The Ranch Widow
"Outside of our home with our oldest daughter, Margot, in 2017."
My husband, Taylor, and I met when we were living in Fort Worth, Texas shortly after we both graduated from Texas Christian University (TCU). I grew up practically on TCU's campus and had never lived anywhere else, but I knew pretty early in our relationship that would soon change. Falling in love with a rancher often means loving their land and livestock as well. Before I met Taylor, I considered dating someone in Dallas (about 30 miles east) to be a long-distance relationship. When Taylor felt that it was time for him to move home to his family's ranch in New Mexico and put his ranch management education and commodities work experience to use, I never questioned that I would also eventually settle down out west.
After our wedding in January 2014, Taylor loaded up all of my clothes, furniture and wedding presents into a horse trailer that he deemed "clean enough." I hopped in the pickup beside him as we began to pull out from the street that I called home for 26 years. Taylor loved to tell the next part... my mom came back out the front door waving a brown coat on the hanger and shouted, "Molly, wait! You forgot your mink jacket!" "You know you married a city girl when.....," Taylor would always laugh. It took a little time to settle in to a new town and new lifestyle, but I was excited to learn how to be a ranch wife and was always proud to be Taylor's wife. I enjoyed preparing meals to bring out to my husband, ranch hands and shearing crews. It was even more exciting anytime I was asked to help with something, even in the smallest capacity. Being a part of a ranch means helping the operation in any way you are able.
"Piled together in the pickup with Margot and Charlotte to haul cattle in 2019."
I lost my husband in February 2020 in a tragic work accident. Taylor was a man of God who was always willing to share his faith and constantly preached the value of having a good attitude because that was often the only thing you could control in life. Taylor knew the dangers that came along with ranching, but always focused on the attitude that "he was incredibly blessed” for the opportunity to do the work. He also never feared danger because he knew wholeheartedly where he was going should the worst-case scenario happen. Well, our family did experience the worst-case scenario. On top of my grief, I have been left dealing with how I still fit in to Taylor's world without him. Last fall, I recorded an audio stop at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in my hometown of Fort Worth. I was giving commentary on a photo series of a dairy family in the 1940s from the perspective of a ranch wife. The exhibit and my audio were still up when Taylor died, only I was no longer a ranch wife or anyone's wife for that matter.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Ranchers probably spend more time experiencing God's creation than most other professions. They are out in the elements and see firsthand the dual complexities and simplicities of mother nature on a daily basis. While it is not an easy job, I think ranching is an incredibly rewarding profession as ranchers often live a lifestyle that values community the way God intended us to. I am still amazed by all the support our family has received in our time of need from all of our friends and neighbors. Lord knows, I could not face life without Taylor alone. Without hesitation, our community brought meals, took care of my young daughters, made difficult arrangements and helped with various chores around the ranch. Everyone pitched in to help our family in whatever capacity they could. They carried my burdens.
As we head into a new year after what was certainly an unexpected and difficult one for everybody, I think it is important to take a lesson from the farmers and ranchers. The work doesn't stop just because the world feels messed up right now. Livestock still need to be fed, fences still need to be mended and neighbors still need a helping hand. Knowing this year hasn't been easy for anyone, I hope that we all can look for ways to carry each other's burdens as God instructed us to do. I know I wouldn't have made it through this year if it were not for others lightening the load for me and I am making it my goal to pay it forward in the new year.
"Thanksgiving 2020 with Charlotte (left) and Margot (right)."
© Copyright 2020 Molly Marley