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AMY KIRK: Mother-daughter moments

Most mothers take their 13-year old daughters shopping or out to lunch for a mother-daughter day. I take mine windrowing or raking.

Farm and ranch life provides unconventional mother-daughter time. All-day shopping trips are hard to come by when the nearest mall is 60 miles away and leaving ranch responsibilities takes strategic planning ahead. In order to have mother-daughter time, my daughter and I capitalize on our time spent doing ranch work together. We spend quality time in the windrower cutting hay or on the tractor raking.

Like all teen girls, my daughter loves to talk. Other mothers of teenagers have told me car rides make it easier to have a conversation with their teens because teens don't have to make any eye contact in the car. This is most true when my daughter and I are in the windrower or on the tractor. We have to pay attention to the equipment we're operating and what's ahead of and behind us. By the time we've covered all the subjects teenage girls like to talk about, including boys, earning money, friendships and her wish list of things she wants to buy, we move on to the important topics at hand.

We ask each other what Dad said to do next once we're done windrowing or raking a field. Sometimes we speculate or make wagers on what Dad's going to say about some of the "mess" we left behind when we windrowed, hay we missed raking or how we should cut or rake sketchy corners and odd shaped areas we're approaching. We base a lot of our decisions on our gut feeling telling us what we should do.

I share the tips and tricks I've learned on cutting and raking hay, but most importantly, what I've learned the hard way. I give all my advice on preventive breakdown suggestions to keep the windrower from breaking down while she's operating it. When we rake together, I ride behind her on the Ford tractor (1949 Ford 8N) and show her when to make turns with the rake and how I make turns without missing any hay if possible.

Just to clarify, I don't spend time with my daughter only windrowing and raking. She and I have hauled water together before when wells were too low to keep up with livestock demands or went dry. Those mother-daughter moments entailed driving to the Pringle well, waiting while the tanks filled up, hauling it out to the stock tanks, and waiting some more while we dumped water into the stock tanks -- all perfect chat time.

Windrowing or raking alone can get pretty boring, except when I'm teaching my daughter the finer points of cutting and raking hay. Cutting and raking together not only makes the time go by faster, but it gives me an alibi. I can blame my haying errors and mishaps on our daughter's learning curve. If I leave a strip of hay, drag a rock a long way, break a section(s) while windrowing, or miss hay while raking because we were talking too much and didn't pay attention, I can blame them on teaching our daughter.

She and I talk a lot while we're haying, but what I love best about our mother-daughter windrowing and raking moments is that she listens to my advice.