The scene is vivid in my memory. I’m 5 years old, riding in a light blue 1973 GMC pickup while Mom is driving. We’re towing a gooseneck stock trailer loaded with cattle.
“You watch that way and see if there’s any cars coming,” she tells me. The gravel road we’re traveling meets the highway at the bottom of a hill. She explains that if we come to a stop, the truck won’t be able to pull all that weight up the hill.
I sit up on my knees, look out on the ribbon of highway stretching between fields, and tell her the road is clear.
“Here we go,” Mom says. She grips the steering wheel, presses the gas pedal to the floor, blows right that past stop sign and doesn’t let her foot of the gas til we crest the hill.
Mom could do a lot of things. She taught Sunday school, canned green beans, read story books and stretched $10 a long way in the grocery store.
Deep down, though, she was always a cowgirl.
I’ve been missing Mom a lot lately. It’s strange how big a hole can remain in your heart even after 20 years. I saw this quote by Dale Evans and it was the perfect description of Mom’s special brand of courage. It was Mom who taught me how to make elderberry jelly and coax a newborn calf to nurse from a bottle. It was Mom who showed me how to grow tomatoes and make hand-me-downs seem almost as good as new.
She woke us up early on Saturday mornings and asked, “Do you want to hoe, chop wood or work?” Life on the farm was tough, but Mom taught us we did it because we loved the life it provided, not because it paid well or brought accolades. She showed us there are a lot more important things in life than money.
It was Mom, the cowgirl, who encouraged me to become an FFA state officer. When I majored in agriculture science in college, Mom told me that was fine, but I needed to take some journalism courses, too. She knew better than anybody where my skills would be best used.
I’ve had some new opportunities lately to chase some dreams and it’s been kind of scary. I’ve tried to imagine what advice Mom would give.
And I see her at the wheel, a 50-year-old farm wife — she was 45 when she gave birth to me, the youngest of eight children — running full throttle down the highway like the biggest cattle baron in the county.
She’d say you can do more than you think you can and sometimes, you have to “cowgirl up.”
I love you, Mom. Thank you for everything.