What I've Learned from Bill & Shelly Carroccia

This is the first in a series of “What I’ve Learned.” I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs, Little Things and Curiosities. Throughout my life, I’ve been lucky to have friends and family who have taught me more than any textbook ever could, and this is my small way of honoring and thanking those individuals.

The first edition of What I’ve Learned features Bill and Shelly Carroccia, the wonderful owners of Sweet Grass Ranch, located outside of Big Timber, Montana. I was lucky enough to connect with them while searching for ranch jobs — Shelly told me they had an opening, and just days after my 18th birthday, I hopped on a plane to the last, best place. While I was struck by the raw beauty of rural Montana, what really got to me was the people — the kindness, the care, the feeling of a family. I worked for three summers at Sweet Grass, and they’ll always stand as the best summers of my life. Carefree nights mixed with days that taught me everything I needed to know about life, love, and the meaning of hard work. At the forefront of the good times and lessons learned are Bill and Shelly, some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. Their story is long, diverse, and fascinating. Hopefully one day you will all get to sit down with the two of them and a glass of Scotch to hear all about it. In the meantime, here’s what I learned in four years of knowing them…

Pick somewhere beautiful to call home. It will never get old, and you’ll forever have a wonderful place to share with those you love most.

Live simply. There’s truly no way better way to spend an evening than a good meal, a glass of whiskey, a fire, and a guitar.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. It’ll teach you a thing or two.

Work hard. Don’t complain, but don’t let anyone let your hard work go unnoticed, either. Learn to stick up for yourself — you’re the only one who truly can.

Use your manners. Practice proper dinner etiquette, say “yes, please” and “no, thank you.” Hold the door for others, be kind to your elders, and take your hat off at the table. It will all come in handy one day.

Wake up early. There’s a big world out there, and oftentimes, the best moments can be found in the early hours of the day.

Be kind to everyone you meet. Even if you don’t think you’ll like them, you can learn from them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion — even if you don’t agree with it, you must accept it as their own. You can roll your eyes later.

“I do” really can be forever, and true love really does last a lifetime.