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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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Love is Enough. UP TV is expanding its slate of slate of original programming next week when the reality family series Bulloch Family Ranch debuts on Wednesday (July 17) at 10:00 PM ET.  The show, which will follow new episodes of the scripted family drama Heartland, is set for a six week run.

Bulloch Family Ranch, which plays like a cross between an unscripted Blind Side and the classic seventies TV show Eight is Enough, chronicles the dramatic everyday adventures of Julie and Rusty Bulloch, a fun-loving working-class couple that juggles multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Together, they are the proud “parents” of more than 25 kids.  Only two, Amanda and Brodie, are biological.  The rest are teens who have lived at the Bulloch Ranch during various times of dire need.  The Florida ranch serves as a place where troubled teens are welcomed with open arms and given a chance to get back on the right track.  We watch as Rusty and Julie act on their commitment to give all their “kids” a stable, caring, nurturing environment along with the tools they need to become productive adults. I previewed the entertaining pilot and will offer my review next week.

Till then, here are some highlights from a recent conversation I had with Julie and Rusty about how they met and what it’s like to see life on their ranch turned into fodder for a TV series. As you may gather, Julie’s the more talkative one but, when Randy finally decides to jump in, he has no trouble expressing how he sees things.

JWK: How did you two meet?

JULIE BULLOCH: I guess the first impression that we had (was when) I was introduced to Rusty by my girlfriend. She was my best friend and she was Rusty’s best friend. We had never met. She introduced us by saying “Julie, I want you to meet Rusty. He’s an athlete and I know you’re an athlete and I think you’ll have a lot in common. He can do something and there’s nothing you can do to stop him.” I said “Like what? and she said “Well, he can knock your feet out from underneath you.” I laughed. My comment was “Yeah, right” and, before I got it out, I literally was on my back. He did a little scissors kick and swept me off my feet. So, it’s kind of a big joke around here.”

JWK: Did you meet at a dance? How’d that scissor kick come about?

JULIE: He was a wrestler in high school.

JWK: So he literally swept you off his feet with a wrestling move?

JULIE: Yeah…He was still wrestling in high school at the time and I guess it was just natural and it was funny — and it worked.

JWK: How old were you two when you met?

JULIE:
I was 18.

JWK: So you were both still in high school.

JULIE: I had already graduated. Rusty was in his last semester of high school.

JWK: So, was it love at first kick?

JULIE: We became really good friends. It only took about three months of being together all the time for us to realize that we care for each other. We started dating. We dated for four years, off and on, and have been married for 28.

JWK: How long have you owned the ranch?

JULIE: We have always lived out in the country.  Where we are right now, we have been here a little over four years at this particular place. We had a much larger place before. At that time of our life, in our early fifties, our son had gone off to college and my daughter was getting married.  We decided that we just couldn’t keep up all the land and stuff, so we downsized.

JWK: How did you start taking in troubled kids?

JULIE: (Rusty’s) looking at me because the first one was, I guess, kind of my deal. We had a young lady that was part of our life since she was around 13 — through our church. She loved horses so she would come out and ride the horses and clean the stalls in exchange for riding the horses.  She was five years older than my daughter, so my daughter looked up to her. When she turned 18 she was in that “I’m an adult now! I graduated!” (phase). Her and her mom clashed.  She comes from a good family but they clashed like normal teenage girls and moms do.  She was all set to move out on her own. I knew she wasn’t ready and her mom wasn’t happy with it. We just offered to let her come and share a bedroom in our house and live on the ranch and it was just what the doctor ordered.

JWK: This was on your larger ranch, before you downsized?

JULIE: Yes.

JWK: Over the years, how many kids have you taken in? I read an article that said 25.

JULIE: We’ve had more since then. We only take in two at a time — financially and because you need to spend time with them. You can only spread yourself so thin.

RUSTY BULLOCH: In all, we’ve had right at 29 or 30 that’s actually lived with us.

JWK: That takes a big heart. Have your kids always been okay with this?

RUSTY: That was one thing that we always did is we always included both our kids. When God placed somebody in our life that we felt we needed to help, we sat down with the kids and said “Okay, you know, here is, you know, Wilson, and we think he needs help. Are you all okay with it? Every single time we brought a kid up they were like “Yeah, mom, it’s cool. Yeah, dad, it’s cool. Just go ahead.” Faith played a big role in it too.

JULIE: They had to give up a lot. They had to be unselfish because they had to share everything.

JWK: Do you keep in touch with the kids even after they leave? Do you maintain a relationship with them?

RUSTY: Yeah, we pretty much know where everyone of them is — but don’t put me on the spot and ask me because I won’t remember. With things like texting and Facebook, it’s a lot easier to keep up with them because in a few minutes you can send them a message (like) “How’s school?” or “How are you doing?” We pretty much know where the bulk of them are right now.

JWK: Do you your biological kids maintain friendships with the kids who have passed through?

RUSTY: They pretty much stay in contact with the bulk of them…If any of them ever come into town, you know, both of our kids are just as excited to see them as we are. We’ll have a kid fly in from, say, Pennsylvania and Brodie and Amanda are like “When are they coming over? We’ll be there!”

JWK: How did this show come about?

JULIE: About three years ago (creator/producer) Ian Wisniewski of Peace Point Entertainment was looking for a horse for a show about a day in the life of a chimp.  Our horse was needed for the baby chimp. He said “I’m from Canada and I don’t know much about American families but, when someone walks on to your property, it’s like they become family.” We never looked at it that way. This is just what we do.

(Note: Recalling the meeting, Wisniewski says “I honestly can say that I’d never been to a place with so much going on at one time. I was struck by how immediately welcome and comfortable I felt with them.”) 

JWK: Was there any concern, or do you have any concern, about privacy — both for yourselves and for the kids?

RUSTY: There’s been no concern up to this point. If the show gets really big that will be an issue (but) God got us through 30 kids. He can sure get us through something like this.

JWK: What do you hope people take from the show?

JULIE: Just that a family goes through good stuff, happy stuff and sad stuff. We stick together as a family. There are still families that pray together and eat together. It’s all about family. We just hope everyone sees that and says “I can do that with my family too. It doesn’t take money to make kids happy. They need love. They need a hug. You can’t do it all. Sometimes it’s better to cut back financially and give them your time.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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