Victoria Barkley – Where Are You?

All of the Wilkinsons have been very involved in the AGA and AGJA.  Both Bill and Nancy served two terms on the AGA Board of Directors, and Sydney served on the AGJA Board of Directors, as well.  Bill served as President from 2002 and 2003 and, as such, he had to write a monthly column for the Gelbvieh World magazine.  When the issue saluting the Gelbvieh females was in the works, Nancy figured it was her turn to have a little input, so she wrote this article for that magazine.  So, here’s a throwback, which still proves to be true.

Victoria Barkley – Where Are You?

Since this issue of the magazine focuses on the Females of the Gelbvieh Breed, Bill thought I should write this article, to salute all the wives, daughters and mothers out there in the Breed. (Actually, he’s just tired of trying to come up with ideas for articles!) I don’t really have anything particularly prophetic to say, so I just thought I would write down some of the thoughts that I’ve had over the years about this ranching life. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it, too, and feel a little sense of unity between all of us “Fabulous Females.”

Growing up in a small West Texas oil-field town, with two teachers for parents, I used to love the idea of ranching! Every afternoon after school, I would get home in time to watch reruns of The Big Valley. Then on Friday nights before the football games was High Chaparral and Sunday nights was Bonanza. Victoria Barkley was my hero! I used to imagine myself in her boots – bringing in the herd, rescuing baby calves, running off rustlers and being in charge of lots of cattle and cowboys. (Now, the widow part was not a big factor at 10 or 11 years old!). She seemed to always know what to do, her family loved her and she obviously lacked for nothing! What a picture she painted of the Western Rancher!

Well, I got older and although I never really got over my secret fascination with cowboys and cows, I eventually got on with my life. The appeal of those engineers and geologists with the country club memberships and nice brick homes, filled with 2.5 children began to overshadow my old dreams of life on the range. However, just when I least expected it, I found myself married to cattle rancher and learning and living the ranching life.

And what a life it’s been! And, not exactly of the Big Valley variety! More like the “realty television!” Real life western ranching is a lot different than what I used to think it would be like. Nor is it truly “realty television,” because this way of life is basically something that you will never understand until you’ve been there.

Real life ranching is watching the Weather Channel each morning and being depressed all day at the continued prospect of drought. It is making the decision to go back to work, to try to help even out the cash flow, even though you’d rather be home, helping out with the cows. It’s taking vacation days and those precious weekends to brand calves and then running the cows out of your front yard in the dark, when you get home. Real life ranching is pulling those insulated coveralls on over those flannel pajamas to check the heifers at 2 am because your husband is off at a Board meeting.

Real life ranching is also walking outside in those flannel pajamas, with a cup of coffee on a Spring morning to see the baby calves bouncing around their mamas as they go into water. Its riding out to move cattle and sensing such a serenity and peace, that you don’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that specific moment. It is those days when you suddenly notice your family enjoying working together and it hits you that your child has actually learned something about hard work and responsibility.

Real ranching for this cattlewoman has been learning to laugh, when I might have felt like crying. My mother has always tried to tell me to enjoy the journey and it hasn’t always been easy. But, you know, she is right! When our husbands (or sons or fathers) are gone off to a Show, a Meeting, or a Sale, and we are the ones left in charge, we just need to pretend we are a 21st Century Victoria Barkley! Deliver those calves (and kids), get rid of those rustlers (and those telephone solicitors), and keep those cowboys in line (and your office staff at work). Then, go home and take a few moments to enjoy the journey! Hats off to us – the Gelbvieh breed’s Fabulous Females!

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