A Poem: My Hands

The following poem was written by my older sister, Carol.
I am honored to share it with you.

My Hands

Resting on my saddle horn at the end of a day’s work,
my dirty hands look old.
I can see their veins, raised, gray against my tan, paper-thin skin;
veins that carry my life blood back to my heart.
The leathery fold of skin, scrunched at my knuckles,
dirt plainly in view within the crevices,
Encase bones curling the shape of my fingers, once straight.
I look down at my hands and think they are beautiful,
Yes, I think my hands are beautiful in their old age!
They have served me well.

They have greeted new and old friends,
wiped tears from my eyes and waved goodbye.
They’ve knitted baby blankets and tucked daughters in bed,
spanked a child, tightened a hug,
and guided a horse through woods,
given solace with a gentle touch and shown love,
petted a puppy and held an old dog, dying,
painted a picture, written a letter and a book,
washed, ironed and cleaned, guided a tractor plowing a field,
freed an anxious colt from his halter,
slapped a leg while whooping and hollering  moving cattle,
steadied a newborn calf on wobbly legs,
brushed dirt from a horse’s back, unknotted a daughter’s hair,
dialed a vet in an emergency and helped birth a newborn.
They’ve placed flowers they grew from seeds in a vase at a grave,
pulled weeds, made a few cakes and shelled peas.

Sometimes, I think there is nothing they cannot do!
They’ve clapped in glee, wrung in worry and folded in prayer.
I thank you, God, for my hands.
They are beautiful.

© Carol Sanders

My sister and her husband, Mike, run a cattle ranch, Charlie Creek Cattle Company, a cow-calf operation in Florida. This poem is from her book entitled, “Life.” It’s about her life on a working cattle ranch and includes her writings, as well as her photographs. I would give a link to this beautiful book, but it’s not published…yet!

As she says in the book’s prologue, “Most people think of Florida as a place to go on vacation, to Disney World or one of our fun-filled beaches. There is more to the sunshine state. Our ranch, like many others, is situated on a piece of land of exquisiteness.”

The Charlie Creek Cattle Company includes almost four thousand acres of pastures, creeks, and marsh lands. Seeing their ranch gives you an idea of what Florida once was like.

The early settlers didn’t come for the state’s beaches; they came for the grasslands and to raise cattle. According to Florida Memory, Florida has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States. It goes back five centuries!

It wasn’t an easy life then and it’s still not easy now. Sometimes Mike and Carol’s work day begins at dawn and extends late into the night, if a calf needs help being born or a horse needs treatment.

My sister was drawn to this life, partly because of the horses. She trains most of their cattle horses, usually getting them as yearlings before they have learned about bridles, saddles and accepting a rider. She’s never “broken” a horse; she’s always “gentled” her young ones, teaching them to come to her without fear.

I recently visited my sister at her ranch. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the land my sister lives on. One of the first things that struck me was how wild it is and how precious. Like the Florida panther, this untamed land of Florida is slowly disappearing.

She took me, JC and my youngest daughter for a “buggy” ride. Instead of four legs and a tail, this “buggy” included four huge wheels and an engine:~) We saw wild deer, hawks, lots of cows and calves, some beautiful water birds and even an alligator. I am pleased that my sister and her husband are preserving a part of Florida that created its history.

27 comments on “A Poem: My Hands

  1. Ginny says:

    Sara, you never cease to amaze me with the wonderful and diverse thing you write about. Your stories, your poems, your pictures, and your life experiences are all so varied. I loved meeting your sister and reading her poem. It is beautiful. I also enjoyed traveling with you to another part of Florida and learning a little about what is like to live on a cattle ranch. We lived in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. 40 years ago when there was nothing but beautiful and often empty beaches. The last time we went back it was hard to see the water because of the tall buildings and crowds. It is amazing how things can change but wonderful to hear that there are still people who are preserving the beauty that was meant to be.

    As you know, I was lucky enough to be awarded The Versatile Bloggers Award. I would love to pass it on to you. Thank you so much for inspiring so many people with your wonderful blogs and kindness. The badge is on my blog just waiting for you to pick it up. Have a great weekend.

    • Sara says:

      @ Ginny — Wow. You scared me for a minute. I sounded like you thought I wrote this poem and, of course, it’s my sister’s poem…but then you cleared it all up:~) My sister is one of coolest people I know. She amazes me with her ability to work with animals and to keep up with ranch life. In addition, she’s got such a big heart, full of compassion and caring.

      Thank you for your kind words. Old Florida is being gobbled up, which makes the ranch Carol and Mike run all the more important. I wish you could see how magnificent their ranch is. Maybe next time, I’ll figure how to do video on my camera and show you.

