Here they come! …Yearlings being moved back to their respective pastures, after some sorting down at the corrals.This is such a common scene from my window, that I forget how interesting it is till someone else is here, and rushes to the window to watch. I always enjoy watching, too, and so I grabbed my camera (oops, actually, my friends camera that I am borrowing) and snapped a few pics from the comfort of my dining room window. You won’t catch me going outside in the cold January wind, if I can stay indoors! Remember? I am a wimp.
They are supposed to stay on the lane going past my house, but inevitably, they must go around the back of my house, and woe is me if I have laundry hanging out! They also love to hang around the cars, licking the mirrors, slobbering on the windows, and scratching on the corner of my house. Until the cowdogs get at ’em. Bite ’em up, boys! This time it was the Boss and his dogs. He has well trained dogs that actually help him. They had those steers moved on past so quick I didn’t have time for many photos.
The Boss. The guy Cliff answers to, and works for. The guy that writes our paycheck. I feed him homemade bread occasionally. Just to keep him happy. Just kidding! He’s a very nice fellow. Loves the Lord. And he’s very patient with a certain crazy ranch wife who keeps shooting footage and photos of him at brandings, sortings, cattle drives, shipping, etc, etc. And he has the cutest 2 year-old little girl you have ever seen.
And here is a photo that I had to stick in, even though I can’t figure out how to tie in a Narcissus with cattle in my yard. I was playing around with previously mentioned camera, and loved this shot that I got of the Narcissus on my windowsill.
I was given a Pioneer Woman cookbook for Christmas. I had no idea how much it would inspire me. When I browsed through it at Wally World, I was only mildly interested. In the last 3 weeks I have made a total of eight of the recipes! The funny thing is, I am usually more attracted to the recipe books that have 100’s if not 1,000’s of recipes. Pictures are not important to me. Furthermore, there aren’t many new recipes in the book. Most of them I already have been cooking. I think its her writing style that draws me in. She makes me feel like I could step into her kitchen and start exchanging stories of ranch life, cowboy husbands, bulls ruining the garden, and gravy. Anyways, I love the book. I look at a few pages (or more) at least three times per day. I know – I am verging on obsessed. Its OK. Ranch Wives get lonesome. While my city-girl friends are texting each other, I am reading The PW Cooks, and chortling in empathy over the muddy jeans. Here is a review of the recipes I have made… Mac and Cheese ~ I loved it. But the kids are more used to the store stuff, and this was a bit thick for them. My Cowboy didn’t make a comment. He thinks anything besides the meat is just ‘filler’. His words, not mine. Meatballs ~ These were almost exactly like the ones I make every week. Except I don’t fry mine before baking. I thought maybe that made them better, somehow, so I did these just like she said. But then I was reminded why I never fry them. And I didn’t think it made them any better – just made a smoky house. We all liked them. (why did you think I have been making them every week for 10 years?) Meatloaf ~ I didn’t have bacon on hand to wrap it in, like she does, so I left that off. I am sure that is the crowning glory. But, again, this recipe is eerily similar to mine. Maybe one minor difference. Again, we liked it. Twice Baked Potatoes ~ This was the only recipe that I was really disappointed in. They didn’t have nearly enough salt, and they were too sticky. I like my potato stuffing light and fluffy. But the kids thought they were awesome, so what do I know? Chicken Spaghetti ~ I made this tonight. It is exceptional. Tastes like chicken enchiladas, American style. We all liked it. I think. (Casserole is filler.) Jalapeno Poppers ~ I made a 1/2 recipe of these last Saturday night, which happens to be our family movie/pizza night. My Cowboy and I scarfed them all down. Not that the kids would’ve been able to stand the heat, anyways. I was thinking that i am tougher these days, and so I left some seeds/veins in the peppers. (if you can handle the sizzle, she says) All I will say is that I drank copious amounts of liquid, and ate 2 cinnamon rolls, trying to get the heat out of my poor scorched mouth. (I can’t handle the sizzle.) Chicken Fried Steak. ~ I used elk steak, since I am too stingy to buy beef. I was scared it would be weird. I usually fry it plain, and eat with BBQ sauce. So I pounded and pounded that steak, and then followed her every instruction. It was good. But the GRAVY! I have made that kind of gravy all my life, but never combined it with chicken fried steak before. I was literally eating it by the spoonful out of the pan. The only sad thing about this story — I had made fluffy mashed potatoes, crispy fried steak, and creamy, hot gravy. I finished exactly at 12:00 noon. Then My Cowboy had to work late. Sadness. But he got his later. Maple Cream Sauce ~ I made it this morning. I tasted it this afternoon. I haven’t made a pie to pour it over, yet. But it tastes like liquid caramel. As a friend would say – “It makes me about go into a coma.” You get the idea. I may not make a pie. I may just hide it in the fridge, and take spoonfuls as necessary. Shh. Don’t tell My Cowboy. He might find it. Unfortunately, I have taken all the picture with my phone, and am too non-tech-y to know how to get them onto my PC from my phone. So there will be no pictures. You will have to use your imagination. It probably needs exercise anyways. (most parts of us do.) Have a cheery day!
