Speaker promotes daring to risk life changesWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Buffalo – “Poisonous snakes, deadly spiders, no electricity, what was I thinking?” asked author and inspirational speaker Rebecca Long Chaney at the Johnson County CattleWomen’s Sixth Annual Women’s Agriculture Summit in Buffalo on Jan. 23.
“It was my husband Lee’s idea,” she continued, describing how she and her husband decided to work at a cattle station in the Australian Outback.
Chaney told her husband that she would go with him, but she didn’t want to tell anyone because everyone would think they had gone completely crazy.
The family ranch was dispersing their herd of Brown Swiss dairy cows, and it was time to do some soul searching, she said. Chaney and her husband planned their trip and included Tonga, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia in their plans.
“Tonga is a cluster of 173 islands in the South Pacific,” Chaney described. “It is a third-world country, and it was really incredible to learn about their culture.”
The couple stayed with friends and friends of friends all along the way, reaching out to agricultural producers everywhere they went.
“It’s so wonderful how we can reach out to other agricultural communities in other states and places around the world. We make long-lasting relationships, and there are always people who make lasting impressions,” she said.
In New Zealand, the couple stayed on both the north and south islands, and in Papua New Guinea, they headed for the summit of the country’s tallest mountain, Mount Wilhelm.
“I’m not a hiker, but this was Lee’s dream,” she remarked. “I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the summit. At the midway point, we rested to get acclimated to the altitude, and I said, ‘Dear, you’re going to the top without me.’”
Chaney gifted her new wool socks to the porter, who wore them as mittens, and the men continued on to reach the summit.
“After Papua New Guinea, we finally arrived in Australia, the whole reason we went on the trip,” she continued.
Arrival in Australia
The couple spent several days in the city of Perth, looking for a vehicle to take them to the cattle station, and Lee found a Russian vehicle that was 18 years old.
“I think we put 5,000 miles on it. We had to have it towed one time, and by the time we made it back, we had lost two gears and pretty much drifted in on our final drive,” she remarked.
After spending a month at a station known as Juna Downs, learning how to be a “jillaroo” and “jackaroo,” the couple found a job for the next eight months at another station known as Ashburton Downs.
“When we arrived at Ashburton, it was the wet season, so we couldn’t drive into the cattle station because the river was flooded. We had to leave our vehicle parked on one side, and they came and got us in a boat,” she described.
Chaney and her husband lived in an aboriginal hut, lighting a fire every day to get warm water, which meant they had to collect wood for eight months.
“A lot of the cattle stations over there do have electricity and air-conditioned units for their workers, but this was a pretty remote station, and they were just starting to get things going. From what I understand, the station is still like that today. It was a life changing experience,” she stated.
Work on the station
For the first three months, the couple built fence, completing 25 miles for one pasture.
“They call it Chaney pasture. Then we started mustering cattle,” she added.
Chaney and Lee were in their mid-30s when they arrived at the station in Australia, while most of the other help was in their young 20s.
“The boss, Andrew, didn’t think an old lady could do anything, so I was always on the rear of the cattle, pushing. One day, there was almost a stampede, and I was the one who rode out and brought them all back. Finally, I had proved that I knew how to work cattle and I knew how to ride, so my status elevated,” she noted.
Eventually, she was even given the privilege of being the lead horse, giving the cattle a target to follow as they moved out across the Outback.
“There were times I was going to leave the station, but Lee loved it,” Chaney explained, adding, “Almost every aspect of being over there – the time to appreciate so many things, not have distractions and be able to appreciate all of our loved ones at home – was such a life-changing experience.”
When the couple returned to the U.S., they knew that they didn’t want to go back to dairy cattle, but they were interested in beef. They found an opportunity in Virginia, where Lee managed Angus cattle and Chaney kept stalls for Arabian horses.
That first step back in the states led them to a series of other adventures as well, complete with tough decisions and life-changing choices.
“If spending a year overseas taught us anything, it taught us that we have to face tough decisions. We have to draw our faith in God, make the decision and dare to make a life change,” she said.
Most recently, Chaney has relocated to Nebraska, with her husband and two daughters – a move she never believed she would make.
“Three days after we arrived in Nebraska was Snowstorm Q. Three days after we arrived, there were 17 inches of snow,” she commented.
Yet, the family has found themselves at home at their new location.
“When we moved to Nebraska, people really thought we were crazy and thought we would only last for a year. We’re coming up on three years,” she stated.
Chaney explained that what other people think or say should not be what drives a decision.
“We have to be brave, have faith and try to take chances in life,” she remarked. “When we were in Australia, it made our marriage stronger, our faith stronger and that all helped in making the transition to Nebraska. Most importantly, we dared to risk life change.”