Boy, howdy, do we romanticize the old west ranching days or what? Let me tell you, there’s nothing romantic about ranching. Or is there?

My husband and I worked and lived on mountain cattle ranches for over 25 years. I remember my first year working on the ranch was a real shocker. As a rodeo barrel racer, I never dreamed how difficult it would be working with cattle.

Sorry to bust anyone’s bubble about those big doe-eyed, four-legged animals, but them cows sure are stupid. I could never figure out why they just didn’t save themselves the trouble of getting poked and prodded by just walking into the chute when they were coaxed to. When my husband had to get tough with them, me in my ignorance would holler at him and say, “H-o-n, treat ‘em with kindness.” He would just give me a look that said, yeah right lady. I truly felt that way until one day when I had roped a calf and had finally gotten it in the alley between the corrals. I jumped off my horse, and when I went to remove my rope from around the little “darlin’” calf’s neck, the thing waylaid me in the shin. I was so mad, I started pounding on that little duffer with my rope. (Please note that my pounding would be like getting a slight punch on

the arm.) My husband peeked over the fence and said, “Treat ‘em with kindness, huh, Deb?” To which I replied, “Oh, shut up!”

Ranching is hard work. Actually it’s a lifestyle that you have to love because you live it every day by working from sunup to sundown and the work is never done. When you finish with a long arduous, sleep-deprived calving season, then there’s the branding, the moving of cattle from one grazing parcel to another all summer long, the doctoring, irrigating meadows, the long haying seasons, the weaning, etcetera, etcetera, and then the cycle begins anew.

Living in town now, however, has made me appreciate the lifestyle I used to have. Things were much simpler. Life was much simpler. And now because I miss ranching so much, I set a lot of my stories in the ranch and county where I used to live, and relive those days through my characters.

Sunny Weston, the heroine in my Colorado Courtship story, The Rancher’s Sweetheart, loves ranching too. In fact, it’s in her blood, it’s all she knows. But there are those that don’t think Sunny’s capable of running her own spread. She’s out to prove them all wrong. That is, if love doesn’t get in the way.

So, is there romance in ranching?

Well, just ride through the trees with the man you love and discover hidden waterfalls, wild strawberry patches, abandoned broken down homestead cabins that scream of stories to be told, watch wild animals in their natural habitat, or have your hubby pick you a batch of wildflowers and give them to you when you least expect it. Or go for a sleigh ride together while feathery snowflakes are falling, or cuddle with your hunky cowboy husband in the pickup with the heater blowing full blast under a snow covered windshield while you wait to make sure a mama cow is going to have her calf successfully. Or take a walk on a warm sunny evening under a canopy of stars listening to a chorus of frogs, water running, coyotes howling, and owls hooting. I’ve experienced all this and more. So while there may be plenty of work to go around, there’s equally plenty of romance to go around too.

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one copy of Colorado Courtship signed by both Debra & Cheryl St. John.

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  1. Debra, Having spent time visiting ranches(and loving it)I know that my 49+ years as a farmwife can say you speak the truth about those dumb cows and stupid pigs. Now before anyone can tell me that these animals hve been tested and are neither stupid or dumb 🙂 let me say that I have had many wounds trying to “help” my husband herd these animals where they did not want to go. As a newlywed my patient husband said “Just stand here holding this gate and they will turn and go into the pen.” Yeah right, as he lifted the gate from on top of me I asked ‘ So, do they know they are supposed to turn?’ Not having lived on a farm before my marriage I always thought of the farm animals cute. Now I know that stupid and dumb are some of the kindest adjectives the men in my life have called them.

  2. I haven’t visited any ranches yet, but I do think it’s hard work. And I respect everybody who works on a ranch day in and day out. You can’t just take a vacation, because the animals have to be taken care of, even when you really don’t want to.

  3. What a great reminder about the true work involved in ranching. I’m one of those small town girls who’s never really experienced ranching firsthand, but I sure respect those who are tough enough to work outdoors every day, battling the weather as well as the animals they’re trying to care for. Thanks so much for sharing, Debra.

    Oh, and I LOVE your cover. Truly stunning with those gorgeous mountains in the background.

