The following poem was written by my older sister, Carol.
I am honored to share it with you.
Resting on my saddle horn at the end of a day’s work,
my dirty hands look old.
I can see their veins, raised, gray against my tan, paper-thin skin;
veins that carry my life blood back to my heart.
The leathery fold of skin, scrunched at my knuckles,
dirt plainly in view within the crevices,
Encase bones curling the shape of my fingers, once straight.
I look down at my hands and think they are beautiful,
Yes, I think my hands are beautiful in their old age!
They have served me well.
They have greeted new and old friends,
wiped tears from my eyes and waved goodbye.
They’ve knitted baby blankets and tucked daughters in bed,
spanked a child, tightened a hug,
and guided a horse through woods,
given solace with a gentle touch and shown love,
petted a puppy and held an old dog, dying,
painted a picture, written a letter and a book,
washed, ironed and cleaned, guided a tractor plowing a field,
freed an anxious colt from his halter,
slapped a leg while whooping and hollering moving cattle,
steadied a newborn calf on wobbly legs,
brushed dirt from a horse’s back, unknotted a daughter’s hair,
dialed a vet in an emergency and helped birth a newborn.
They’ve placed flowers they grew from seeds in a vase at a grave,
pulled weeds, made a few cakes and shelled peas.
Sometimes, I think there is nothing they cannot do!
They’ve clapped in glee, wrung in worry and folded in prayer.
I thank you, God, for my hands.
They are beautiful.
© Carol Sanders
My sister and her husband, Mike, run a cattle ranch, Charlie Creek Cattle Company, a cow-calf operation in Florida. This poem is from her book entitled, “Life.” It’s about her life on a working cattle ranch and includes her writings, as well as her photographs. I would give a link to this beautiful book, but it’s not published…yet!
As she says in the book’s prologue, “Most people think of Florida as a place to go on vacation, to Disney World or one of our fun-filled beaches. There is more to the sunshine state. Our ranch, like many others, is situated on a piece of land of exquisiteness.”
The Charlie Creek Cattle Company includes almost four thousand acres of pastures, creeks, and marsh lands. Seeing their ranch gives you an idea of what Florida once was like.
The early settlers didn’t come for the state’s beaches; they came for the grasslands and to raise cattle. According to Florida Memory, Florida has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States. It goes back five centuries!
It wasn’t an easy life then and it’s still not easy now. Sometimes Mike and Carol’s work day begins at dawn and extends late into the night, if a calf needs help being born or a horse needs treatment.
My sister was drawn to this life, partly because of the horses. She trains most of their cattle horses, usually getting them as yearlings before they have learned about bridles, saddles and accepting a rider. She’s never “broken” a horse; she’s always “gentled” her young ones, teaching them to come to her without fear.
I recently visited my sister at her ranch. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the land my sister lives on. One of the first things that struck me was how wild it is and how precious. Like the Florida panther, this untamed land of Florida is slowly disappearing.
She took me, JC and my youngest daughter for a “buggy” ride. Instead of four legs and a tail, this “buggy” included four huge wheels and an engine:~) We saw wild deer, hawks, lots of cows and calves, some beautiful water birds and even an alligator. I am pleased that my sister and her husband are preserving a part of Florida that created its history.