Slice of Life: Losing my pioneering spirit
November 2, 2023
Next Month David and I will celebrate 37 years of marriage and adventures. Most of our adventures came out of our “pioneering spirit.” David always saw himself as a farmer, loving the time he spent with our livestock and working the tractor around the fields. I was always happy to be the farmer’s wife, gardening and canning and living the homesteading lifestyle. There was always something that needed to be done and something to learn, while we both also worked full time jobs off the farm.
I just knew in my heart, had I been born in the 1800’s, I would have been in a wagon on the Oregon Trail, heading West for a new start. On our farms, I did my share of the hard stuff. I was the one at the farm when our dogs and goats were playing, and the dog went one way while the goat went the other. Unfortunately, the goat’s ear went with the dog. Their play time became an emergency veterinarian call and surgery in a wheelbarrow in the barn. I staunchly assisted the vet, cleaning the wound and working to reattach the ear once it was located, thankful all turned out good.
I helped break the ice on the watering troughs before we got trough heaters. I helped load pigs, retrieve cows, and herd turkeys into their pens. And as a farmer’s wife I always keep my weapon of choice at hand. The sturdy kitchen broom. One year we had a pack of coyotes harassing our hens. One evening after dinner, I took the hens the scraps, one of their favorite treats. I was angered to see three coyotes sniffing around the coop, trying to find a way in. Without thinking I grabbed my weapon and headed to the coop, screaming like a banshee. The coyotes scattered, two heading down the driveway with this crazed woman in hot pursuit, waving a kitchen broom over her head. David later asked what I would have done had they turned and ran at me. We were both thankful I did not need to find out.
A few months later that occasion came to mind when I was faced with another situation. One I responded to with quiet and caution. We had two large black dogs at the time. Ben and Lucy. Ben was about 200 pounds of love and affection while Lucy was smaller, about 90 pounds. I was alone at the farm in the afternoon and the dogs were out roaming the acres. I stepped out the back porch and skipped down the four steps and called to Ben who I thought was taking a drink of water from the automatic watering bowl on the barn, about 150 feet from our back porch. But when who I thought was Ben turned and charged towards me, I found myself face to face with a black bear.
I stopped in my tracks, sure my heart stopped briefly as well. The bear moved faster than I had imagined towards me. She got to within about 15 feet of me and stopped. When I recall that day, I think I spoke softly towards her, definitely saying a prayer. She rose on her hind legs, which did nothing to calm my heart rate at the time. I have since learned when bears rise on their hind legs, it is to get a better sense of who you are and get a clearer sense of your smell. Either way, it just made her look larger than I wanted her to be. I recall I slowly walked backwards, up the four steps, opened the house door and backed in, closing, and locking the door behind me. She dropped down on all fours, pacing across the walkway for an hour or more. It appeared she had discovered our orchard and claimed it as her own. She eventually left but the memory of her visit will stay with me forever.
So, I’m not a novice at adventures of the unusual kind in today’s world. Something that would have been common in the 1800’s had I been a Pioneer, now unusual to face today. But I think my pioneering spirit has died down and the sense of homesteading has lost some of its appeal.
This was brought home to me recently with the loss of our well during the reservoir drawdown. As our neighbors began to lose their wells, we wondered if ours would be next. About four days after the drawdown, I turned on the faucet, no water. So began the next couple weeks of borrowing water, traveling to town to shower, hauling buckets of water for the animals and household needs while hoping the well would return as soon as the water level went back up. I realized my pioneering spirit was tired. I realized I like to have the comforts of a modern home. And I’m thankful everything is now restored to normal for us and hopefully all affected.
When NorthWestern Energy advertises another reservoir drawdown, I’ll be better prepared. The one before this was in 2018 and I’m crossing my fingers the next one will be in 2050 or later. As I close, I offer prayers everyone has the utilities they need in abundance, as we head into the winter season.
Chelle is a recovering social worker who currently works as a licensed massage therapist at Cherry Creek Myotherapy. She moved to Montana with her husband David and two pups, Lucas and Turner, where they seek “the quiet life” amid new adventures.