They offered workshops geared to women living on rural or ranch land, and interested in conservation, wildlife, and land management.
Some of the workshops were one day but there was one that was 3 days of presentations and hands on experience. It was held on a ranch down south of me. Some of the things they offered I was familiar with and some I wanted to learn more about. Plus the opportunity to meet and interact with a group of women with similar interests sounded like something I needed. If I'm going to stay here without Rick, and I intend to, I'm going to have to do all I can to make it work.
When I told my daughter Sarah I had signed up for the workshop, she said she wanted to go too. I'm sure some of it was just to support me but she loves this place too and she wants to step up and help more with her dad gone. As the day to go approached, I have to tell you, I was wondering why in the hell I signed up for this! I just wanted to stay home where I can cry anytime I feel like it. And in the best of times being around people I don't know for any length of time isn't something I always want to do. What if I didn't like anyone? What if I got too sad? What if I felt out of place? I almost backed out but Sarah, who was also wondering if she would like this, said no, let's go. So we did. Knowing we could just leave if we wanted to!
So we loaded up our cordless drills, our binoculars, our work gloves, and our hunting knives and headed south with our boots and jeans. We put the truck in 4 wheel drive when we got to the muddy ranch road and pulled in just in time for the wine and cheese social! We had all brought a couple of bottles of wine, and Sarah and I had a few tiny airline size bottles of Crown Royal in our bags. For emergencies.
Our classes and presentations were varied. The ranch owners taught some, along with some of the staff and friends, and Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel came in from different parts of the state to help us. Through it all we had great meals prepared by one of the young ranch owners. She worked non-stop keeping us fed and hydrated. We stayed in a nice lodge on the ranch with a beautiful great room. We usually ate outside on a flagstone patio with a huge fire pit and a stone water feature, complete with a little running creek.
The presentations included gun cleaning, optics, knife sharpening (get yourself a WartHog knife sharpener), trailer backing, chainsaw operation and maintenance (I had been particularly interested in this one. The theme of the lesson was just because you aren't able to do it all, doesn't mean you can't do some. I have a Husqvarna cordless chain saw on order at a ranch supply store. I have confidence I can do some trimming at least!), aging and scoring deer, how to use a water wagon for fire fighting or road maintenance, range plant identification, and fence mending (gotta do that constantly around here). We had classes on bats and pollinators, GPS, plant identification and cattle grazing and forage. We learned about prescribed burning and got to set some little fires with drip cans. We built bat houses.
We got to play with the big boy toys - we drove a bulldozer, a tractor, and a bobcat, carrying sand down the road and dumping it. While we certainly didn't get qualified to be heavy equipment operators, there is nothing like driving a bulldozer to empower you! The young men that helped us with this were extremely polite and helpful, as were all the people that presented or taught at the workshop.
On our last night there we climbed into the back of three pickups to go out and do a spotlight deer survey. They made it into a contest and we had to judge range distances and count some stakes with metal tags that one of the wildlife biologists had put out to represent deer. It was a cool and clear night, perfect for riding down a ranch road in the back of a truck with ladies you had come to respect and enjoy. As we pulled out of the ranch yard, Orion and the Dog Star hanging over our heads, with Taurus and the Seven Sisters just beginning to appear, one of the women in our truck started singing "The stars at night are big and bright............." We all joined in and then sang some cowboy songs we only knew part of the words to. We seemed alone in the world, the pickups slowly crunching the caliche of the ranch road, an occasional deer, jackrabbit, longhorn, and porcupine appearing near us, the soft voices of strong women singing rising over it all.
Deep in the heart of Texas, Sarah and I made her dad proud.
(Time to head home, me and Sarah, my lips chapped from the wind, Sarah all smiles.)