Sunday, January 24, 2016

Flame Keepers

Some of us grow up loving animals, and as children we dream of being vets, trainers, educators and zookeepers.

Some of us grow into adulthood needing animals, and we pursue a life that lets us share our homes with dogs, cats, parrots, etc and consider pets family.

Some of us realize soon after that, that we weren't looking for paycheck or a pet, but something a little more storied, old, and feral - a connection lost to 99% of the modern world.

And so we became the trail riders, shepherds, teamsters, hunters. We are the mushers, cowboys, farmers, and falconers. We are those drawn to partnerships in work with animals. Hard work.

We are the ones who want to sweat, run, explore, hunt, and work beside dog, horse, and hawk. We get high off the smell of used bridles, x-back harnesses, and leather jesses. We sit in duck blinds at 4 AM. We yell "Away to me" at sunsets as our dogs circle out. We move livestock across mountainsides. We explore forests and fields from saddles. We plow rows, pull sleds, seek game, and see the world through a teamwork most people only know as fairytales.

We were the weird kids who never wanted dolls, just stuffed animals. We are the teenagers who read too many novels - never doubted we too would go on long journeys with familiars by our sides, fighting demons and learning songs.

We are not cat people.

We are not wearing pawprint sweatshirts.

We do not accept that our passions are part of history, fantasy, or unrealistic in the 21st century.

We are flame keepers.


Blogger Harmony Hill said...

Wonderful read and thoughts. Even for we who live and keep company with cats as well.

January 24, 2016 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Lovely. Nice to see someone be able to put this madness to words.
We are the people of the Hoof and Claw.

January 24, 2016 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger FAST SOS said...

Absolutely love your writing Jenna, always captures the essence of your thoughts perfectly and we couldn't agree more! keep up the good work,
All the best

January 24, 2016 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

You are a truly amazing writer... Never let anyone tell you differently. It helps that what you write about is beautiful too!

January 25, 2016 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

Every time you put down cats or people who like cats, it makes me feel so unwelcome in this community. I wish you didn't feel like you have to define yourself against others, my implying that they are less-than. It just always bums me out. Otherwise I love your blog and writing so much and I want to attend an event this year, it just makes me feel so unwelcome.

January 25, 2016 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I don't dislike cats, I'm just not a cat person. I have 2 cats. My best friend is crazy about cats and has, I think, up to 5 at a time!

I'm just not a cat person. That's okay. You are into cats? That is also okay.

January 25, 2016 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thank you guys up there for all the kind words!

January 25, 2016 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

I appreciate what you're saying and I'm sorry that I'm making a big stink over something that's really inconsequential. I just hope that you can understand where I'm coming from. I love your writing, the blog, the books, in fact I'm excited to receive an ebook version of Birchthorn soon! I like being a part of this community and I aspire to my own giant garden and homestead with chickens, sheep, and bees one day. I'm also a cat person. And according to this post, "flame keepers" cannot be "cat people." It just makes me feel shitty, to be honest. I know you don't owe readers anything in terms of making them comfortable or catering to anyone but I just thought you might like to know how it makes one reader feel. I'm not going anywhere, I'll continue to support and read and love your blog but I felt like it would be okay to just voice how much I was loving this post and feeling inspired and then felt shoved out of the community and space, because flame keepers are explicitly NOT cat people. It's a silly thing but it happens continuously.

January 25, 2016 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I don't know of any human and animal combined labor done with domestic cats? They don't hunt for human beings, they hunt for themselves and the game they take is usually too small for us to make it reasonable. That is why they were always valued as pest management, as they are valued here. But no, just having a cat doesn't make you a flame keeper. Neither does having a horse or a dog or a pet raptor. I am talking about people out there farming, driving, hunting, tracking, and doing physical labor with their animals.

January 25, 2016 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Andria M said...

Fascinating. My chickens are in their movable tractor to give me high quality eggs, eventually meat, turn the soil and spread their shit for the veggies I'll plant there. They're working for me; they don't have names. My rabbits, though I'm not breeding or eating them now, are not my pets; for now they're there for manure to grow my veggies - they work for me. I like to think they are my partners, not my pets, and that we're existing symbiotically.

January 25, 2016 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Jenna, thanks for taking the time to explain more what you meant. I understand what you're saying. I guess I read it differently than you intended (more like, cat people need not apply as homesteaders or farmers vs. "just" being a cat person doesn't mean you work with animals). I'm inspired by your lifestyle and the stories you tell and I can't wait until I can move out of this city and connect more with that type of experience. Soon!

January 25, 2016 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

hej jenna,

when I saw this video I thought of you ...



January 25, 2016 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Who are you trying to impress? Us or yourself?