      Thanks for the award. I appreciate it. I’ll stop by and pick up later:~) I also hope you have a great weekend!

  2. Linda says:

    Sara,
    Your sister wrote a beautiful poem. I felt the emotion of all the years and wonderful things in her life. I have traveled through Florida many times and seen the acres upon acres of cattle farms along the highway. I’m sure if we got off the interstate the scenery would be even more fantastic. I’ve had a long-time love affair with Florida and all the wonderful things to be discovered there. Like she said, it’s not just beaches. I do gravitate to the beaches, though.

    We took a touring vacation of Georgia one year and saw the swamps, marshes, cities, islands and beaches. I’d like to do that sometime in Florida.

    • Sara says:

      @ Linda — For my sister, I say thanks. She doesn’t get online very often:~) You would love seeing the “wild” side of Florida.

      I appreciate your visit. BTW I loved your “55” — “Where Did All The Words Go!”

  3. Valerie says:

    What a beautiful poem-and I love the memories those wonderful hands call to mind. In our current culture-where youthfulness is held in such esteem, this poem is a brilliant reminder that signs of aging-such as your sister’s beautiful hands, are a badge of honor showing evidence of a full life- well lived. I think many other countries espouse this concept so much more than America-they have the right idea! I’d love to be able to meet your sister-and hopefully her book will be published some day soon:)

    • Sara says:

      @ Valerie — What a beautiful comment. I will have to copy and send my sister these comments. She doesn’t do online stuff very often, but I know she would value your words very much. She works hard, but does love the work she does:~)

      It would be very nice if her book was published because it shows a long history of ranching in Florida.

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it. I also loved your TRDC post about sloth. I couldn’t even begin to tackle that one and you did so well!

  4. Alien Ghost says:

    Carol:

    That is a

  5. Alien Ghost says:

    I don’t know what happend but the comment posted itself when I was just starting to write it (a Florida ghost maybe?)

    Anyway!

    Carol,

    That is a beautiful poem! So true, so real; it does reflect so much for so many people in so many different situations and lives. 🙂

    Sara,

    I suppose you took some pictures while visiting Carol, so now you’re gonna have to show us some views of Carol’s ranch 🙂

    Thank you for letting us know about Carol’s writing!

    Raul

    • Sara says:

      @ Alien Ghost — Actually, I didn’t take pictures. I was having an eye problem that weekend and so was unable to take pictures. JC was going to take some, but I left the camera in the hotel. Next time I visit, I will take lots of photographs:~)

      On behalf of my sister, thank for you kind words about her poem. She’s not online very much, but I’m going to copy all the comments and send them to her. I know she will love yours!

  6. JC says:

    Carol, I loved your poem. Sara & I loved our visit with you & your family and getting to see your home, land, & animals.

    • Sara says:

      @ JC — Well, this is me…you know the “love of your life” and not my sister. On her behalf, she thanks you.:~)

  7. Wow, that is one incredible poem.
    Thats talent right there

  8. Hilary says:

    Hi Sara .. I loved the trawl through Carol’s history her hands have done .. that’s what they look like to me – wonderful caring hands full of tales to tell of life itself in all its parts.

    Loved the story of their ranch and the 500 years .. that’s amazing – so interesting too .. I’d love to visit! Wonderful that you, JC and your daughter had such an interesting visit.

    I’d like to do what Linda described .. a tour of the swamps, marshes, cities, islands and beaches – in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas .. well the whole of the US of A!!

    I love doing tours around our lanes .. though it’s not so easy in this little land of ours now .. too many people. Still no doubt I’ll get exploring once again in due course ..

    Loved all of this – cheers and hope you’re having a wonderful weekend .. Hilary

    • Sara says:

      @ Hilary — My sister appreciates your nice words about her history and her poem. As I said to others, she doesn’t get online much. Ranching keeps her very busy!

      I can just see you if you across the pond. You wouldn’t just go to the beach or Disney World. No, you’d travel to the parts of Florida that most people skip. This state is very diverse. It’s extremely long. In one my travels to England, Miami was under threat of some massive hurricane and everyone we met asked us about our home. We had to explain that we live about ten hours from Miami. In other words, they be struggling with a hurricane and we can have bright sunny weather and vica versa.

      Each time I get visit my daughter, she takes me someplace different in England. It’s always fun to see the diversity in that country. I think I didn’t expect it, given the size of England, but it’s amazing. Next time, I want to visit either Wales or Scotland. JC is pushing Scotland as he loves golf and wants to see St. Andrews.

      Thanks for the visit. I always enjoy your comments.