I don’t ride much. Not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I am a mom, and its rather hard to find a babysitter out here on the prairie. And because I refuse to take my babies on these crazy ranch-broke horses. I have had 2 of my kids on runaway horses now, and its enough to give this mom a heart attack. So I usually stay at home. And watch My Cowboy ride away. (with longing eyes. ) But one time, he was needing some help pushing yearlings from one place to another. They had been leasing some land from a neighbor, and it was time to get them back to the X-Bar. No other cowboys were available to help, so I was drafted. I found a neighbor girl to stay with the kiddos, while I found some gloves and a felt hat that was too small for My Cowboy. It was almost too small for me, too, but I crammed it on my head and jumped in the truck with My Cowboy. It was a grey day, overcast and cool. I was a bit nervous, as I swung up onto the back of my horse, Diva. She was the calmest horse they had, according to My Cowboy. We started out at a walk. Soon My Cowboy asked if I knew how to post. He asks me every time we ride together, and every time I tell him that I do. He has a terrible memory. So we posted. Oh, you don’t know what that means, my non-ranch friends? Its a certain method of riding at a trot, so that you don’t bounce around and get sore. It is much easier on your posterior. And since cowboys cover alot of ground on horseback, they do most of it at a trot. Anyways. My Cowboy rode out to the farthest field to get those steers started, and I worked the field closer to the gate. Now, I have helped push cattle before, but I had never started a bunch of them alone. I didn’t need to know. Diva, my horse, knew exactly what she was doing. She bore down on a steer,and when it started to run, Diva turned and ran at the next one. I just hung on. I got the hang of it after awhile, and it was kinda fun. I still took longer than My Cowboy, and he had to come help me, once his group were all waiting by the gate. Then we opened the gate, and began pushing them down the road. (see post on Cowboy Lingo) It was pretty easy at first. But then we rode past several open gates, dirt roads, etc, and of course the crazy critters wanted to go anywhere except down the road. My Cowboy had his hands full, riding up one side and down the other, keeping them from escaping, and when one did escape, getting it back on the road. I couldn’t help much. I was supposed to keep them moving. I was at the back of the herd, yelling and trying to chase them out of the bushes and down the road. It would have been so much easier with one more helper. (where were you, Bill?:) there were a few cars waiting behind us. I wished they would have just drove on through. Slowly, of course. But nope. They just sat there. A few got tired of waiting and turned around. Poor guys. After 5 miles or so, we finally got to the X-Bar land, and it was easy from there on. We just had to push them a 1/2 mile or so to a water tank, and settle them. Cliff kindly volunteered to settle them, and I rode on home.
The days have been slipping past, in a rather slow and easy fashion. Nothing dramatic, nothing too exciting. Just life. The kids studying, the mom cooking, My Cowboy working, the family playing, eating, snuggling up in fuzzy blankets, watching Glenn Beck, Road to Avonlea and Andy Griffith…
It has been cold. Alot of below zero and single digit temps. And wind. And blowing snow. But that’s OK. I like the ranch. I am thankful I have a warm house, and I am thankful for the lessons God has been teaching me here in WY. Strength comes through difficulty. Roots grow deep in the buffeting winds. Grace is given in greater measure when I am at my weakest. I am learning to embrace my weaknesses. I am learning that the hard things in life are so worth it. I don’t mean hard, as in; hard work, death in the family, or sickness. I mean things like facing temptation every day, being wrongly accused, having to wait for prayers to be answered.
