With the exception of four years spent at the University of Montana, Mari has lived her whole life on the family ranch. Mari is a fifth generation rancher and if you could see this place, you would understand why she returned.
Mari runs mostly Black Angus and a small flock of sheep. To keep the place going takes not only long hours and a strong back, but a serious work ethic. When asked her favorite part of ranching Mari responded, "I like all parts of ranching; with each season comes something new. One of the most wonderful aspects is being able to work outside year round."
It's a good thing she likes it, because there is no shortage of outdoor work for this cowgirl. Throughout the winter Mari's routine consists of feeding and calving. Spring is time for branding and rebreeding the cows. As the snow finally melts, the cattle get moved to summer pasture, fences need repair, fields need irrigating and then the haying begins. With fall comes vaccinating the herd, selling and shipping off the calves, and finally moving the herd back to winter pasture to rest up for calving again.
If you think this schedule is harrowing, you are not alone. However, the challenges are not deterrents. As Mari says, "When it's freezing outside, the north wind is blowing, there's a blizzard moving in and you haven't had much sleep in weeks because you're in the middle of calving...you start wishing you were laying on a beautiful beach somewhere. But a few months down the road you almost forget how awful it really was and start looking forward to the next calving season."
Just for the record, when moving cattle Mari does wear pants. She and her sister saddle up and with the help of their border collie, they get the job done. If you think this lifestyle sounds like fun, you're right. But keep in mind it’s not always a ride into the sunset. A few weeks after the photo shoot I called to catch up with Mari. She was on her way outside to break up the ice on the river so the livestock could get water. It was her third time that day, and it was 38 degrees below zero. Now that's a working woman!
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