By Mark and Wendy Pratt
It’s hot. We’re sleeping in the basement where it’s cool and quiet. No dogs barking or kingbirds squawking at 4:30 am. By fall we’ll move back upstairs, but for now it’s a mini-getaway for us.
This morning we watched a colorful tanager feed on the berries of the chokecherry out our living room window. I told the numerous robins that perhaps they could feed elsewhere. I like them, but they’re a bit mundane, choose another bush please.
We’re moving cattle every 10 days or so in the mountains, which is a big switch for us. We’re following the advice we heard a smart rancher give one day: “shorten your graze periods and lengthen your recovery periods.” It’s stressing us in ways we didn’t anticipate and it’s not perfect, but things seldom are. We’ve had a few pleasant overnight stays in the mountains. Being in the high country early in the morning and late at night means spotting elk, mule deer, sage grouse, and listening to the nighthawks boom.
I’ve enjoyed some time away from the ranch rummaging through boxes of memorabilia with my sisters. It’s taken us years to tackle what our grandmother and uncle left behind in their home built by my great grandparents. We hate to disturb some of the drawers and shelves that have remained untouched since the last occupation over 20 years ago. My uncle saved everything. I hauled box after box down the steep attic stairs one very hot day. One curious find was a large box filled with crepe paper streamers, all a faded green. Their household was staunchly democrat and there was a stash of John Kennedy campaign materials and articles written after his assassination. There were piles of books and magazines, and the occasional handwritten letter to keep us interested.
We have a box labeled for each branch of the family, file folders for each individual, a box to take to the local historical society, totes for scrapbooks to deal with later, and piles of items with some value that we need to think about. It’s a labor of love, and with my dear sisters, what I would do just for fun.
Summer is cruising along at warp speed. Oh, to hold on to these evenings! We watched the July full moon, the buck moon, rise at dusk on my birthday. We christened the new redwood deck and made merry as I tried to forget how surprising the number on the cake was.
All of it – aging, the intoxicating days of summer, the cool breeze coming through the windows when I can’t sleep – take on a special poignancy when I’m immersed in the lives of my ancestors. We are the same. Especially so since our livelihood is the land, and we cherish country living as they did. My grandma talks about beet harvest, flood irrigating, and the first killdeer of spring as the important events they were. An optimist, nearly every diary entry begins with, “Lovely, lovely day.” She also wrote in a letter, “We lived through the depression and two world wars and loved every minute of it.”
I promise today to be more like her.