God doesn’t think like I think. That I know. But I want to learn to think like God thinks. (did that twist your brain a bit?
On the X-Bar…
My Cowboy has been recovering from having all four wisdom teeth pulled out at the same time. He refused general anesthesia. I mean, hello? He’s a cowboy. Cowboy Are Tough. At least that’s what he told me when I asked why on earth he would settle for local anesthetic. Well, his actual words were: “I’m tough. I can handle it. What do you think I am? Some kind of wimp?” (thanks alot, sweetheart, I had general!)
But that’s a standard answer I get from him on any number of subjects that include ‘are you sure you can handle that?’ or ‘It’s gonna hurt’, or I’m afraid I’ll hurt you’, etc, etc. He is tough. Alot tougher than me. I don’t even try to keep up. Hello. My name is Kay. I am a wimp.
The cowboys have been feeding the yearlings, the tractors are vivid green against the white snow. The yearlings stretch out in rows along the hay, gobbling up the green stuff as fast as they can. They cluster around the feed truck, jostling for a good position, but falling back as the feed starts pouring out, and they begin to eat. The cowboys ride through the yearlings every day. Searching for any sick ones. Roping them and the giving shots, lancing abscesses, and sometimes operating on them.
I look out my window and watch them push cattle through my yard, or running after a steer – rope swinging, and I think how picture-perfect it all is. I am blessed. So blessed.
And as for us here in the warm house – well, Lucia has started trying to say a few words. At last! She likes to squish down into the cracks in the couch-cushions, and yell: “I’m stick! I’m stick!” (stuck) Its rather hilarious! Another favorite phrase right now is: “Mom, Hop! Hop!” (help) that one is impossible to hear without laughing!
It was a Spring afternoon, in the Year 199-something. I was 15 years old. Old enough to know better than doing what I did. I had finished all the cleaning and other miscellaneous jobs that Mom had for me to do, and was going to spend an hour riding, before night fell. I walked out to the pasture where we had staked my horse out to graze. He was an old horse, extremely gentle. (or was that; lazy?) He was eating the grass that grew up in-between the corn stubble from last year’s harvest. I untied his rope, and tried to get on his back. It was too high, so I grabbed the 5-gallon bucket that we used to give him his water with, and turned it upside-down. I put it beside my horse, and stepped up. I flung my right leg up and over his back, and jumped up. Instead of sliding the rest of the way onto his back, my right foot slipped off his back just as I jumped, at the same time, the bucket fell over, and I came down hard on my right foot. I immediately was afraid of him stepping on me, so I slithered and squirmed out from under the horse. I needn’t have worried. He was calmly eating grass, and couldn’t have cared less whether I was on his back or under his belly. I knew I had hurt my foot, but didn’t realize how bad till I tried to stand. I couldn’t. My foot just crumpled. It wouldn’t hold my weight. As I lay in the cornfield, I realized that my foot was really hurt, and I would need help. I yelled and yelled. It took awhile before my sister heard me, and came out to see what I wanted. I told her that I had seen a crutch hanging in the shop, and to ‘Hurry, go get it for me’. I remember trying to crawl while yelling, and thinking that books make it sound alot easier than it is in real life – crawling with a broken/injured limb. When they brought the crutch, I managed to hobble with it back to the house. Mom looked at my foot, and it was swollen and bleeding from a cut in the ankle. It still didn’t hurt too horribly, shock, I guess. Mom knew right away that it was broken. “That hard, tight swelling means its broken,” she said. I believed her. After all, I had 4 older brothers that she had to practice with. She knew when a bone was broken. So off to the emergency room. Now, remember, my family was poor, and we had no health insurance, so my Dad would talk to the staff at the hospital before he would let them touch me. I sat there in the waiting room, and watched country music movies on TV while Dad argued with thereceptionist for what seemed like ages. By now my foot was beginning to throb. Finally they must have come to an understanding, and they took me away to be x-rayed. (Note – before you judge my dad, you have to realize that only several years earlier, this same hospitalcharged us thousands for an episode with my baby sister, where they didn’t even do anything for her. They had threatened us with a collection agency then.) So, they did their x-rays, and said; yep, broken bone. Broken heel-bone, nonetheless, which they said was a hard bone to break. Took alot of force, they said. I couldn’t figure