Oklahoma woman likes being down on the farm
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)--Sylvia DeWitt hummed to herself as she bounced along a pasture in an old Suburban, keeping an eye at the moving figures in the distance on her ranch located several miles off S.H. 108 outside Glencoe.
She was on a mission to check on one of her heifers that was about to have a calf. Six of them were getting close, but when DeWitt found that particular cow, she had not had her calf yet.
DeWitt greeted two of her older animals, Paula and Annie, as she drove past them. She used to name every cow. With 85 currently on the farm there are too many to keep track of, but DeWitt still calls to them with affection.
"I get attached to my girls," DeWitt said.
Sometimes when she rides out on a four-wheeler, they come up and lick or nudge her with their noses. Little bull calves try to push the vehicle because it's their size.
On the way back, she stopped to survey her quiet surroundings under the shade of a large tree in front of her ranch home where she knows everyone who drives up and down the dirt road. The silence is interrupted only by a chorus of birds, the sound of cattle in the backyard and the clank of a wooden wind chime that hangs above a swing on the front porch of the house.
Usually DeWitt feeds the animals in the afternoon, but instead she spent this day chasing 17 steers who didn't want to stay put.
"You'd just better plan not to plan on your day," she said.
As a child, DeWitt lived on small farms and wanted to be a veterinarian. She married David DeWitt a few months after graduating from high school. The next year, in 1979, they moved onto his family's 600-acre farm, which has been in the family for more than 100 years.
Today, they raise a variety of cattle and farm feed, as well as dogs, two "ancient" horses, goats and a donkey. They also operate a business, DeWitt Trucking and Excavation, which has evolved over the years since they started with just a gravel truck in 1980.
DeWitt is in charge of buying and breeding the animals. She tries to pick bulls and cows that will make mellow calves, ones that she will be proud to send to the market.
Watching them grow and give birth gives her a sense of renewed hope.
"You can see what you've accomplished," she said. "It's gratifying to watch."
Her days are filled with an assortment of activities, like checking the animals, watching her grandson Gunnar, visiting her mom and David's mom in Cushing or tending to business duties.
She and her husband are constantly looking ahead and thinking about the next year's crop.
"You have to stay educated," she said. "You can't say this is what worked before because things change."
She worries about the future of farming and crop production in the United States because she doesn't know anyone who can afford to make a living doing just that anymore.
"People are farming and ranching now mainly for lifestyle," DeWitt said. "It doesn't even make its payments."
Ranchers also depend on the whims of Mother Nature. One dry or rainy season can destroy them. Two years ago, on her husband's 51st birthday, a down-burst wind destroyed the barn his grandfather had built, just after the family had finished rebuilding it from a tornado that razed it.
But even as DeWitt waits anxiously for rain to fill the pond they dug in the pasture and worries about letting down her girls if the crops fail, she wouldn't have any other lifestyle.