Grandmothers Play an Essential Role on the Ranch

Written by Rebecca Colnar

Kris Descheemaeker is a ranch grandmother (and Montana Farm Bureau District 3 Director). She and her family raise cattle, winter wheat, hay and grandkids on their ranch east of Lewistown. Kris and her husband, Dennis, have two sons who live on the ranch, a daughter in Fort Benton and seven grandchildren. 

All of Kris’s grandkids love the ranch and help with age-appropriate chores. For the past two years, Layne (10) and Kalli (9) have taken bucket calves (orphan calves that need to be bottle-fed and/or fed hay and grain) to the Montana Fair. In addition, their chores include cleaning out the jugs (pens) where their animals are kept while they are working with them.

“No matter what happens at the ranch, the grandkids want to be involved,” said Kris. “When they were babies, we’d put them in a car seat in the Ranger and take them with us as we did our ranch chores. We’d often have one child strapped in the car seat and one sitting beside us.” 

It’s a family tradition to have multiple generations on the ranch. “From the time our kids were little, they wanted to be part of the ranch. Dennis was like that with his dad. There is pride in what mom and dad do, and kids enjoy the opportunity to work alongside their parents. It extends to other family members, as well. My daughters-in-law have full-time jobs and help on the ranch. They will be in the corrals working, vaccinating, pregnancy checking and branding. We schedule our ranch work schedule around their work schedules.”

Kris says there are not enough hours in the day to be a full-time mom, have a full-time non-ranch job along with a full-time ranch job. 

“That’s where grandmas come in,” said Kris. “My full-time job is fitting in on the ranch where they need me, whether it’s helping run parts when a piece of machinery breaks down, or being available to drive the grandkids 5-miles home from the bus stop. My family is respectful of my time, but I do try to keep my schedule open for them as my role as the grandkids’ caretaker.” 

The proud grandma says giving her grandchildren the opportunity to experience ranch life teaches them responsibility. “My 8-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte, had to bottle feed her calf every morning before she caught her ride to the bus at 7:10. Caring for animals is something that will always be with them. Sometimes they learn a hard life lesson. Charlotte’s bottle calf, Tubbs, who she had shown at the fair this year, suddenly died. It was heart-wrenching for her, but those hard life lesson prepare kids to deal with disappointment later in life.” 

Kris believes it takes a village to raise kids. “Although I have my grandkids, I’m grandma to kids who aren’t blood related. My advice as a grandmother is if you’re in a position to be involved with a young family, give that mom and dad the break they need. That will make them better parents and, in turn, make for a better community.”  

Rebecca Colnar is Director of Public Relations for Montana Farm Bureau and a freelance writer from Custer, Montana. 

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