The Dude Ranch Diaries: Tattoo

“I will never get a tattoo.”

I spoke those words adamantly as his BMW sped along the curves of the northern California hills. They fell somewhere between my “I love Jesus,” spiel and, “I don’t mess around, so don’t mess with me,” speech. It was approximately an hour drive from the airport, due north towards the ranch, and our conversation (steered by me) covered all my essentials. Meanwhile, I observed with clear caution the large green pot leaf tattooed on his right arm with the cursive, bold, black words scripted, “God’s Gift,” as I shared my I don’t care what you do, but this is how I live beliefs.

“You’ll get a tattoo by the end of the summer,” Mr. Chef replied quite confidently.

“I’m sorry, but no, I will never get a tattoo,” I replied with gusto.

I was so sure of myself at the beginning.

Yeah, things clearly changed.

I shared an A-frame cabin with two other girls, or was it three? By the end of the summer, I had the place to myself because the other girls had either left, or moved into the cabins of their boyfriends. The cabin was one room, with high ceilings and a small deck out back overlooking the stables. Each of the four corners had a twin-sized bed, with a ragged old couch and a couple worn out shelves and dressers scattered along the available wall-space. Our front door didn’t fully close, which I positively accounted to the rustically, “roughing it” experience. Living. The. Dream. I must admit I was somewhat relieved when I had the place to myself because we all had to share a tiny bathroom.

In this tiny bathroom, there was small plaque that was push-pinned into the wood paneling. Squished beside the small shower, and toilet cubby space, and above the sink and dirty mirror were these influential words, that would absolutely affect the way I lived out the summer.


“If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what would have happened if you had done it.”

-Ashleigh Brillant

Ever since the moment I muttered the word “Never,” I knew I’d live to regret it. Because early into the adventure, early into the craziness, I realized that I kinda, really wanted a tattoo. Not just that I wanted one, but I had a sense that I needed it. Back and forth, back and forth, I prayerfully struggled with my “no tattoo” beliefs. And each morning before work, and each evening before bed, those words would inch their way closer to my heart.

Until I let go…

I started thinking of ideas. Rustic. Cross. Horseshoe. Something to commemorate the dude ranch experience, and the things that helped get me through. And once my creativity took way, I knew I was a goner. I knew I needed this tattoo of my dreams.

I sent my ideas to my best friend back home, because I wanted her to draw it! It would add to the “meaningful” part of the experience. She sent me a few designs…


Then I responded to her revisionary ideas… and then she sent THE ONE. It. Was. Perfect. This tattoo would be more than ink etched into my skin. It would be proof that if I could survive this ranch experience, then surely I could survive anything!


The day after my 20th birthday, Mr. Chef to whom I proudly proclaimed that I would never, ever get a tattoo, not only drove me to the tattoo parlor near the ocean, but he also purchased it for me as a birthday gift!

I really enjoyed the experience. My dear (I say that sarcastically) friend, decided that he would describe the pain as similar to a couple hundred bees stinging me all at once. However, for the hour or two that the tattoo artist was working on me, the most pain that I felt was having to lie on a metal table in the same position for that amount of time. The monotonous buzzing sound would have eased me into a sweet slumber, had I not been so uncomfortable. Though, much to the tattoo artist’s excitement, I jumped a bit as the ink tore into my ankle bone. “Oh I got you there!” he stated satisfied.

Next to me was a sociable lady being tattooed for the who knows how manyth time. The current tattoo was a black outline of two coffee stains. She told me the story of how she and her significant other met in a diner, and the intertwining coffee stains resembled their love story.

The only negative detail about the tattoo experience was that I got it with a few weeks left in the summer – which meant a couple weeks without hot tubs or swims. We also poorly planned our trip, because we went to the ocean after I was tatted. So it was all looks and no feels with Mr. Pacific Ocean.

Originally, I had planned on keeping the tattoo black and white, like the image my friend had drawn. That would keep it nice and affordable for the wallet of Mr. Chef. However, while the tattooist was sketching out the actual tattoo, he recommended creating a larger image, as well as adding shading and color. Generously, he offered to stick to his initial quote in price, and with that information, Mr. Chef and I were sold! Here’s how the finished product turned out with a glistening coating of Walgreen’s A&D ointment:


  • Cross – Jesus, my center, my everything, especially through the terrible times.
  • Wooden – To fit to the rustic, ranch theme, and as the cross was – two wooden planks that our Savior was nailed to.
  • Flame – A combination of two songs that helped me survive the summer – “Consuming Fire” recorded by Hillsong UNITED and “Consume Me” by DC Talk.
  • Barb-wired heart – God, as my consuming fire, is the true lover of my soul. And though I didn’t know it at the time, it is also a reminder of God’s ability to redeem us from our painful memories and experiences. Can I get an Amen? Plus, do you see the cool “S” at the bottom? Yeah, that was on the bone…
  • WWJD – I know some people think it is cheesy, but really, “What Would Jesus Do?”
  • Horseshoe – To commemorate my love of horses, line-dancing and the ranch experiences. It is facing upward so that the luck won’t spill out. Which is one of the better lessons I learned from my boss.

Oh… You’re wondering how my mom felt about it all? Apparently, I told her it was going to be smaller. But, don’t worry, after the shock wore off, she eased into enthusiasm about it, and its message.

And I must say, I have not ever regretted it. I knew, like the grand message of the small plaque in our miniature bathroom, that had not done it, I never would’ve known, how much I would adore it.

So what’s your story: “If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what would have happened if you had done it”?   

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s