  4. Hi Debra, welcome to the Junction. We’re thrilled to have you here. I’ve always wanted to live on a ranch, to have that deep bond with the land that I write about in my stories, but I’m a city girl and I fear I always will be. That kind of life was not in my cards. I really respect those who have the stamina for it. Wishing you lots of success with your life and career. Hope you come back again sometime. We’d love to have you.

  5. Connie, thank you so much for the laugh! We both have stories we could tell, don’t we? I loved yours about the gate. Another one I had was when my husband wanted me to let a certain black baldie cow go by. Well, 40 or 50 of them were heading directly toward me. I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Which one?” To which he replied, “That one.” What was even weirder and funnier was, about ten years later, I saw a cartoon in Western Horseman or The Fence Post magazine, can’t remember which one, that was of that very same thing.
    And yes, you are right, Connie, about dumb and stupid being kind adjectives. I was trying to be nice so as not to offend anyone. *smiling* Didn’t fool you though. hehehehe
    Farm animals are cute, but… sigh. What we do for our men.

  6. Stephanie, it’s nice to hear someone say how much they do appreciate all the hard work ranchers go through. It didn’t take me long after we started ranching to appreciate that hamburger I put in a casserole or that pork chop etcetera because I know what they cowboys go through and the price they pay. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.


  7. Karen, Thank you for having me here today. What a treat and a blessing for me. It’s weird that every time someone mentions something about ranching, it reminds me of other stories and brings back wonderful memories. Makes me a bit sad too as I do miss ranching. Not enough to go back though, but I think I miss the memory of it more, if that makes any sense. You mentioned about the weather, and I thought about how many times we brought a cow/calf pair into the barn. I’d drive the pickup and hubby would be on horseback either in bitter cold or raging blizzards. This, after having very little sleep. One time we fed in 55 below. It was so cold that it was deceptive. While I pitched hay, I wanted to take my coat off and remove the scarf from around my nose and mouth because I was so hot. My husband had to keep reminding me and warning me not to remove the scarf especially as the cold would burn my lungs.
    I love the cover too, Karen! Makes me feel like ET…Home. Home. Home. *grin*

  8. Thank you, Linda, for the warm welcome. It’s a blessing to be here. And just between you and me…be glad that ranching wasn’t in your cards. While it’s a rewarding life, it’s a hard life. As much as I miss it, I like where I am now. Walmart is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. Not 48 miles. And Taco Bell is right around the corner. I don’t have to have dreams of eating a burrito supreme, or taco salad. Well, that’s not entirely true, I still dream of eating them. hehehe
    Thank you for your warm wishes, and I would LOVE to come back here again. This is a fun place to hang out.

  9. Debra, welcome to the junction! What a fabulous post, and wonderful reminder of why ranchers ranch, despite the hardwork. I love the picture of your cat eyeballing that deer. Too precious!!!!

  10. Thank you for the welcome, Renee! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
    I love that picture too. I have one where she’s on her hind legs and has one paw up as if she’s waving to the deer.

  11. Debra,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I have never lived on a ranch but have lived in a ranching community. I can imagine all the work that goes into making a thriving ranch. Love the cover!

  12. Well, I know who I’m going to ask for advice and maybe a double-check for my 2 western series’ once I make the few changes for the editors. 🙂

    Loved your post and sharing about the trials and triumphs of ranching, as well as the romance that can be found when you change your perspective and treasure the little things.

    Living in Colorado now, I am becoming more and more fascinated with the ranching lifestyle. Would love to read Colorado Courtship and thank you for coming here to offer the chance at a free copy.

    tiff [at] amberstockton [dot] com

  13. You would not be missing your Colorado ranch days with the -30 temperatures we’ve been having here in your old home town. Congrats on your new book!

  14. Thank you, Sharon. Even having lived in a ranching community is a treat, isn’t it? It is a lot of work, but it isn’t a stressful job. At times, yes, but mostly you’re just doing what you love and getting paid for it. Lousy pay, but paid nontheless. *smiling*

  15. TIFFY!!!! Hey, it’s so awesome to see on here!!!! And I will be happy to help you with anything I can. Keep something in mind though, ranching varies from place to place. The way we did things up in the mountains and they way things are done here in the flatlands are wayyyy different, but I’ll help with what I can. *smiling*

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Luv ya, girl!

