Jennifer Ramsey watched as her daughter, Grace, counted profits from her balm sales. It was a lot for a 9-year-old. Almost $400.
“What are you going to do with the money,” she asked her daughter. The mom knew what she wanted to hear. But she had to wait for Grace to make that decision.
The Ramseys live outside of Ault, and it, like many homesteads out in the rural parts of Weld County, draws the wind like a dragon kite.
Out there, the wind blows the dry air against your skin hard enough to crack glass, let alone tender flesh. That wind gave Grace an idea.
Grace, to be honest, didn’t need more ideas. She is now 10 and does well in the fourth grade at Windsor Charter School. She plays basketball and club softball and soccer, but she also competes at the Mathnasium. She raises chickens and sells the eggs to support her 4-H projects. She even reads to children at a day care and mothers her younger sister, Isabella.
But as Grace rubbed balm on a rough spot on her hands, she grimaced — only it wasn’t at the pain. The balm is the same used by rural folk on cow and sheep udders to prevent cracking. They also use it to soothe their own dry, damaged skin.
It’s practical, like many things around a ranch, but it also smells bad, like, well, many things around a ranch.
It smelled like sheep, Grace thought, and she should do something about that.
The family found a way to melt the lard in the microwave and, using simple recipes and oils, put in scents. They call them “stinks.”
Jennifer called the finished product Gracibella Balm. It comes in 11 scents, like lemon and orange and vanilla and spearmint and, yes, grapefruit. Those smell a lot better than sheep.
Perhaps that’s why others wondered where she got it. Grace saw an opportunity to start a balm business.
They spread the dining room table full of small jars and Grace spent what little free time she had on filling orders.
They started selling them around Christmas, a good time for gifts such as those, and pretty soon she had earned the $400.
Jennifer asked Grace what she wanted to do with it.
Grace admitted she had her eye on a Kindle, so she could watch movies and play mind games and read a book. Nothing, really, she told her mother.
“I had a hope,” Jennifer said, that Grace would donate the money. “But I didn’t guide her or lead her. It would have to be her decision.”
Grace brought up the 36-hour radio-a-thon run by 105.9 FM, a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital. They were listening to it while dashing home in between events. Grace said that sounded like a good home for the money. Jennifer admitted she was proud.
The balm business has done well and this year they have made more than $500 so far after handing out flyers to friends, teachers and other parents.
There are always orders to fill. Grace now has a Kindle — she got it for Christmas — and she got a few more chickens. Once again, she knew she had a lot of things.
Grace knew someone else who had less. Ginny McBurney of Windsor has cancer and no health insurance. She is a day-care teacher.
But she volunteers for the Treasure Island garden off the Poudre Trail in Windsor, a community garden that remains one of the landmarks of the trail, and Grace worked on the garden with her a few times. McBurney’s also brought her grandkids out to play on Grace’s ranch.
Grace decided to give McBurney the $500 for her medical bills.
“It was humbling,” McBurney said. “It’s difficult going through the treatments, but this really helps.”
When she’s asked how donating the money made her feel, Grace shrugs.
Pretty good, I guess, is what she seems to be saying. But there’s no time to gloat. There’s homework, and a couple more orders to fill.
— Staff writer Dan England covers the outdoors, entertainment and general assignment stories for The Tribune. His column runs on Tuesday. If you have an idea for a column, call (970) 392-4418 or e-mail email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ DanEngland.