…. A horse trailer, dogs wandering, horses roaming and the smell of bacon. Waking up at a Midwest Ranch in central Nebraska. It’s the “Branding” weekend.
Everyone gets together for a hearty Breakfast.
Now my kids roam around too. In between the horses and the dogs. I have spent days on farms in Austria but never had they been just straying through the country. Always kept safe within the paddock or the barn. The horses come and go, while Omelets are cooked in a ziplock (plastic bag) under boiling water, bacon and Hamburger are roasted in the pan under the sky. Coffee in beer glasses and beer as fresh as it can be. Good Morning in the Sandhills.
Some head out with their horses and others with the ATV’s to wrangle up the cattle for the marking and the branding. Each calve gets 2 immunizations, a marker, branding and the bull calves are castrated. My husband has a quite easy job, he holds the door open or closed, but he needs to be quick. The team works fast and hard. I am glad that I am only taking pictures and not caring a bowl of so-called mountain oysters (calf testicles)….
At the end of our last day we take the kids on a last short ride with the ATV’s. While I am opening a gate, my friend and my 5 year old are turning. Unexpectedly Joshua hits the gas thumb lever by accident and they crash right next to me into a post of the fence. ATV flips over, both are falling off. Silence. My husband and I are running. Our friend seems fine first. Joshua. I pick him up and he says right away his stomach is hurting. I am worried about both of them. He seems to be fine otherwise. No blood. But he’s all pale and gets quiet after a while. Shocked. I refuse to go back on the ATV. I’m a mother that has all the strength to carry my almost 6-year-old boy through the Sandhills. No matter how far … Dennis gets our car meanwhile to the road where I am waiting. We instantly know we have to see an ER, worried about internal injuries.
Everyone’s in the car. After a couple of minutes my friend realizes that her arm is swollen and bruised, her chin hurting and a finger bleeding. 45 Minutes drive to the emergency room…. Lights behind us! The sheriff. Dennis gets checked and has to sit in the Sheriffs car for several minutes….And gets a Warning ticket for speeding. I look out the window and look at some terrifying clouds. Some minutes later back on the road. Sirens in the trunk. It’s my NOAA weather radio. Tornado Warning… driving fast again. Arriving in the town of Ord, there’s no current Tornado Warning there but again the formations on the sky look terrifying. We head inside the small hospital, glad to know that we are safe and not on the street anymore. Hospital staff examines both. It takes only several minutes until we get the tornado warning. All patients and all of us have to head to the shelter. I’m hoping for a basement. It’s a room in the center of the house with no windows. Scared. Having pictures of Oklahoma in my head. Silence. No one’s talking. The nurse explains to a women that attempted to get out of the shelter that we have to stay in here in case something happens, they know where to look for us. I don’t feel safe anymore. All I want to is being home and safe with my kids. There are several tornadoes on the ground that night. We are in the shelter for what feels like an eternity … 1,5 hours.
Don’t we all have a certain picture in our minds about a country, about the Midwest, about Nebraska? We experienced everything that I ve ever imagined within one weekend. It was intense, I was scared (although – both my son and my friend had luck and they only had several bruises) but it was one of my most amazing weekends out in Nebraska. I ve learned so many things about livestock, farming, ranchers and american culture, hospitality and the beauty of the Sandhills!
Are you up for an adventure? Here is a working ranch in Nebraska that offers that kind of experience.