that, since all I did fall off a horse, and I wasn’t even completely on the horse when I fell. They gave me an orthopedic shoe, and some crutches, and said go home and start walking tomorrow. No cast. I was bummed about that. I had managed to break 2 bones in a little more than a year, and neither of them were breaks that needed casts. Casts were the coolest thing – you could ask all your friends to write something on them. So I went home, and then the pain really set in. I moaned all night with pain, being too ignorant to know there was such a thing as Advil. My brother was rather ticked off by morning. ( I guess the moaning kept him awake.) He asked me ‘why I didn’t take some Aspirin‘? “I didn’t think of it,” I said, feeling a bit foolish. By that evening, mom’s experienced eye realized that my foot was getting infected. She took me back to the Dr. He said that there was likely some piece of cornstalk in my foot, and he would try to pick it out. But my foot was too swollen to be able to numb it, so he would have to do it without numbing it. Yikes. I tried to not cry. I was 15, for pity’s sakes. But I could not help moaning. It hurt like the dickens, and bled all over the bed. He had these wicked, curved little scissors, that he went straight into the wound with, and cut and dug around with them. I can see his face in my minds eye to this day. I guess because I focused on his face instead of the gory, bloody scene on the bed. And perhaps because it happened several times. That’s right. He couldn’t find any thing, so sent us home. Two days later, it was getting worse. Mom soaked my foot twice daily in Epsom salts. She put her favorite ‘drawing’ salve on, which gave me an itchy rash around the wound. She finally took me back in defeat. Here we went again. Curved scissors. Digging in the open wound with no numbing. Bleeding all over the place. Me moaning. Nothing. I would be shivering with cold, and sweating with pain at the same time. It was awful. So the Dr. decided to get serious with it. He scheduled me for surgery. Said I wasn’t supposed to eat anything before I came into town. But to take my antibiotics like usual. I complied. But by the time the 9 am appointment rolled around, I was sick to my stomach, with all that antibiotic on an empty stomach. I sat in the freezing hospital room, and what do you know? the Dr. decided that it wasn’t serious enough to operate on, so he would try once again to get something out with his wicked scissors. “We already tried that,” I felt like screaming at him. But I didn’t. I was still in awe of Dr.’s. (I have lost all awe by now through sad experience.) So back into the wound with scissors. As before, pain and blood was all it produced. So we left. By then, the antibiotic and pain had my stomach in a turmoil.My dad had taken me to the hospital, so he stopped at a convenience store to buy me something to eat. I embarrassed my self horribly, and vomited in the parking lot while Dad was in the store. I was so humiliated, and so sick. But my dad was a trooper. when he came out and seen what happened, he calmly got a water-hose that was hanging on the side of the store, and hosed the area down. I could’ve hugged him, had I not been so nauseous. Well, that was the last of the Dr visits. I think Mom was rather upset with all the pain he’d caused me with nothing to show for it. She kept using the Epsom salt, and kept me in bed for weeks. Meanwhile, the antibiotics took care of the infection, and I slowly healed. But That wound refused to heal. Mom was sure there was something in there. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to be able to go to church, and go play with my friends. I couldn’t swim that whole summer, cause of the open wound. The bone healed, and I started walking on it. It was 3 months later… my brother had gotten married that day, and I had been limping all day, cause the dress shoes I was wearing had been rubbing on the still-open sore. When I finally got to relax that evening, I was changing dressings on the wound, when I thought maybe I seen something in it. I touched it gingerly – yep. Something pokey. So I squeezed around the wound, and what do you know? A piece of cornstalk as big around as a pencil, about an inch long, came out! I guess when I fell in the cornfield, a piece broke off inside my foot, and it just took a long time to work its way out. I was in shock. After three moths, I had almost resigned my self to having an open wound on my ankle forever. We saved that piece and showed it to that Dr. He was as incredulous as could be hoped for. My foot healed up in a few days, and now all I have to show for it is a tiny scar, and some wonky nerves in that foot. I guess that Dr messed some up when he was gouging and digging with those little scissors. But I am glad that it turned out well. And taught me a few lessons in the process.
