When 22-year-old Megan Mitchell returns home from her full-time job each day, she still has plenty of work to do. In the barn her father built, where she stables her three horses for most of the year, Megan typically spends her afternoons cleaning stalls. Then she puts out water, hay and grain before bringing the horses inside for the night. In the morning, Megan feeds them again and turns them out to pasture before heading to work. But Megan, who also manages the three buildings on her 10-acre farm, doesn’t see her chores as a burden, but as a connection to her family.
Megan took over the western Kentucky farm when she was just 19 years old. Eight years earlier, her courageous, independent spirit was forged in the fire of tragedy. By age 11, Megan had lost both her parents, Martha and Gordon Mitchell, in separate accidents.
Megan spent the rest of her childhood living with her uncle, Greg Mitchell, and his family. Along with WoodmenLife life insurance benefits, Megan received the monthly WoodmenLife Orphan’s Care Extra from 2010 until she finished college in 2020. The stipend helped Megan pay the farm’s bills after moving back to her childhood home in 2018. “WoodmenLife has been great to our family,” said Greg.
When Megan was five, she survived the auto accident that took her mother’s life. Gordon spent the next six years as a single parent before his own life ended tragically. “My dad was my best friend. We talked about everything,” Megan remembers. “We were two peas in a pod, pretty much.” Gordon passed on his love of horses and rodeo to his daughter. He trained her first horse, taught her to barrel race and served briefly as president of her rodeo club before he passed suddenly.
Resilience runs in the Mitchell family, fueled by a positive outlook and a robust Christian faith. Greg Mitchell lost his own father and another brother years before Gordon passed. As a young man, a motorcycle accident left Greg reliant on a wheelchair. But none of that stopped him from giving Megan a loving home and healthy experiences.
Determined to show her that life wasn’t all pain and loss, Greg made sure Megan spent time with her friends and took her on family vacations. Despite his wheelchair, he worked with her to maintain her farm and horses and kept her active in rodeo. “It was a very rough first year after my dad passed away,” said Megan. “I think being able to still rodeo helped with that adjustment. Rodeo family is second to none, definitely. And I had a lot of people in my corner.”
“She won almost every rodeo event she did,” Greg said. “She qualified for State and then for Nationals. We drove to Gallup, NM, twice. I did whatever I needed to do so she would not miss a beat.” Greg’s pride shines through when he speaks about his outgoing niece, who became president of her high school class and of the local FFA chapter.
Megan is deeply grateful that Greg helped her keep her parents’ farm and for his family’s effort toward her rodeo activities. “It was a total life change for him, too. They aren’t horse people, and they were having to haul me around the state and learn how to be rodeo parents. It was hard for him and hard for me,” she said, describing the first years living with her uncle. “We butted heads at first … but now, I would say that we’re definitely a lot alike … I would do anything in my power to help him, and he’d do anything in his power to help me. He’s who I call whenever I need help.”
Megan completed her bachelor’s degree in agricultural business at Murray State University in December; in January, she began a master’s program in agricultural economics at her alma mater. Along with her farm duties and her job as an account specialist at Farm Credit Mid-America, she still finds time for rodeo activities.
Megan feels proud that her community remembers her parents as a warm, happy couple. People tell her she looks like her mother, Martha. Megan’s brave spirit was influenced by her late paternal grandmother, Janie Oliver. It was Janie who first made WoodmenLife part of the family when she became a member in 1978. Megan’s beloved “Granny” battled breast cancer on top of the tragedy that swept through her family. “My granny was the strongest person I’ve ever met. With everything she went through, she was still able to be an independent woman … and she was a very positive person. In every rodeo video, you can see her clapping and screaming with joy.”
But it’s Megan’s horses and farm that truly sustain her. Her home is blessed with childhood memories, especially her father’s barn. In the warmer months, Megan gets a break from cleaning stalls and pitching hay, letting the horses roam the fenced pasture freely at night. But she still finds herself in the barn on many days.
“My fondest memories with my dad are in the barn, learning about horses, how to ride, and all the other responsibilities of caring for them,” she explained. “When I am in the barn, it’s like an overwhelming sense of peace, and all my worries tend to go away. I have cried many tears and laughed many laughs there, and it and the horses have always been the one steady thing in my life that doesn’t change, outside of God.”
Protecting your child when you can’t is important. That’s where we step in by offering $1,000 monthly for the care of members’ children if they are orphaned1.
WoodmenLife provides monthly payments for each child until age 19. If your child is a full-time post-secondary student, the payments will continue until age 22.
Find full eligibility requirements at WoodmenLife.org/Extras/Orphans-Care-Benefit
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