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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nebraska bulls in a day's work

Yesterday I phoned a friend who is a cowgirl in western Nebraska. I live in Switzerland. We wanted to talk about meeting up with old friends from Minnesota and New York, probably in Arizona.

We could only talk for a minute or so.
"I'm really sorry but we're expecting a call from a guy who's delivering a bull," said Judie.

Wide open spaces, plenty of room for the cattle: Nebraska Panhandle

Photo: Micah Laaker, who grew up in Nebraska, moved around and landed in California, working for Yahoo. He still loves Nebraska, and photographed this in December 2005. Great spread of Nebraska photos here: www.flickr.com/photos/mlaaker and more on Micah here: http://www.laaker.com/

I thought about my day, which involved taking my daughter to the hospital in Geneva for growth hormone tests because she lags far behind in size and weight. And then I checked on the progress of GenevaLunch, a news web site I'm working on that goes live soon. Bulls are not part of my daily routine.

Judie and I live on separate planets. She doesn't check her e-mail often because of the long ride into town for access to the Internet. When they tried setting up Internet connections a couple years ago on the ranch it didn't work well. The wide open prairies and grassy hills of the Nebraska panhandle are under-populated and not high on the priority lists for Internet coverage.

On the phone, we managed to agree to meet in September, a relatively quiet time for ranchers.

"Yeah, the calves are just dropping all around us right now," she said. "We're just so busy with the calving season, riding out to check on all those mothers and their little ones." By September they will be grazing, far from the ranch, and the winter jobs of delivering hay and digging them out of Nebraska's powerful snow drifts will still be in the future.

When I called Judie I had just gone to bed with the flu. I was staring at a photograph on the wall of one of my ancestors. I thought about how freeing and yet how final it must have been, 100 or 125 years ago, for women to move to another country with a new husband, knowing they would probably never see family or dear friends again. You could become a new person, create a new persona - and yet the price was very high. Women's diaries and exchanges of letters from those days occasionally show that when they managed a trip back home, after 15 or 20 years in a new country, everything and everyone had changed more than they could have imagined.

This is no longer true, I've realized in recent weeks as I watch my son prepare to move to Vancouver, a 15 hour flight from here. En route, he will spend a few weeks in China. He will never be far away or out of touch, though. There is e-mail, Skype for phoning, AIM and MSN for messaging and camera chats. Add to that: daily blog entries and web sites. There are the annual or semi-annual visits in person. In my family and my husband's, as well as most of our friends', traipsing around the globe and living in various countries is not unusual.

Nothing can replace seeing someone in person, but the ease with which we can continue to talk about the small daily things today is what makes it easier to keep relationships flowing.

Take my cowgirl buddy, Judie. We have an 8 hour time difference and when she's up at 5am it's to check on the cows. Not easy to find phone time that works for both of us. Evenings for me are busy with family and work. When Judie and I do reach each other, though, she can tell me a bull is arriving soon. I can picture her perched high on her horse, the way she used to perch on her brother's motorcycle when we were teenagers and we borrowed it to ride around in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

It's nice to be close and stay close to people whose daily lives are so different: it helps keep our own day's work in perspective.


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