My Cowboy is not easily frustrated. He is an ‘even keel’ kinda guy. Which is a good thing. As my mom would say, he ‘takes everything in stride’. And he does. Example: Last Tuesday, he had to do some machinery transferring, from one ranch to another. I forget the details, but I know that him and another cowboy had to drive a tractor, and a truck/trailer over to the Monolith, which is maybe 15 miles away. Well, I know the truck/trailer got back, cause I seen it sitting in the ranch yard. But that evening, when I asked the usual: “how was your day?”, My Cowboy said: “Well, it was a rather unproductive day. We have machinery scattered between here and town.” “What happened?” I asked, wonderingly, in my mind’s eye, I was imagining a tractor every quarter mile, for 20 miles.
“Had some flats.” He answered, calmly.
I thought: ‘OK, so they had a few flats, no big deal.’ and went back to making my supper. Later that evening, when I went to Bible Study with my friend, who happens to be the other cowboy’s wife, we passed the machinery along the road. First the tractor, then the bale buster. We both chuckled, but after talking about the incident with her, I realized again that My Cowboy really does take things very calmly. Even though he was in charge of the day, and had two (if not more) breakdowns, he wasn’t even upset about it. It was just a part of life. It wasn’t his fault, he couldn’t have prevented it, so why get stressed? Sure, It made more work for the next day, and sure, its a pain when you have two pieces of machinery sitting by the road with flats, when you need them the next morning to feed yearlings, but hey, that’s life. Roll with the punches. He is not gonna let it ruin his evening at home, he will just think about it later. When he needs to.
Which reminds me of one of the first times I actually noticed him… My family was driving to Central America. We were going to a tiny country called ‘Belize’. To get there, we had to drive through Mexico. (That was before all the crazy drug violence you have now.)
Anyways, so after driving four days and three nights through, everyone was very ready to get there, and wash some dust off, and quit bumping along pot-holey roads. Well, not more than an hour or so from our destination, we have a flat on the van. I clearly remember Cliff getting down and changing that tire. I have a picture to prove it. But the remarkable thing to me, and the reason I noticed him, was that he just did it. He didn’t say one word of complaint, or utter one groan of despair, or anything negative. He just rolled up his sleeves and went to work. (well, maybe his sleeves were already rolled up. We had no AC in our van, and we were in the tropics) Anyways, I just remember the irony of the situation; Here it was our van, our trip, our family, he was just along for the ride, and yet he was the one doing the hot, dirty work, while we all moaned and complained. Well, some of us complained. I forget who did and who didn’t. And I think my brother or my dad helped with the tire, some. But it was Cliff’s coolness under pressure and a difficult situation that won my heart. And his cute grin. But don’t tell him that I said that – He doesn’t think men are supposed to be cute!
Sometimes, in ranch world, we use strange terms. I know this, because I have had to ask many times what My Cowboy was meaning, and I am fairly well-read. Or at least, I thought I was. I have read westerns and pioneer books, but that didn’t do me much good when it came to being a cowboy’s wife. One thing to remember, is that most western movies are styled after the famous Texas style, and that is not the only kind of cowboy. Believe me. Its all about where you live. Or in some cases, where you wished you lived! There are strange mixes and crossovers – cowboys taking what they think is the best of 2 or 3 styles and mixing them up. There are cowboys who wish they could live in Texas, but are stuck in Wyoming or Utah. But I will give you a short non-conclusive list of some of the most common terms and styles of cowboys that I know of.
