Cedarville, Calif., is host to the Bitterroot Writers’ Conference. Writers from Nevada, California, Oregon and other states travel to this quiet, picturesque town of 500 that borders Modoc National Forest and one of the largest alkali lakes I have seen. Writers spend the day in groups sharing their nonfiction, fiction and poetry writings and come together in the evening to interact. This year, the organizers added a weekend ag writers conference to the mix and asked me to come and help lead the discussion.
I’ve never identified as a writer. I’ve always thought of myself as a rancher who was asked to share with others about the lifestyle and, for some reason, people read it. I sometimes wonder if it’s because it makes others think, “Well you know I’m a mess, but that Jaclyn Wilson is one big mess.” All joking aside, it’s been surprisingly enjoyable, especially when I get to share with others my thoughts on telling the ag story.
I didn’t have any expectations going in. The participant list looked like a combination between producers, ag professionals, university personnel and others who were just curious about learning about agriculture. I didn’t really have any clue what to expect. They were all there to share, educate each other and find assistance in learning how to tell their story. I had one direction that I was heading with this column when I started, but on the final morning of the conference, we asked the readers to read from an assignment they had been given the day before. One was so touching, I asked her if I could include it. This woman arrived thinking she was not a writer; I beg to differ:
Let me be in a place where strangers gather in the shadows of the mountains and break bread.
Let me be in a place where friends share a handshake, a laugh, a beer.
Let me be in a place where the roads are not meant only for automobiles, but also for cattle and 4-H lambs.
Let me be in a place where the earth is studied, used, and blessed.
Let me be in a place where time goes just a little bit slower than the rest of the world.
Let me be in a place where youngsters are free to learn while playing with natural resources.
Let me be in a place where people have servant hearts and servant hands.
Let me be in a place where families are proud of their generational roots.
Let me be in a place where old ones die, and new are born and life is celebrated.
Let me be in a place where folks are used to counting their blessings, because they curse so much when working cows.
Let me be in a place where a fellow will stop what he’s doing and give you a wave of his hand as you drive by.
Let me be in a place where cows and hay are the topics of most conversations.
Let me be in a place where kids know how to respect. Respect their elders, their roots, their land.
Let me be in a place where water dances over rocks and cowboys dance on wooden floors.
Let me be in a place where life is lived differently, and life is lived well.
Let me be in a place where there is thankfulness shared and the souls of men are at peace.
Where I am. Let me be.
I couldn’t have said it more perfectly.
(Reprinted with permission by Bonnie Madrigal)
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.