We survived 2020 with good health, some distance, new ventures and a little humor.

Dear friends, family and friends who are like family:

I hope this Christmas letter finds you snug, warm and dry for the winter—unless your outfit has been plagued with drought, in which case I hope you need a canoe to get to your mailbox. We’re dusty and dry here as usual in western Nevada, but my kids are healthy and my husband is good looking, so I’m not complaining. For the second year in a row, I managed to not get pregnant. My husband, Jim, and I were only in the same place a handful of times all year, and we think there might be a connection there.

Christmas decorations on the ranch
Snow and a holiday wreath brings joy after a dry, dusty year.
Photo by Jolyn Young

This year started off like any other. First we had January, which was naturally followed by February. Then March hit like a derailed train carrying live chickens and hand grenades. It was hard to watch as businesses closed, schools shut down. People drifted apart, told by their leaders to fear human connections. People started wearing masks 24/7, which was actually an improvement in some cases. I’m not naming any names, but the bearded lady at Walmart checkout No. 6 definitely looks more feminine in her floral face mask. It really draws the attention away from her unibrow.

After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, we became a home-schooling family overnight. First up was a solid six-month stretch during which the kids mostly rode their pony and played in the mud with sticks. I wanted them to learn experientially as much as possible, eschewing workbooks and grammar rules for an immersive, all-natural experience. Scientists say it’s ideal for their developing brains and can help accelerate their academic achievement. Also, I had no clue how to home-school.

In July, we somehow convinced a banker to give us a loan for a new stock trailer. We went all-out and got one of them fancy rigs with brakes and everything. All the running lights work, plus both turn signals. I can scarcely believe that I’m past the days of creeping down Austin Summit in four-wheel drive low, pulling a 24-foot trailer loaded with rogue bulls, managing without trailer brakes and running the hazard lights while steering through the rain. But I’m totally willing to roll with this new development. Except Jim doesn’t let me tow the trailer anywhere. Apparently, if you hit a few curbs and can’t explain why the paint is scraped off the right wheel-well more than once, you lose your driving privileges around here.

Saddle in the snow
As a cowboy family, we enlist our children as unpaid day-help and set of to chase cows as a family.
Photo by Jolyn Young

It’s winter now, and we’re putting that brand-new stock trailer to work hauling our own cattle to the sale, because we got into the cattle business just in time to see the market bottom out. We’re not even bummed, though. As a cowboy family, we’re surrounded by an invisible forcefield that repels financial prosperity, tropical vacations and clean boots. All that we can do is hole up at camp, play a few games of cribbage, enlist the children as our unpaid day-help, and set off to chase cows as a family.

Come to think of it, that sounds pretty dang good. Now, if only we can keep our day-help numbers steady at no more than three . Where is that cribbage board again?


Jolyn Young lives way out West with her husband and three kids. Visit www.JolynYoung.com to learn more, including where to find her debut book.

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