Winter is settling in around here, just in time for roundup and sending the calves to the sale barn.

I’m planning today to make chicken noodle soup to put in the Crockpot so I can get up and ride and help sort and send them off tomorrow, and have a nice hot meal waiting for us when we get in.

We’re going to need it.

It’s going to be cold.

For the past few years we’ve made a ritual out of meeting my husband and dad at the sale barn with the kids to watch our calves go through the ring. Last year, I dressed my daughters in their pink hats, snap shirts and boots and we headed to Dickinson after the truck. The girls got pop and a burger and fries at the café, and then a candy dessert. They played with their dolls and toy horses on the wide benches and my oldest, Edie, cried when we had to explain our calves weren’t coming home with us.

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The buyers and cowboys in the sale barn had a good chuckle and soft spot for that, I think. A bittersweet moment in the cycle of ranching.

This year, in an effort to avoid crowds, the girls and I will stay home while my husband takes the pickup and trailer with the last of the calves that won’t fit in the semi out to the highway and down through the breaks and out to the big town. I’ll stay home and wait to hear, part nervous, part relieved to get on with the plan and on to the next ritual of feeding hay, checking water tanks and mineral blocks and sending up prayers for enough moisture to fill the dams and a warm spring for calving.

It's the time of year farmers and ranchers round up their calves to go to the sale barn. Special to The Forum
It's the time of year farmers and ranchers round up their calves to go to the sale barn. Special to The Forum

There’s so much in this world that is out of our control. Perhaps growing up on a ranch has helped me cope with the uncertainties, especially the kind we’re all facing this year. To do what you can, the best that you can, is all you can do. Anyone who has ever brought a cold, wet calf who hasn’t sucked yet into the basement or entryway to warm up and feed and hope over knows this, especially when it doesn’t turn out the way you prayed it would.

To do all you that you can, the best that you can, seems to be a theme these days doesn’t it? If only we could all trust and accept that that is exactly what our neighbors are doing as well—the best that they can, with what they know. With what they fear. With the weight of it all. If we can go to that place, to imagine what it might be like in the other person’s shoes, perhaps then, even if we don’t agree, even if we’ve never been there ourselves, we can at least find a bit of compassion.

And reacting, deciding, listening and learning with your heart planted in empathy, well, that could make all the difference in the world right now…

If you need me I’ll be searching the house for my long johns and making sure I have an adequate supply of cream for the soup.

Stay warm now. Do what you can. Take care of one another and for goodness sake, take care of yourself, so we can see you at the sale barn next year!

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.