Urban kids experience ranch life

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer May 03, 2012 01:29 pm

The invasion of students from Portland’s Sunnyside Environmental School descended upon family ranches in Wallowa County recently.

Students and hosts agreed, a good time was had by all during the 4-H Urban/Rural Exchange.

A program started by the Oregon State University Extension office several years ago, inviting kids from urban Portland to visit rural Eastern Oregon, has become so popular some of the kids begged onto the trip for a second year.

Ana Williams and Emily Willard-Herr, both seventh-graders, rode horse and mule for 20 of a 30-mile cattle drive over the weekend with host Todd Nash of the Marr Flat Cattle Company.

One of their jobs on the Nash’s Wallowa Valley pasture was pushing a 750-pound round of hay off the back of a pickup. The two girls put their shoulder to the wheel, so to speak, and successfully rolled the feed off the back of the flatbed truck.

Nash, who has hosted kids with wife Angie in the 4-H exchange program in years past said, “Ana and Emily are good kids and we had lots of fun.”

Madeline Yee discovered one of the tougher parts of ranch life while staying with Tom and Lori Schaafsma. Two cows died and had to be hauled to the Ant Flat dump.

Despite the sad experience, Yee said one of the highlights of her visit was bottle feeding baby calves.

Extension Agent John Williams asked each student and chaperone to list what they liked best about their experiences. Rosemary said she learned if you light ticks on fire they explode. Anona said, “I learned there are cricks and there are creeks and they are the same thing.”

When asked if they would return and bring their families, there was an overwhelming, “Yes!” from the entire group.

The kids will pool their photographs for a Power point presentation to be given when they return at their school in Southeast Portland.