I now realize how many trees were sacrificed just to get me through my adolescence. Apparently I’ve been writing stuff down for several years without really noticing and I have a body of “work” to show for it.

In spite of not really being a writer, I do spend a considerable amount of time writing these days, especially with my part time work. I don’t necessarily allocate a lot of time to writing this column (perhaps that’s better kept a secret?) but I am always writing a piece or two about prairie conservation, species at risk, invasive weeds, or beef production for a few different organizations. I get the opportunity to write riveting technical reports, web content, newsletters, fact sheets, even the odd funding proposal. The subject matter isn’t always charming and it can be a challenge to present a topic (i.e. bovine internal parasites) creatively, but the content is useful.

I do enjoy the creative challenge of this column. I appreciate the deadline, for without it I would not take time to cobble 650 words together a couple times a month. Life gets blurry and I like documenting the highlights and perhaps even more so, giving literary credit to the boring, everyday things I experience as a rancher, mom, and wife. I like stirring memories in others and hearing about their experiences with clotheslines, calves, lost dogs, stubborn kids, getting stuck (not that I do that!), and anything else they may identify with.

I may not be a writer, but I think I’ll keep doing it for a while.