January 25, 2016 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

I stuck myself in the finger with a long pin-thing when I was played veterinarian with my dog in the back yard. (think 'as-a-child', not 'this morning') The thin metal pin had a length of about 4 inches with a ring at the top of it. Perfect for veterinarian feeding of my dog, one piece at a time, his dog food...until it my mom had to call the I look at vet tech and find the work they do is with lab animals to train. EWWW. Talk about bummed. Like Allison was above about cats, was I about becoming a vet tech on the backs of lab animals.... :( I read Herriot.....Yorksdale....and smile fondly thinking of green grass on rolling hills with mud and cows and rain and beer and whiskey. AND love.

I know you primarily write about farming but what about expanding your writing to BEYOND farming? Incorporating animals, logos, WORK for and OFFICE, and general day to day? You could expand your audience and write a new book....

BFF---beyond farming fun

January 25, 2016 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Tubaville said...


January 25, 2016 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

This confuses me? Is this post supposed to be satire or maybe you are writing a parody to pitch to the writers at Portlandia? Or maybe its just a really big does of sanctimony? Wow.

January 27, 2016 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I wrote this last week and people here liked it, generally. On the blog people think it is a joke, rude, or sanctimonious. All I am doing is writing something passionate about working with animals, because it matters a lot to me.

Me writing about something I love that doesn't include something other people do, love, or qualify as important - doesn't invalidate anyone or anything. Any more than someone writing a love poem to their spouse means they don't care about their cousins or dislike their cousins. It just means they felt like writing a love letter to what they are most passionate about.

The more and more I write publicly the more I realize how much everyone views public art - be it movies, television, books, essays, etc as if it was meant to be spoken directly to them. If you love cats and read this, I'm an asshole. If you don't cart with your horse and it just eats grass in the field, I'm an elitist. If you're a falconer, horseback trekker, hunter or explorer with these animals it is poetry. I have zero control over your interpretation.

I don't write thinking about how it will be read by strangers, nor do I have any idea what your lives or experiences are with these subjects. I write about things I care about in a way that tries to convey the passion I have for them and the import they have on my life.

It was shared over 115 times on Facebook, so at least a hundred plus folks thought it was worthy of spreading.

January 27, 2016 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Candie W said...

resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.

Perceived key word. As humans we have a hard time dealing with that fact that we have to choose to let something offend us. It is not necessarily the writer or speaker that is trying to. And nobody can offend you if you choose not to let them.

January 27, 2016 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Diana Napier said...

Love your posting. I just had to put our lab to sleep and this is the first time in my life that I don't have a dog so reading about all the human and animal partnerships in our daily existence was so nice. Keep up the great writing and your perspective on YOUR life and ideas that you share with us.

January 27, 2016 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Cynanz said...

No issue with what you write or how you feel or how others interpret your (or any writer's) words - but I think (and I have felt) that sometimes in your writings the "us" and "them", the "we" and "they" perspectives seem to be predominate and resonate some level of exclusivity which then sets up views of hierarchy (eg one is better or preferred).

Also sets up to exclude the many who are more diverse and encompass both sides of the "we" and "they" which you seem to be presenting and those who are not part of the "either/or" but of "the both" or somewhere on the continuum between the two.

Their disagreeing comments hopefully aren't negative but merely expanding on your perspective and viewpoint and saying they are of "the both" not of one or the other that you wrote about.

I know far more people who are "animal people" rather than "dog" people or "cat people". I also know many people who are quite elitist about their particular breed of dog/cat. It's ok to have a personal "like" for a breed but "your" breed is not better than "my" breed and any attempts to say so will be met with resistance. My hobbies or vocation are not better than yours, they are just different. My religion or spirituality (or lack there of) is not better than yours, merely different and these differences are hopefully stimulus for interesting and respectful sharing discussions over beer (not that my beer is better than your coffee or her wine or his juice)

I would rather enrichment and connection than competitions about which way is more valid, right, cool, etc
Appreciate your words, both when I agree and when I don't agree.
Enjoy and be well.

Also, I live in an area where many of the population are those who are in the grouping who work with and who work alongside their animals and there is a clear separation in their relationships with their animals - their working dogs do not come in the house and definitely never on furniture or beds, the working horses are not ridden for pleasure but only for ploughing and pulling or transportation, and their cats usually only eat whatever they catch (that's their job).
Not my way but I respect it's their way and it's how they work their farm or business (dog-sledding, hunting, guides, guarding, herding, etc) with the vast majority being farms, generational farms.

January 28, 2016 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger Leanne Henninger said...

Candie W- Well said.

January 28, 2016 at 6:51 AM  

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