  9. […] this beautiful feeling to be part of all aspects of your daily life too. You kind of develop this loving relationship with the simple act of […]

  10. Jean Sampson says:

    Hi Sara and Carol. This poem really touched me and engaged me. I was so happy to read that Carol thinks her hands are beautiful. We don’t usually call parts of ourselves beautiful if we are older women, because we live in this yourh-worshiping culture. I almost felt shocked to read that line, but I was SO happy to see it. Thank you, Carol, for loving your hands and sharing their history with us.
    I would love to see pictures of the beautiful land. Is it on your agenda, Sara?:)
    Also, please let us know when the book is published!

    • Sara says:

      @ Jean — One thing about my sister — she’s not vain in anyway. She lives a hard life and there aren’t very many trips to manicurist for her. I always admired her lack of vanity. It seems to free her to be the powerful woman she is today. She reminds me of the modern day “frontier” women who traveled into the wild lands of USA and helped their husbands work the land. She respects the land, even as it feeds both her and her family.

      Still, she’s not a hard woman, but rather one of great compassion and caring. When I visited, there was a calf in trouble that they were monitoring. They don’t immediately intercede, but wait and see how the mama cow will handle things, but I knew the entire time we were visiting that this calf was on Carol’s mind.

      I know my sister would greatly appreciate your kind words. As I said to others, she doesn’t get online very often. For example, we talk by telephone, but not email:~)

      Regarding the pictures, that will have to wait. The day I visited, I was having eye problems and, on top of that, forgot to take my camera down with me, but I’m sure I’ll be going back soon.

  11. suzen says:

    Hi Sara! The muse and love of words is obviously in your family blood -wow, that was beautiful. How often to really say thanks to our hands? Just last night I was sewing some yoyo’s (starting this summer’s project for car trips and sitting on the dock) and my hands were stiff. I actually had a talk with them!

    The ranch sounds fabulous and I can well imagine that places like that are disappearing off the face of the earth actually. I think of my grandparents farm – it is now several housing developments – and I haven’t been back there for 15 years, it was so painful. It only exists in my memory because we had no pictures of it all, just a photo of people gathering, but no “big” picture of the farm itself.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing beauty in thoughts and words!
    Hugs
    suZen

    • Sara says:

      @ Suzen — I like that you talk to your hands. Perhaps that all they need — a kind word every once in awhile:~)

      Regarding the ranch, I greatly admire my sister and her husband for maintaining this land. All except their young cattle, the cattle live in huge pastures of wild land with marshes and palmetto plants. Sometimes when your driving, you might not even see them because they’re hidden amongst the trees, or whatever. They also herd them in the old style — by horse, rather than vehicle.

      That’s sad that you have no pictures of your grandparents’ farm. Then again, depending of the age of your grandparents, it wasn’t that common to take pictures of the land. They were reserved for people. My grandfather also had a ranch and I don’t have many pictures of his ranch. Fortunately, my sister feels differently and has beautiful pictures of her ranch:~)

      Both my sister and I appreciate you stopping by and leaving this nice comment!

  12. Chris Edgar says:

    Thanks for this Sara — our hands are truly remarkable things, aren’t they — it’s such an easy thing to overlook that our bodies are such complex and beautiful machines, and I think this poem captures the wonder I’m describing.

    • Sara says:

      @ Chris –That’s one reason I loved this poem. We do ignore how much we use our hands and how important they are. Right now, my fingers are moving across the keyboard without me looking. There’s something kind of cool in the fact that my brain sends the signal to them about which key to touch. It’s also true, in my case, that my brain mixes things up now and then.

      Thanks for your comment, Chris:~)

  13. Talon says:

    Beautiful poem. Your sister’s word images are gorgeous! Sounds like she and her husband live on a little piece of heaven!

    • Sara says:

      @ Talon — On behalf of my sister, thank you:~) And yes, their land is truly stunning!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about my sister’s poem:~)

  14. Belinda says:

    This was beautiful, Sara and Carol. Hands, in many ways, are our lifeline. They do so much for us and a poem like this reminds me of how much I take mine for granted.

    Your sister’s property sounds magnificent! I’ve never seen a wild, uncaged alligator before. Would love to experience that!

    • Sara says:

      @ Belinda — My sister would enjoy reading your poetry very much. Unfortunately, I haven’t convinced to go online. She doesn’t email, but given her work, there’s not much time for that. Everything she writes in in longhand, which amazes me. I can’t do that anymore because I’m so dependent on the computer.

      Her property is wonderful and so full of wild animals. They have have wild pigs and, let me tell you, those guys are scary looking and dangerous!

      I appreciate you stopping by…thank:~)

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