A few weeks ago I sat around a television screen and watched an Australian series called, “Jillaroo.” A jillaroo is an Australian cowgirl. On this particular show my friends and I watched in fascination as five women from urban backgrounds spent a month on a farm in rural Australia. During this month they were taught numerous skills that would help them later obtain jobs as jillaroos. Things like branding cattle, riding a horse, feeding sheep and fixing fence post were all part of the learning process.
The women in the series enjoyed living in the rural atmosphere and they even got to participate in a local get together. They loved meeting the community and getting involved on a local level. The whole program was positive and upbeat. It brought a new sense of life to both the students and the farming community. The farmer had five farmhands and a month's worth of volunteer work while the women realized they were stronger than they thought they were. They also realized how farming and ranching isn't just a job, but a lifestyle. The ranch owner was very careful to put each woman in that mindset. One of the students was a nineteen year old single mom. She loved the work and seemed to be pretty good at it, but when reality hit she decided the rural lifestyle wasn't the best fit for her and her two year-old son.
Another student was a woman in her fifties who had recently been fired from a journalism job. She had never rode a horse before the beginning of the show. By the end of the month she was riding a horse, sheering sheep and branding cattle. She enjoyed the work but her fear of hurting animals kept her from making a full time career out of ranch work. She took away a greater appreciation for cattle owners because she realized how hard they work to take care of each cow.
By the end of the series the women mustered cattle while local farm owners evaluated their skills. One woman was offered a job on the spot and two others later obtained farm jobs as well. The coolest part about the series was that it was something that could be done on any family farm in Oklahoma. I've often said that urban folks are amazed by cows and farm life, but here was a television show proving it.
So take away the television crew. Why couldn't this be a reality for Southwest Oklahoma? We already have everything in place. All we need is a farmer who is patient enough to teach. I can think of numerous farmers who would make excellent hosts for men and women who are eager to learn about the day to day life of a farmer and rancher.
The idea behind jillaroo school is more than just entertainment. It's about joining two people types together. It is stretching each other's minds to bring respect between communities. That's what it's all about. This is tourism on the most fundamental level, but it's not just tourism, it's understanding how other cultures live. It's opening minds to a new way of living. With the internet and technology we now have, that is what people are craving. They want to get out of their dull routines and experience a different way of living. So how can the community open its arms and invite visitors in to an authentic experience of every day life? Here's one idea.