From City Slicker to Rancher… What have I gotten myself into?

Last year was the start of a new chapter and unique set of credentials that I am guessing is usually reserved for a grounds crew. In 2015, I went from City Slicker to Rancher. My Google searches went from “Stitch Fix” to “Tuff Shed”, from “happy hour spots” to “organic weed abatement.” I researched and made numerous spreadsheets comparing riding lawn tractors and actually “test drove” (or test-mowed) them. I learned what a t-post driver was, and now, I even know how to use one. I made friends with tire shop owners and built a puppy playground and agility course out of forgotten tires with my own hands. It get’s better. I could tell you the key differences between sheep and horse fencing. I can even look at banana slugs these days without screaming. (Snakes- well, that’s a different story.) But most importantly, I learned that most of the world’s problems can actually be solved with duct tape and a zip tie. At least on the ranch.

But, I wasn’t always Rancher Vicki.

I was the last to arrive. I was kid #3. The youngest, who often leapt before I looked. Going last has definite advantages. I was fearless about “What’s next?” because I could be. The road had already been dug out and paved before I came along. Admittedly, I relaxed comfortably in a safety net that allowed my mind to ponder the possibilities.

Laid off from my first job after college? The economy is crumbling! No worries, I’ll just start a dog walking business.

It was 2001. I was commuting everyday on Caltrain into San Francisco for a job at a public relations agency. The work was fine most of the time, but stressful. My coworkers were fun, but always stressed out. I met a friend for lunch outside on the Embarcadero one day and stared as a girl about my age walked towards us with five dogs by her side. I couldn’t help but pet each one and hammered her with all the questions that I now hear most often. “Can you make enough money doing this to survive?” “How many dogs can you walk at once?” “Are you hiring?”

As fate would have it, I returned to my desk that afternoon, only to be called up for a meeting along with a few dozen coworkers and the HR team. I walked in and met a curly haired woman in a suit that I had never seen before who apparently ran HR. Box of Kleenex beside her, and what felt like crocodile tears, she sniffled and quietly explained that the agency had selected our group for a massive lay off- effective immediately. I finished my final project anyway- a media coverage report, then I packed up my desk, made sure that I burned one last CD with all of my Napster downloads and said goodbye to the path I always I assumed I would take. After an emotional night of consolation cocktails with now former coworkers and a long train ride home, I decided to change course

Me: “Mom, Dad. I’ve decided I hate sitting in a cube and communicating with my office mates via email when they are working beside me. And I hate going inside in the morning when it’s dark and walking outside when it’s already dark again. I think I am going to start walking dogs instead. I’m calling it Vicki’s Little Rascals Petcare.”

“Ummm, ok. I hope you aren’t planning on living at home forever?” Dad said with a chuckle. “Go for it.”

That was 16 years ago. And for the record, I moved out six months after that conversation. These days, I have a pretty great business and beautiful open space where I stroll everyday and beam with pride as I watch a couple dozen clients' pups run free and explore endlessly. I’m a cross between a farmer, dog life guard and a groundskeeper, or something.

The Rancher Vicki chapter marked another comical conversation with mom and dad.

Me: “Mom, Dad… I did it! I found 4 acres of private land for the Rascals. I just signed a lease! I finally have a space of my own. I’m calling it the Rascal Ranch!”

Dad: “Umm, congrats kid. Wait, what’s the Rascal Ranch?”

Me: “It will be like a Doggy Disneyland.”

Mom: “Wow. Ok, so is it fenced off and everything?”

Me: “No, I’ll do that.”

Dad: “Is it cleared like a soccer field?”

Me: “No, not at all. I can’t even see the ground or where the property ends. But, I’ll mow it with a tractor or something.”

Dad: “How are you planning on clearing 4 acres? And do you realize how much fencing you will need for all that space? Maybe you should just ask for 1 acre.”

Me: “Nah, I’ll figure it out. How hard can it be?”

Dad: “Is there water? Or power?”

Mom: “Did you say tractor?”

Me: “Mom, Dad, blah, blah! I found 4 acres! Yes, it’s overgrown like a forest. There is no water, no fences. Ha! I can’t wait.”


Let the Rascal Ranch adventures begin.

Victoria StephensComment