What can you learn in 300 hours spent working on a ranch? A whole lot, it turns out, as Liberty Bell High School junior Autumn Edwards is discovering. Four months ago, Autumn began an internship with Twisp rancher Bill White, and during that time she has learned skills that many of us won’t learn in a lifetime.
For starters, Autumn learned how to process an animal, “from gutting and skinning and turning it into food,” she says. She has also learned how to drive and operate a tractor, but acknowledges that “I still need more practice.” Autumn has rebuilt a chainsaw, helped make a meat smoker and a pole gate. She has learned out to fix a wire fence and a hay ring. She has operated a sawmill, castrated piglets, and run an irrigation system. And, oh yes, she has also learned to prune trees, tag calves, and delivered medicine to livestock.
Autumn is, in short, learning how to run a ranch. “I have been interested in owning my own ranch ever since I can remember,” Autumn says. “I love working outside and I love ranch work especially.”
Autumn says she got the idea for the internship “because I wanted to learn about cattle ranching. When I was first thinking of who to intern with I talked with a few people about what I could expect when interning with Mr. White. And I felt like I could learn from him.”
Bill says he was initially “reluctant to take a girl as an intern” because his “perception was that running a ranch is just not a girl thing.” Autumn, Bill says, “showed me I was dead wrong.”
The things she’s learned during her Lookout Mountain Ranch internship haven’t surprised Autumn; they’ve just piqued her curiosity to learn more about ranch life. She doesn’t see ranching as a career path — she thinks of it as her future lifestyle. “Yes, I will be pursuing ranching,” she says, referring to her post-graduation plans in 2022.
And is sounds like she’ll have no trouble getting a job. “Autumn threw herself into every task of the day, even the unpleasant ones. She was interested in everything that was going on; she is all ears and learns quickly,” says Bill. “She was always pleasant, polite, and delightful. I would love to hire her full time. I have no doubt that once her reputation gets spread around she can just pick her job out of many offers.”
Although her internship will wrap up at the end of this school year, Autumn says “I just want to keep working. I never want to leave.” Bill verifies Autumn’s commitment to the long work days required of ranching. “In the winter, feeding cows is first on the list. I always start feeding at 7 a.m.,” Bill says. “On Autumn’s intern day she showed up at 6:45 every morning so she could do the early morning feeding. My work day extends until supper time at 6 p.m. She insisted on staying so she ended up having supper with us, making her intern days more than 12 hours long.”
Perhaps Autumn’s most useful bit of learning from her internship comes from what Bill calls his own philosophy when teaching kids — the idea that a person’s sense of compassion is worth more than their skill set. Bill says, “I told her she will go further in succeeding in life if she is kind and generous to everyone no matter what their social standing is.”