Note: I am not an authority, simply a ranch wife who has picked up a few things over the last 4 years, and certainly I have a few cowboy friends who read this who will probably chuckle when they read the mistakes I have made. Don’t worry – I shall ask someone before I put this chapter in a book!
Humor first~ I read this online, and it made my day! Some people obviously think they know more than what they really do! “Hats: Although a necessity at one time, is now considered more of an accessory to complete the western look.” OK, this guy (or gal) has never been a cowboy. Trust me. And ‘used to be a necessity’? Since when has the sun gotten less hot? or the wind less cold? Global warming, you say? that should make the sun hotter, right? he-he.
OK, back to the matter at hand… In Texas you see the typical movie gear – hats that are referred to by My Cowboy as ‘taco hats’. They use 30-40ft ropes and they tie hard and fast, meaning they tie one end of their rope onto the saddle horn. They often have tapaderos on their stirrups, ya know, those things that protect from the cactus?
Our good friend, Curt, from Texas. He’s a true cowboy. And has a lovely family. Note the hat.
In southern California, you have Vaqueros, (I think) and they more closely resemble the Spanish influence. Don’t ask me about their style. I forget.
My Brother-in-law, Marcel. he is kind of a mix! But the hat is similar to what My Cowboy wears.
Then you have the buckaroo, which is the most like My Cowboy. Flat hats, they dally their rope, and they (usually) don’t have tapaderos. They use long 60 ft ropes, and they work Black Angus cattle, not the longhorns that run in Texas and on the movies. They also wear felt hats more than straw, because they deal with alot more blizzards than what Texans do. (DO Texans deal with blizzards?) Anyways, you get the idea. I wish I had a photo of each style. When you see them side by side, it is kinda interesting. But cowboys are a bit like Mennonites – when they aren’t side by side, they all look the same!
Now for some common misunderstandings…
What it means: To herd, or to in some manner cause the cow to walk in front of you to a desired location.
What it doesn’t mean: To actually lay hands on the beast, and push, like you do to a car that doesn’t start.
Have a wreck
What it means: That is when your horse decides to buck, spook, or just act generally dumb, causing it and/or the cowboy to go flying, or be drug, or any number of unpleasant things. Ask Cliff about wrecks.
What it doesn’t mean: To have a wreck with your truck. Although that has been known to happen, as well.
What it means: In Texas language, “round-up”. To circle the cattle with your hoses, and herd them to a holding pen.
What it means: A small pasture that is used to keep cattle close together, so they can be found the next day.
On the Prod
What it means: Mad. Aggressive. Ready to do battle with whoever is in the way. Irritated. (This term is also used for humans.)
Bronc-ey. This one should be self explanatory. All I have to say, is: “don’t ride em.”
Woofy. When a member of the bovine species is kinda ticked off, kinda crazy, and/or ready to charge. Keep your distance.
Disclaimer: these meanings can be different depending on the circumstance. This is a general understanding. And there are many more, but I have had a sudden brain fog, and totally forgot the others, so that’s it for today. If any of you cowboys/girls want to throw one in I forgot, please do!
Have a cheery day, and Ride The Brand. (Do whatever it takes to be loyal and true to the outfit you are working for.)
Now that the cattle are gathered together, the cowboys get them into the smaller loading pens. They chase them down the alley, up the ramp, and onto the trailer. The truck driver, outfitted with rubber boots and a cattle prod, stands just at the back of the truck, giving out generous jabs and yells to help with the whole process. Or at least they think they are helping. I don’t think the cattle act much differently, whether they are there or not, from what I have observed. No offense to all you truckers.
When the trailer is full, the driver yanks the rope, letting the door clatter shut, then the truck pulls away. The next truck in line backs into position. (I always like to see the line of cattle-trailers sitting on the ranch on shipping day – it means that alot of young stock are leaving, and that means less work for My Cowboy!) Anyways, some chutes are easy to get to, unfortunately, the one here on the X-Bar is kinda squirrelly. Someone had the bright idea of building a bunkhouse right smack in the middle of the ranch yard.SO every truck that comes in, has to drive in around the bunkhouse, and then back up at an angle to the chute. They can’t do it in one try, so they pull forward, and back up. Pull forward, back up, and so on, sometimes one foot at a time, till they are straight. Some are better than others, and some take forever.. But I am always glad its not me that is behind the wheel. I hate maneuvering vehicles. Finally, they get into position, and start loading again.
