Francis woman says she was born too late
April 3, 2009
Brenda Bushell, by her own admission, was born a century too late. The 33-year-old working mom from Francis is a self-described "country bumpkin," equally at home quilting, canning, Dutch-oven cooking, roping a calf or building a fence. They’re skills she learned growing up on a ranch in Mountain View, Wyo., skills she’d have needed in the 1870s on the western frontier. Bushell is a study in self-reliance and darn proud of it.
She was born June 5, 1976, "the same day the Teton Dam broke," she’s quick to mention. She was the fourth of Rosemary and Bill Livingston’s six children. Growing up in Mountain View, a sleepy rural community near Utah’s northeast border, she remembers idyllic summers riding horses, working cattle, playing in haystacks, camping and fishing.
She attended Mountain View High School, where she was active in sports and Future Homemakers of America (FHA). She played basketball and was a star runner on the cross-country and track teams. A chapter president of FHA at age 17, she developed and presented two-hour seminars on financial fitness. "Running a household and budgeting always intrigued me," she explains. The seminars were popular among teenage girls from neighboring rural communities and propelled Bushell to a position as FHA National Project Chairperson. "My first trip out of the state of Wyoming was to a FHA convention in Chicago," she says. "Boy, were my eyes opened! It was a trip I’ll never forget but I was sure glad to get home."
Bushell’s high school graduating class of 1994 totaled 52 students. That same year she began her career with the U.S. Forest Service as a seasonal worker. "I’d worked before as a volunteer for the Forest Service building fences and really enjoyed it," she says. "I got a seasonal office job the summer after I graduated and just loved it. I decided to go to college to get the education I needed to make the Forest Service my career."
Bushell ventured 300 miles east to attend Laramie County Community College in Laramie, where she earned a double associate’s degree in business technology and accounting. She continued to work seasonal jobs with the Forest Service until 2004, when she got a full-time position as administrative support clerk at the Heber-Kamas Ranger District office in Kamas.
At the office, she’s often found huddled in the corner with elementary school students from all over the county, or young visitors from the Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center, enthusiastically telling them all about the Forest Service, showing them animal tracks and teaching them the importance of clean, healthy rivers and streams. "It’s absolutely my favorite part of the job," she beams.
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Bushell met her husband, Shane, in the summer of 1998 when she was working at the Bear River Ranger Station. "I noticed him when he came in but he was kind of shy and didn’t say much," she says. "He called three days later and said, ‘You probably don’t know who this is,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I know exactly who this is.’ He asked me out on a date and that was it. I was in a pretty serious relationship with a guy from Evanston at the time but I immediately dropped him cold. As soon as I met Shane I just knew he was the guy I was supposed to marry."
The courtship progressed swiftly and they were married four months later. The newlyweds moved into the house in Francis where Shane grew up and soon began their family. They have three children: sons Bo, 7, and Taigon, 5, and daughter Austyn, 3.
Bushell and her husband share a passion for hunting. "I love to hunt because that’s my time with my husband," she says. She points proudly to a photograph on her desk of her with a huge six-point bull elk she took last fall in the Uinta Mountains not far from Kamas. "I grew up eating elk and moose meat. There’s always some kind of game meat in the freezer and we eat everything we harvest. We also raise calves and pigs. I have never had to go to the store to buy bacon or a steak. We have meat every day," she says.
With three small children underfoot, there are few dull moments at home, says Bushell. "We get the kids outside as much as we can and instill in them the values that are so important to us. I made a roping dummy in the backyard and the boys spend hours out there practicing. We get together with our neighbors and their kids and reserve the Francis arena all summer. The boys rope calves and ride steers while the parents watch and laugh."
Bushell has also put her two boys in Little League wrestling, an organization sponsored by school coaches to identify and recruit talented young wrestlers as they enter junior high and high school. "The kid wrestle against league teams from all over the region," she says. "We’ve been to Randolph, Coalville, Ogden, Nephi and Morgan, as well as Kemmerer, Wyoming."
She is well aware that hers is a lifestyle not shared, little understood and often much maligned by many residents of western Summit County. "Our way of life is very different from those folks and there’s not a lot of respect for that. It’s unfortunate," she observes.
Amid the maelstrom of modern life, Bushell juggles career and family with uncommon grace and an abundant sense of humor. Drawing from her modest rural roots, she has created comfort and balance at home. Forever a country girl at heart, she has woven the rich heritage of a cherished past into the sometimes harsh fabric of 21st century life and gotten it just the way she wants it.
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Favorite things to do: "Head for the mountains."
Favorite foods: meat and potatoes
Favorite authors: Anita Stansfield and Louis L’Amour
Favorite music: Country
Animal companions: Little Ann, a blue heeler; Peanuts, the cow; horses Maybee, Rocky, Scooter, Paint, Pancho the Pony and "a new little filly waiting for a name."