Hello & Merry Christmas! My name is Conni French – part of the French family Taylor has talked about – and oddly enough, I am writing this blog about Montana ranching from our daughter’s home in Guam. As we enjoy sandy beaches, warm days, and snorkeling I find myself thinking back to how a shy, small-town ranch kid ended up living and working half-way around the world on a tropical island. Our ranching community has played a huge role in her journey to this place. Jacki started her Air Force career right out of high school in the ROTC program at MSU-Bozeman. From there she went on to the Air Force Academy. During the process of getting accepted into the Academy Jacki wrote an essay about “Growing up Country”. With her permission, I’d like to share that essay with you. I think it simply and accurately depicts some of the most treasured, but intangible, aspects of our ranching culture.
Growing Up Country
By Jacki French
Growing up “Country” has made me the person I am today. I have experienced the satisfaction of getting a hard job done, learned how to make an unpleasant job enjoyable, and how to be a neighbor to those who live around you.
When I was around six or seven years old my brother, sister, mother and I were trailing cows to a new pasture when the weather started to get cold. We three kids wanted to stop, but mom told us that we could not quit before the job was done. So we pushed through the wind and rain and got it done. That is one of many experiences that have taught me to finish what I start no matter what kind of obstacles I run into. I cannot quit just because l’m tired and hungry, the weather is bad, or it is starting to get dark. Accomplishing a task gives me a sense of satisfaction and confidence. This has carried through to all that I do, including school, athletics, and any responsibility that I am given.
Many times on long rides my family and I would create something to make the time go faster. We would sing, come up with competitions, or just talk. I have learned to use my imagination to keep myself entertained, We were not allowed to sit in front of the TV, so we read or went outside. We would reenact some of the books we all had read or come up with a new story all together. I grew up slow, meaning I did not try to do what older kids did. I was able to become my own person and not try to imitate those around me.
Last summer we had a fire on our land about a mile away from our house. As I was trying to put out the fire I remember seeing over thirty ranch fire wagons that had come to help us prevent the fire from getting to our house and saving as much land that we could. This is probably the most important thing I have learned growing up “country”. When someone needs help we drop everything and come running. This act of being a neighbor overrules the “get-the-job-done-no-matter-what” idea. When we see a wisp of smoke we leave equipment in the fields, cows on the road, and drive faster than is safe across dirt roads and open prairie to lend a hand.
Living in such a close community of good friends and neighbors encourages me to uphold the values that are so important to us all, such as; integrity, respect, and trust. When I go different places it’s not only my family that I am representing, but also the people that live in our community. By using what I have learned about work, play, and honor I will not disappoint them or do anything that would cause me to lose their trust and respect