Sometimes the loading goes smoothly, and sometimes the ornery critters decide that they don’t want to go up that chute today. So the cowboys yell. Make weird noises. Send in the dog, who usually makes things worse. They yell some more. They poke and prod and jump up and down. You wouldn’t believe the crazy things cowboys do to make cattle move. I am embarrassed for them. Or at least I used to be. Now its just funny. ‘Cause any other time they are so dignified.
They will eventually get a steer to run up the chute, and the rest usually follow. Once, a heifer was so worked up that she went running down the alley, and jumped right over the gate. That particular gate was being run by the boss’s wife that day, and she was rather startled to have a cow go flying past her face, unexpectedly.
When the last yearling goes on the truck, and the the truck rolls away, the cowboys stand around and exchange bits and pieces of interest from the morning. The Boss gives some instructions, and sometimes they tell a few stories. That is the best part of the day. At least for The Cowboy’s Wife.
To a cowboy, shipping means long days horseback. It means early mornings and late nights. It means riding through all kinds of country, gathering young cattle together, and pushing them back to the shipping pens. (by ‘pushing’, I don’t mean with your hands. Some would call it ‘herding’) Shipping means hard riding and beautiful vistas. Sometimes it means riding through freezing winds. And occasionally, it means getting a chance to rope a bear. Not that they do. Or should. But the chance. Something about being horseback with a rope, make every cowboy wanna rope anything that they come across. I don’t understand it, myself. Who in their right mind would try to rope a bear? But some do. Some, like My Cowboy, refrain from trying only because they know they are the sole provider for a family, and are too responsible to risk getting hurt. Bless him. But he still thought about it. Which I would never do. But I digress. For the ranch wife, on the other hand, shipping means something a bit different. It means stumbling out of a warm bed in the predawn darkness. Trying to stop yawning while putting on the coffee, and frying the sausage. Mumbling a sleepy: “Be safe”, before crawling back between the sheets. It also means waiting for My Cowboy till late in the evening. Waiting. Feeding the kids at 7 pm, and still waiting. I don’t want to be the paranoid wife that is always calling, but I finally give in, and call his cell phone. No answer. Maybe he is doesn’t have service, I reason. After all, he s riding back on some in-the-booney-ranch, who knows? So I wait. Then I call again. and again. After the 10th try, I give in and call the other cowboy, the boss, and the boss’s wife. The boss’s wife answers, but hasn’t heard from them either. That’s about the moment true worry sets in. You could probably call it ‘suppressed panic’, too, but that would be a bit embarrassing to admit. I start thinking of the time the boss was drug along, with his head banging the ground, unable to free his foot from the stirrup. Or the time my cousin got dumped and banged his head so hard he had temporary amnesia. Or the time the boss’s partner lay, wounded, in the pasture…or the time my own Dear Cowboy had a horse wreck, and forgot where he was or what happened. I begin to pace, and watch the lane. About when I am planning his funeral, and what I am gonna have to do to support myself and three kids, I see truck lights. Relief. Such relief. And then as I realize he’s safe, just late, with no call, I don’t know whether to yell at him or hug him. When he walks slowly in the door, bone-weary and dog-tired, with a quiet: “Hi, honey, sorry I couldn’t call ya, my phone was dead.” I hug him. He is so innocent. So tired. So hungry. So worn. I haven’t the heart to tell him that i was so scared that he would never walk in the door again. So scared that my stomach hurt. So I feed him warmed over food, and fresh coffee. I ask him where he was riding that day, and where he will be riding tomorrow. I don’t tell him that the reason I want to know is so I know where to go search for him. He doesn’t need a crazy wife. He just needs a bed. ‘Cause it starts all over at 4 am tomorrow. And before I go to sleep, I thank God that I have a husband to care for, for another day.
Note: Shipping happens in early fall. I write in random order. As you may have noticed. Enjoy. Photo credits go to Axel Selter.
