The Rancher's Sidekick loves to drive the 4 wheeler. All the time. Typical boy, right? I tell him we need to go check heifers, he starts the 4wheeler. I tell him we need to help dad move cows, he volunteers to drive. We say lets of load up in the feed truck and he asks to drive the 100 feet from the house to the shed where it is parked.
To be totally honest, its our own fault. Mostly The Rancher's, but I am the supporting wife so I will take my share of the blame. For quite a while, we had been letting the boy drive out in the field while we were moving pipe or "help" us drive around the ranch. But it didn't take too long for him to start asking to drive on his own.
Is anyone surprised?
This kid has known how to start the 4wheeler since he was 3 so I guess it was inevitable, right? I thought we had done pretty good to distract him from wanting to go hot-rodding on his own, but once he realized he could actually reach the handle bars and turn the thing, he decided it was time to be a man and drive solo.
So we let him.
There were two important rules. First, he had to stay in low gear and second, he could just drive around the ranch yard where we could keep an eye on him. That was good enough for him! Being a big 4wheeler driver was all he could have dreamed it to be.
That was last summer. Fast forward to now with a few more months of experience and new adventures in driving through the snow and mud and puddles and he decided to go at it again.
It has been a beautiful few weeks lately and what boy could resist cruising around. One afternoon, he decided to buzz around the ranch while we finished tagging and doing chores. No big deal. Until all the sudden the bruummm-brruummm of the 4wheeler was silent. I looked around and there was the 4wheeler, driverless and stuck in the snow. Seconds later, The Rancher's Sidekick came waltzing back to his chariot carrying a shovel. After finishing the barn chores we walked out to him to see just what was going on.
When we reached him, he started a very detailed and animated story of how he was sure he could have made it through the snow and that it was all ok until, bam! it wasn't (I'm not sure what the bam! was other than just his dramatics with the story!). So he decided to go and get a shovel to dig himself out with.
Proud momma moment RIGHT HERE! I was so pumped that instead of just leaving the 4wheeler for someone to find or even coming to find us to tell us it was stuck, he knew it was his responsibility to get it out. So he figured out a solution and went to it. I almost thought I could hear the heavenly choir as I had the parenting-for-the-win moment but not quite. We left him to dig himself out as we headed back up the heifer hill to do a last check before heading in.
Our last check wasn't a very fast check (heifer caught on her back as she finished pushing her baby out which was promptly mothered by some other cow... The struggle is real, friends...). By the time we made it back to The Rancher's Sidekick the 4wheeler was still stuck but there was a lot more story to tell.
After shoveling for quite a while, he was looking for a better way to get rid of the snow. To his credit, he really did bury the thing so it was going to take a lot of work to dig it out. So his Plan B was to use the hose to "wash away the snow" (I'm assuming he meant melt it but whatever...). But the hydrant by the shop was frozen so that didn't work. Plan C was to start a fire to melt away the now.
Did you just get nervous? When he mentioned fire, my eyebrows shot straight up and my eyes doubled in size. But I calmly asked how he planned to do that. "Oh, I just started that heater thing (the diesel heater) in the shop and tried to start that square bale string (baling twine rather than the net wrap we use on the round bales) on fire. But it didn't ever really burn, it just melted. But it gets HOT! I burned my finger! I wanted to use the torch but I didn't know how to do that..."
Wow... At this point it was my only thought. I was super impressed at his problem solving and critical thinking. School for the win! But I was also terrified at his independence and his own confidence in his abilities. Don't get me wrong, I was still super proud of how he was figuring it all out, but maybe he was doing just a little too good for a six year old. Like, maybe he needs a little less shop time with his dad. Hallelujah that he couldn't figure out the torch for a fire!
Ultimately he had decided to go back to the shovel because that was the only way he had been making any progress before. Lucky for him, his dad had a better idea to get him out- the tractor. That little boy grinned ear to ear as The Rancher chained the 4wheeler to the tractor and gave him instructions on driving it out.
I still laugh every time I think about this story. I hope its recorded in heaven for me to watch on repeat when I get there because it is a winner! That story right there, is a clear illustration of my son. He loves the ranch and wants to do everything his dad does. Maybe there are some things he still needs to learn to do and not to do, but he isn't going to let anything slow him down. If there is a problem, he is determined to find a solution. It might take several plans and a little burn on the finger, but he will get to it!
And I couldn't be anymore proud of that.
That is what the ranch life is really about. Yes we raise cattle, but more importantly we raise kids and the ranch is a tool to teach them all of the lessons they need to make it through this life.