Be Impressive

I felt a trickle of salty anxiety slip down my shoulder blades as Logan eased our home into a ten-minute parking space. I’d either get this done or I wouldn’t, no point in drawing it out, so I leaped from the truck repeating the directions in my head the whole way.  Alone in an electronics store in Argentina, I managed to explain my urgent need for a new hard drive for a 12-year-old Dell, entirely in Spanish.

Our First Home

Our First Home

My husband raised his eyebrows in question, I nodded casually and held up our technological lifeline as if I did this sort of thing all the time.  “That was impressive,” he said. Every day on the PanAm was filled with monumental victories just like this (Exhibit A).

Our victories look a little different today and it’s sometimes hard to recognize them. We almost never need a GPS. Our vehicle no longer doubles as our living room. And our party cups are now filled with imaginary tea which makes our toddlers nearly as giddy as the mezcal we once poured.

Nine loads of heaping laundry and two dozen rounds of nose-to-the-wall do not feel impressive.  It’s hard to believe their little minds are absorbing any of the things we want them to in these sometimes torturous daily routines. Along with the circadian trials, there is the constant, mandatory concession that we are imperfect. Every angry moment, every too busy to stop what we’re doing minute, every frustrated flash, these parental blunders will haunt their tender hearts as well.

Typically on RanchNotes, this is where I’d wrap it all up with a tidy little moral or at least an attempt at a humorous bright side. Here’s the truth, this stage of life is hard. We flattered ourselves thinking the PanAm was any kind of battle to be conquered. The challenges ahead of us are incomprehensible and the rewards even further beyond those unknowns. All we can do is grab onto those golden souls who lift us up, who see the laundry, the struggle, and the moments we’re not proud of but make us feel impressive anyway. Hang on tight to these people and learn from them. Do your own lifting at every possible turn, be who you needed when you struggled, and know, to be impressed, is the most impressive of all.


Everything in my immediate vicinity was perfectly normal: sunshine, dogs barking, children squealing, Pearl digging to China in the sandbox.  But my voice felt foreign and clumsy as I spoke because a few hundred miles away, at the other end of the phone line, everything was not normal.

I followed the effortlessly positive lead of my aunt Rhonda, chatting about kale smoothies, the girls, and our upcoming trip to France.  She said softly, “I wish we had traveled more.” Over the course of many months and phone calls, this single statement shocked me the most. She moved on quickly, the moment gone before I could catch it. It was a brief glimpse into an otherwise persistent determination to beat liver cancer.

Common Life Regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others had expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I would have had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I would have let myself be happier.

It’s easy to make mistakes each day and, over time, watch them snowball into immense regret. Cancer took my aunt from this world ahead of schedule, but I can say with confidence that this list held no place in her brilliant life.

She was so positively genuine she damn near sparkled. Although she always worked, her identity was never tied to a job. The 9-5 hustle enriched her life, it never defined it.  She had this graceful way of expressing herself so that you knew where she stood without harshness or offense.  A purposeful giver of love and kindness, she was always present for the ones she loved, celebrating life’s happy moments at every opportunity. Her beautiful heart was a gift to all who knew her, friends, family, and the random strangers who had the luck to encounter her.  If we could all tackle this list the way my aunt did then #5 seems to take care of itself. Happiness comes easily and shines with an undeniable radiance when you prioritize the way she did.

In the end, she had no common regrets, only a desire to live and experience more. I wish I’d had more time to ask more questions of this amazingly uncommon woman.

She was always there to celebrate the happy moments, even when they happened way out in Imperial, NE.


The Sweetest Thing

Approximately three days and 17 searches: the amount of nail-biting time and hysterical googling it took for this lady to swear off all prenatal reading material.  Should you ever feel the odd desire for slick palms, heart palpitations, and dizzying anxiety just google “first trimester back pain.” At 18 weeks, each day is a surprise for me. I learn as a I go and like to think I’m bringing a hip vintage edge to my pregnancy rather than the reality, the perhaps misguided efforts of a determined ignorance.

Luckily I have a husband who instantly became an enthusiastic reader the moment he laid eyes on the pink plus sign. He keeps me up to date on our tiny progeny and sometimes makes me swoon with his sweet absurdity. When he told me I shouldn’t go to the annual haunted corn maze due to my delicate condition, I was sure he was joking. But when he repeated the statement to his own mother, appalled that she would even presume to think we would attend, I started to wonder where he was getting his daddy-to-be information.

