The grade school in Lakeside where I attended kindergarten through eighth grade started my love of reading.

For a couple of years when I was in the “big room,” there was a competition where we kept track of how many books we read in a month and the number of pages. I cannot recall if it was a room-wide competition or a competition within our own grades. If it was a grade competition, I would have received first, last, and a participation trophy being the only one in my grade most years.

It started a trend that I carry on today.

My go-to in the evenings is to get home, soak in Epsom salts while reading, grab something to eat, and then head to bed where I usually read until I fall asleep with the light on. That sounds almost exciting as a turtle crossing the road, but oh well.

I will read anything and everything, but my favorite nonfiction seems to side toward military stories, especially those dealing with the Navy Seals. I don’t know if it’s because I can’t swim or if it’s their leadership style, or just that they have a totally different mentality than the crybabies that I see today.

In the military, “Hell Week” is usually the fourth week of basic conditioning. Students train for five days and five nights with a maximum of four hours of sleep.

I “affectionately” refer to these first three weeks of May as my Hell Week.

The Home Place dropped more than 150 calves last week. Bulls needed to be tested and delivered. Recip cows were going through the synch process to get ready for embryo implantation. Fall cows were being trucked from one location to the North Place. Contract cows were going through the synch process for AI’ing. Fall ET calves were delivered, branded two groups at the North Place and moved cows out to grass. That was just the last week alone, not even mentioning the normal day-to-day activities. There was definitely a time or two I was about ready to ring that bell.

I came across this great article that gave 10 tips to survive Hell Week. It couldn’t be more fitting.

1. Prevent chaffing, at all costs. A couple times this week it’s been a downpour. Trying to tag, or put CIDRS in, or even unload cows in the dark in rain has made this a priority.

2. Eat, eat and eat some more. My text messages have looked like this lately: “Did you eat?” “Well I grabbed a protein bar.” I realized one evening after a long day of tagging and then driving across the state to make cattle deliveries that I had ingested two protein bars and a bag of blueberry almonds for the day. (Insert palm to forehead emoji here.) On the other side, I think I was on my fifth cup of coffee.

3. Don’t think too much about Hell Week ending. I think that’s a crock. All I’m saying right now is that hopefully it will slow down shortly!

4. Help your buddies. Sure, I volunteered for an extra late check or two, and considering it was the Boss Man’s birthday on Sunday, I told him I would feed at the feedlot and postpone tagging for a while.

5. Overcome your aversion to same-sex snuggling. Umm? No issue with that here, though I did hug the four-legged terror once when some old cow thought she would be better off on the back of the ATV.

6. Embrace the suck. It’s a mental game. The body may be sore and hurting, and the exhaustion is setting in, but the pride in getting everything accomplished is what you strive for.

7. Daydream about what you will do when you finish. Well, considering ranching is never really “finished,” I daydream about a vacation. It’s getting desperate enough that I’ve even pictured one of those umbrella drinks a time or two.

8. Give it all you have. Definitely no snowflakes allowed during this stint. There are things still to be done at the end of the day, but the lists of accomplishments gets longer and longer as each day passes.

9. Steal rest and comfort, when you can. The power nap may be the greatest invention to mankind. A quick 15-30 minute pause and my mood is better, my body feels better and I’m ready to tackle the rest of the day.

10. Whatever you do, do not quit. Sounds a lot simpler than it sometimes is. I did quit on Sunday night. It was around 6, and I said “I’m just done for the day. I want to eat something that’s not prepared in five minutes. I want to sit on my butt uninterrupted for a couple hours. I want to get to bed at a decent time and have a solid night’s sleep.”

Instead, I woke up every hour dreaming about the things that needed to be done, and wondering why the four-legged terror was causing a ruckus through the house.

I figured it out the following morning when added to the list for Monday was powerwashing the entryway rug. Sometimes there are just no words.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at

Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at