  16. Paula! OMG! I’m SO thrilled to see you joining us. Wow, so you’ve been experincing some pretty cold weather in my old neck of the woods, huh? Well, it ain’t been that warm down here either. We’ve had a few -9 degrees, but, hey, that’s a heat wave compared to up there. I sure miss it and the people. People like you who make the place special.


    Thank you for taking the time to stop by. Hope all is well with you and yours. Give my daugher a hug for me next time you see her, okay?

  17. Enjoyed reading the comments. i grew up on a ranch in southern Colorado and know of what you speak. It is a hard work lifestyle and yet most of the ranchers I knew were happy people. After all, they got to do their job in the great outdoors and answer only to the elements.
    Your book sounds really good.

  18. Thanks for the chance to win Colorado Courtship. I would love to add this book to my book collection.

  19. I love the cover of your book and think this would be a fantastic book to read. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  20. ive been to a few ranches,always wanted to live on one,but not too many in the deep south,thanks for sharing

  21. Good Afternoon,
    We never had cattle, but we had horses and mules. After a summer of packing all of them into the Sierra Nevada of California, we would put them into a huge pasture. This was a winter job of checking everyday to make sure they were all there and no coyotes had taken bites. Then about late January or February the natural feed goes and we have to feed hay. That is a chore. Fortunately, we don’t have snow like Colorado, even though we are high desert.
    This is a lifestyle one has to really love or you can be miserable. Now that my sons are doing the business, I miss the hustle and bustle of all the stock each summer. I still cook for them once in awhile. My daughter works for other pack stations now as cook.

  22. I’m a small town girl… so I found this very interesting… I do follow a blog of a gal whose dh is a rancher in OK.. and it’s been fun to see her photos of moving cattle, etc.

  23. I just loved this post. Thanks much for sharing your story. The cover is amazing, and sounds like a wonderful story. Anything cowboy and I’m in. Historical or contemporary, it doesn’t matter as long as it involves a man with a hat and cowboy boots, which typically includes a ranch. Yee Haw!!

  24. I’m baacckkk. Even more scarier, huh? Tee hee.

    Oh, and just so you all know, I do enough editing, so I didn’t edit my posts. So…if there are any mistakes…sigh. *g*

    Hi Joye. What an unique spelling of your name. It would be interesting to compare notes on the differences between ranching in Colorado and in California. Most ranchers I know are happy people…most of the time anyway. That was one of the great things about ranching was enjoying the outdoors. My favorite place was a hidden waterfall on the ranch. Trees grew up in the midst of it. It was so peaceful and quiet there.

    Cheri, thank you so much for stopping by. Good luck on winning a copy!

    Katie, you are very welcome. Wish I could give everyone here a copy. That would be so awesome. *smiling*

    Bonnie, thank you for stopping by.

    Hi Cheryl! * waving profusely at ya *
    Thanks for the welcome back. I hope I get some new fans too. *g* But even if I don’t, I’m having the time of my life chatting with all these wonderful ladies on her. So, thank you for this fabulous opportunity.

    Vickie, I have always wondered if there were many ranches in the south, and now I know in the deep south that there aren’t. I’ve always wanted to live in the south or at least visit it someday. So, you are one blessed lady. *smiling*

    Mary, you are so right…if you don’t love it, it can be miserable. I can honestly say that most of the time I loved it. What you did and your family does sound interesting too! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story.

    CateS, how kewl that you’re following a gal whose husband is a rancher. We used to have to move cows down the highway all the time. I was what they called a flagger. I drove a pickup with a gooseneck horsetrailer and stayed at the back of the pack. I had to slow other drivers down and warn them that there were cattle on the highway. Some slowed, others didn’t. Always made me nervous because a lot of the times my hubby was at the tail end (no pun intended hehehe) of those cattle. One time we had a guy stop in the middle of the herd, pull out a $2.98 straw cowboy hat from the backseat of his car, place a camera on top of his car, and he stood back enough that cows were walking around him and he took his picture.

