To his friends in the Cariboo, he’s Adam Runnalls. To a nation of viewers, he is Farmer Adam, the cowboy who didn’t even make it onto the show Farming For Love but was there in the promo material during the lead-up.
Runnalls was slated to be one of the farmers in the cast who would attempt to meet a potential life partner. Due to production logistics, he was unable to take part in the series. That didn’t stop the prototypical Cariboo man from getting plenty of romantic interest on social media (and even calls to The Observer) trying to earn his attention.
While he is disappointed he didn’t get a chance to directly meet some of the thousands of applicants who specifically wanted to live the ranching lifestyle, he’s nonetheless very careful about potential connections. He has been down the dusty trail a time or two, so he knows how complex life can be, and how easy it is to fall under a false spell about cowboy life.
An indication of that reality was how he only saw about half an episode of his former program, which just wrapped up this past week with a double-episode finale. He was just too busy cowboying and farming, about 16 hours a day, six days a week. There are potential love connections out there who are into that lifestyle, too, but it’s a niche population.
“Cowboy culture is in, because they think it’s like Yellowstone, and it’s not, or like Heartland, and it’s not,” Runnalls said. “I see them on TV throwing hay bales, and there’s no snot running down their face, their jeans are perfectly creased, their shirts are nice, they’re barb-wiring a fence and where’s the blood? There’s nobody scratching themselves saying (series of expletives) because they’re bleeding now. Where are the mosquitoes or blackflies or blue-bottles? People see this scene that seems so romantic, but where there’s cattle and horses there is manure; where there’s manure, there’s flies. There’s mice, there’s rats, there’s bugs, and a bunch of other things. They don’t see that part of real life. They don’t see that on TV.”
There’s a lot more to Runnalls himself that doesn’t meet the eye. Yes, he’s a tall, handsome, working cowboy but like most who ride the range, muck the barn, and get bounced around a corral, there are unexpected angles when you hold that life up to the light.
He has lived in Quesnel, Williams Lake and Cache Creek but he wasn’t born in the Cariboo. He was raised in southern Ontario and got an early taste of ranching on his grandparents’ cattle operation on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron).
He became a Jays fan watching Dave Stieb and Ernie Whitt live at Exhibition Stadium. He was a sea cadet and learned the craft of sailing to the point he moved to Victoria to teach it. He got his pilot’s license. And he met a woman who seemed like a life partner so much so that he moved to her transplanted region and took up the ranching lifestyle she brought him into. He became a cowboy in the Cariboo.
The relationship didn’t last, but the profession did. “And now I’m a contract cowboy. Whoever wants me, gets me,” he said.
He was hired for a few years to help start up a farm from scratch and get it to the point of profitability in the Squamish area, which he did. He credits the business acumen to his grandparents back in Ontario because “you couldn’t work on their ranch unless you went to ag school. It was smart farming,” he said.
The cattle industry kept calling him back to the saddle, though, and that’s where he is today, donning his cowboy hat and duster, pulling on his riding boots and buckling up his chaps. He knows if you’re an experienced ranch-hand yourself if you pronounced that word with an “sh” not a “ch.” Any real rider knows its a pair of shaps, when spoken, and “citiots” pronounce the “ch” sound like they’re for dry lips or something. (The contraction word is derived from the 19th century Spanish word “chaparajos” which is pronounced shap-a-RAY-ohs.)
He also bristles when people add the redundant term “buttless” chaps. If they had a butt covering, they’d be pants, now, wouldn’t they? The defining feature of the garment is the lack of butt covering.
But these are just semantic details, pet peeves. Scrutinizing the cowboy lifestyle reveals true codes of conduct, mostly out of professional necessity, some of them more social in nature, but Runnalls said that cowboy code isn’t as redneck as one might imagine, and certainly not unworldly.
“Cowboys are not all idiots, thank you,” he said with an incisive laugh. “Some of us drink fine wine and insist on good grammar, and don’t think Donald Trump should have gotten away with grabbing women without their permission. I don’t chew tobacco, I don’t smoke, I put a napkin on my lap, I eat good food, I don’t think you should shoot a bear just because it walks across your yard, and I read a lot of books, especially biographies. I like to golf.”
He also likes to text using full sentences with proper punctuation and no emojis, but he’d be willing to bend on some of those things for the right woman. That is, after all, why he was involved with the TV show in the first place. He wasn’t trying to kickstart a television career or boost his personal brand. (No pun intended, but let’s enjoy it anyway.) He was looking for love.
“You’ve got to have a person. There has to be someone to come home to, someone to eat and clean with, someone just to talk to. I talk to my dog and my horse. It’s not the same,” he said.