First Week of Summer: Reporting from a Ranch in Montana

May 24, 2013

 

 

A week ago I woke up to a room full of unpacked suitcases, a number of meetings on the calendar, and a four hour final looming.

In contrast….

Today I woke up with the sun. I spent the morning checking in on Two Dot Land & Livestock’s herd with Mike and went for a walk to absolutely nowhere by myself. I saw the after birth of a just born calf, I saw the rotting corpse of a dead cow, I saw a dead calf being dragged across the pasture, and I saw a newborn barely able to open its eyes to the overwhelming new world it had just come to know. I ate out of a crock pot with Ty, a horse trainer and cowboy from South Dakota. I wore leather work gloves. I picked up old railroad ties with those gloves and build a water tank with Mike and Ty. I drove a Ford 350 manual truck towing a salt feeder. I opened livestock gates. I helped move a 300 head herd of cattle into the next pasture. I ate a PB&J for dinner. I finished work on an ATV with Mike and Ty as dusk was hitting Wheatland County.

My face has a color in it again, I am a little bit dehydrated, and I can guarantee that I will sleep well tonight.

Nothing at SOM was as hands on as the day I spent on the ranch, but my time at Yale opened the door to be able to have this experience. Back in the winter, I was named a Wyss Scholar-- a program for graduate students dedicated to a career in western land conservation. Throughout the year, I wrote and spoke with a number of different organizations in the Inner Mountain West and slowly but surely, my classmates and professors started sending me notes about different happenings out West. I shared my vision with the Leadership Development program, led by Professor Tom Kolditz, and they have been incredibly generous and supportive of my efforts to actively learn about land management from a diverse group of stakeholders in Montana. Not unsurprisingly, I met other Yalies in Montana. It was nice to see a few familiar faces with the same mountain-air bounce in their gait and glimmer in their eye.

If the first week of summer is any indication of the weeks to come, I am in for a real treat. Next up? Austin, TX! A fellow SOM/FES joint degree is getting married this weekend and I am excited to celebrate with her and a few other classmates.  

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Heather West