    Kym, you are very welcome. Oh, girl, I agree. Give me a cowboy hat with a hunky man underneath it and cowboy boots and I’ll follow him anywhere. Wait! I already did that!! hehe

  25. I didn’t grow up on a ranch but a small farm and there was always work that needed to be done. We raised a large garden and canned a lot of the stuff we raised so we were always busy doing something and I still miss that life. We had pigs and you couldn’t keep them in the pen for nothing. They would go right through an electric fence, we tried everything. Someone even put a sign up down on the road that said caution hog crossing.

    This book sound fabulous and I would love to read it.

  26. Quilt Lady, I love pigs! I have always thought they were the cutest little things ever! Stinky, yes, but adorable. My brother-in-law had a pig farm in Nebraska, and I used to spend the summers there helping out. I remember my first bout with seeing anything born. I couldn’t believe we put the newly born piglets in a bucket after clipping their teeth with a nail file first. I was so grossed out. Then that evening my sister made my favorite meatl…pork steaks in tomato sauce. When she raised the lid on that skillet, I slammed my hand over my mouth and ran to the bathroom. I was only 12 at the time. Since then, I’ve seen a lot worse. I won’t mention what those things are as I don’t want to gross anyone out. Hope I haven’t with that story. If I did, I’m so sorry. I tried to word it gently.

  27. I lived on a cattle ranch for all four of my high school years, my step-father worked there. It was a lot different from what I was used to.

    Thank you for the chance to win your book.


  28. Wendy, it sure is if you’re not used to it. I know it was for me when we first started and I had been around horses for upteen years. Cattle’s a whole different story!

    Janet, you are so right about nature making a lovely backdrop. It sure does. My hubby took me one time to groom trails with a snowcat. He called earlier in the day and told me to be ready and that he would take care of dinner. He picked me up about five, and we drove up the mountain on the ranch. When we got in the snow cat, he took me higher up the mountain and we sat on top of the hill that overlooked the town. Snowflakes drifted lightly, but not enoug that we couldn’t see the lights from town. Right there, he opened a cooler and we had dinner in that heated snowcat. Talk about romantic!

    Sherry, you said a mouthful! So true!! Thank you for stopping by.

  29. Ranching and farming are two of the most time consuming ways of life there are. You can’t really call them jobs because they are so much more than that. The work is physically hard and never ending. You can’t just take a couple of weeks off without lining up reliable workers to take your place. Weather is against you. Market prices are against you. Diseases can strike without much warning and wipe out a herd (or flock) and there is often nothing you can do about it. You are often under appreciated by people who have no idea what it takes to put their meals on the table. The sad part is the relatively small portion of the grocery store prices go to those who took the chances and put in the work to raise the product.
    For all the hard work, the ranchers and farmers I have met love their way of life and wouldn’t give it up. It certainly gives great ideas for stories.

  30. Cindy in Ontario. I’ve never dairy farmed, but I have friends who have. Getting up before the rooster to milk cows doesn’t sound like much fun. Then again, sometimes during calving season we never even got to bed and ended up waking the rooster instead of him waking us. Tee hee

    Patricia, They sure are some of the time consuming lifestyles. My husband was lucky to get 10 days a year off. One ranch, in the two and half years he was there, he might have gotten a week off and he got paid $700.00 a month, and that was before taxes. The pay is lousy, the one thing that makes up for it though is you get a beef a year on most ranches, and it’s the best tasting meat ever. Once you’ve tasted it, it’s hard to eat store bought beef.

  31. Hello gals. I love Petticoats and Pistols. I would love to win this book. Think I would really like it. I love Ranches and cowboys. Please enter me in the contest. See ya next time. Maxie

  32. Debra, your blog about ranching and your book sounds pretty romantic–just remove a bit of the hard work! I don’t know why, but no matter how much someone emphasizes all the hard work, all I think about is the good stuff–frogs singing, stars in the heavens, etc. I would enjoy reading your book. Thank you for offering a chance to win.

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