2011 is blowing in with gusto. The sun is peeking through the gray clouds in orange and yellow streaks, and the wind is blowing snow in powdery clouds across the ground. The cold is seeping into the house, undeterred by the caulking I so carefully put around the windows this fall. The temperature huddles around -2 or so, not accounting for the 20 mph Windchill, which is rumored to be about -20. I don’t like to think of the Windchill. It is, in fact, a very normal day for us, slightly cooler perhaps, but certainly not uncommon.
Today I plan to stay indoors and put a puzzle together with my kids, maybe sew a little, maybe watch some Andy Griffith. Meanwhile, My Cowboy is battling the elements for the health, indeed, the very lives of the young stock in his care. They have lost a few head in the last week, and that is not a good thing. Sometimes the weather wins. Sometimes the cowboys win. It is a constant battle. But its what a man is made for, I think. To struggle against the odds, and win. To succeed at a difficult task, to throw all their energy and will into conquering, and to conquer. Its what makes me feel safe with My Cowboy when we go camping, its what makes me unafraid in any situation with him, and its what makes me want to pull my hair out at times! But for all you that work or study indoors most of your time…this is why My Cowboy is not as eager to spend his one precious day off, to go work like crazy on a basketball court! No offense to those of you who like sports, of course.
We do have some fun here on the X-Bar, though. A few days ago, we all piled into the suburban, including another cowboy, and went sledding. We drove through the ranch to find a hill suitably steep for our sleds. We went sliding, spinning, and plowing through snowdrifts so deep that snow went spraying up on each side of the suburban. Since the land was more or less flat, I didn’t mind, but when we started spinning when we were close to a fence, I ‘almost’ screamed. I didn’t want my new rig to get scratched. Well, its not really new, but it is new for us. My Cowboy just laughed, and said that it already had some dings. He delights in making me nervous on snow. He says I have an unreasonable fear of snowy roads. He’s right. I admit it. While I rarely/never scream about mice, snakes, or even my deadly fear – spiders, I will, on occasion, scream about a snowy road. Or at least, I used to. Till I married My Cowboy. It makes him grin. And I don’t like to feel like I am being childish. (which of course I am.) So I have willed myself to stop screaming, and just accept the fact that I will likely die on an icy road, someday.
Back to sledding. We found a spot that looked good. A hill right beside Lake Sodergreen. ( yeah, we do have a lake on our ranch.) So we haul the sleds out, and take turns going down the hill on the big toboggan that My Cowboy made over Christmas. It has tin on the bottom, 2×2’s for a frame, and a plastic ‘curl’ at the front. Oh, and a old extension cord for the handle. When I asked My Cowboy why he used that, he said that “it was handy”. Smart. Not necessarily rustic or cute, but very smart. I thought the sled looked rather heavy and unwieldy, but I didn’t say anything. It was a good thing I kept my mouth shut, too, cause that homemade sled is the best sled I have rode on in a long time. Maybe ever. It goes fast and smooth.
Then My Cowboy tired of sledding down a straight hill, with the only challenge being to stop before you go over the bank and drop into the canal. So he formed a new sled-trail. Down the hill at an angle, over the snow-covered road, (2-track dirt road) and down the bank onto the lake. It was certainly a longer, faster ride. And more interesting. At least to the cowboys, who thought it funny that I would scream over a fast sled ride. I explained that I was afraid that the combined weight of My Cowboy and I on one sled would result in breaking through the ice. Which wouldn’t be a good thing in 8* weather. But My cowboy just grinned, and said that it would hold us. He is so annoyingly right, all the time. It did hold us. In fact, while the guys alone would end on the lake, with my added weight, My Cowboy and I went clear over that corner of the lake, and partway up the other bank.
Then the other cowboy decided to use the toboggan as a snowboard. I have to admit, it crossed my mind that it would be funny if he fell headlong, but nope. He was good. He stayed upright the whole way. Crazy guy. Unfortunately, it was just too cold to stay real long, and we ended up going home soon, because of the bitter cold. Hot Chocolate and marshmallows, anyone?