Despite my love of screaming like a sugar-frenzied tween and sprinting through a dark, confusing, freezing-cold corn maze chased by our neighbors dressed in gorilla suits wielding chain saws, I acquiesced and we stayed home. Not because I believed his firm notion that pregnant women ought not to be overly frightened, but because, come on, that’s just the sweetest thing. To this day he defends himself, “Oh sure, you laugh now, but just think if something had gone wrong, the headline the next day would’ve been, ‘Idiot husband brings pregnant wife to late night, unlit, corn maze full of drunk people’ and the whole town would rally for my immediate incarceration.” Alright, so maybe he has a point.


What Would Ryan Gosling Do?

Help me!

“There is absolutely no reason — and no excuse — for the cruel, unnecessary practice of dehorning to continue.” Ryan Gosling

We came across this cow while checking the herd for pregnancies.  The horn you see here was embedded nearly one inch into the skull of this mother-to-be. Removing the horns of cattle is a popular subject these days thanks to a recent celeberty PR stunt. Perhaps we should we be faxing in a dehorning permit to the Screen Actors Guild.

Here in cattle country, issues like this come up every day.  We cannot afford to follow the whims of high-school-dropouts turned child actors. How about we let the professionals, the ranching men and women of America, who live and work in this environment each day, decide what’s best for their animals?

Well, that’s what we did and 563 red is thankful for it.

Dust to Dust

Christening the new bar with plenty of beers and a few tall tales

There is no better way to determine your material value than packing your life into boxes and moving them. Some thing I so desperately wanted months ago hardly holds value today. Even the coveted electronics we use daily will be obsolete dumpster food in a few short years. In the last few years we’ve streamlined this process, to the point where if these dozen boxes burnt up in a fire, well, that might be for the best.

In the barn next door,  the belt sander is still hot and the dust is just beginning to settle. The men of Wine Glass Ranch are putting the finishing touches on a handcrafted beetle kill wood bar.  The bar is the most recent addition to our guided hunting operation. I walked in just as the foot rest, piping from an old windmill well, was being added.

In one hundred years we, and our dozen boxes, will be dust. The hands and the tools of it’s creation long forgotten, but this bar will remain. The trusty Wine Glass brand applied to the bartop will instill this piece with with bragging rights for decades to come. It has history, meaning, most importantly a good story. While the boys clink bottles, I can’t help thinking our own story is shaping up pretty well so far.  And if that’s all we leave behind one day, we’ll have done at least one thing right. Cheers.

Quiet & Easy

The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away.

– Matthew B. Crawford Author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

A highly recommended read from us here at Ranch Notes.

It’s a Hot One

Helping the calves out of the water tank

At 4Pm the temperature levels off at 103 degrees. As we bump along the pasture, the brittle grass crunches beneath the tires of Logan’s Ford. We speak of the dangers accompanying this heat wave as we ride out to the herd. Drought is not an uncommon occurrence here in semi-arid West Nebraska. This year we are at less than half the normal rainfall.

As Logan wrangles a few unwilling calves from the cool waters of the stock tanks I consider our circumstances.  While we are prepared for whatever nature might throw at us, insurance policies and drought planning don’t make wasted cornfields and brown prairie grass any easier to swallow.

The work and responsibility increase but most farmers and ranchers are just hoping to break even for the year.  A $0 year, that is the goal.

Consider the End

New life at Wine Glass

On the outskirts of the herd we came upon a cow fretfully pacing the perimeter of her motionless calf. Born only days ago, the life of this helpless creature was a short one. The mother’s wide, panicked eyes stay with me even weeks later, her growing anxiety piercing the otherwise silent  prairie.

As humans we tend to sweep our mortality into the dusty, unused corners of our minds, avoiding the confrontation, never letting it get above a whisper.  Here on the ranch, we are reminded of our origins, where the thread between life and death twists and frays. Despite our absurd denials, the truth is, we are all animals, woven together in the beauty of an inescapable pattern.

Here We Are

Sandhills sunset

This is the magic hour in Western Nebraska. A warm haze blankets the land.  The late sun caresses every surface causing the countryside to blush a gentle amber glow.

Just a few months ago we lived every minute of the day side by side.  Now our time is made up of stolen moments like these.  We finish a ten hour day, finally together soaking in the last few seconds of July. The world is smaller from the tailgate of this Ford flatbed. Reminiscing on the PanAm cannot be avoided. Contemplating the present is as transitory as the way we manufactured it. When it comes to dissecting tomorrow the lingering question mark feels both ominous and liberating.

Home Base

Home on the Plains

We are Brianna and Logan, also known as Mr. & Mrs. PanAmNotes. After completing a 15 month 22,000 mile journey to the end of the world we have temporarily settled here in Western Nebraska. Between now and our next big idea, we’ll use this space to focus our creative energy on our passions, future exploits, and as always, the pursuit of living better. Much like PanAmNotes we set out to communicate life on the Ranch through quality information and succinct introspection. This is our home base for Life: Simply.