1. a woman who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, especially in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of her work on horseback.
2. a woman who exhibits the skills attributed to such cowgirls, especially in rodeos.
Well, let me tell you – I don’t go about ‘most of my work on horseback’. I mean, pretty hard to wash dishes from the back of a horse.
Or change a baby’s diaper.
Or mix up bread for dinner.
Besides that – I really prefer to keep the animals outside. 😀
OK, enough silliness. But seriously. I get called ‘cowgirl’ a lot. And while I know it’s meant to be a compliment, (and I take it as such!) I really don’t like being called that. I am not a cowgirl in any sense of the word. I do not tend cattle most of the time. Sure, I am an extra hand if there’s work that needs done, I can bottle-feed a orphan calf or give a shot if needed. I can certainly stand in the gap and help direct cattle, I know a little bit about moving cows with just the right amount of pressure, (walk through enough cow-pastures, and you figure that one out pretty quickly!) I can gather strays a’horseback, and move cattle in a pinch.
But that’s not my day job. That is what I do on the side. I have a husband who does that stuff for a living. He rides, ropes, doctors, tags, brands, cuts bulls, dehorns, micro-chips, settles, pulls calves, moves bulls, all between fixing fence, building corrals, and if needed – fixing machinery.
I usually introduce him as a cowboy. He will invariably reply that he isn’t a cowboy – he is a ranch hand. Partly because he doesn’t spend all his time horseback either. He does a variety of ranch jobs. (partly because ‘cowboy’ can be a Hollywood, rodeo-type term. that’s not who he is!)
I would describe my self as a ranch wife. I am the cook. The baby lover. The gardener. The filthy-jean washer. I make sure there’s hot coffee and fresh bread. I make the grocery runs and take the kids to the dentist. I make sure my Man has a warm house and a soft chair after a long day working cows in a blizzard. In short – I keep the home fires burnin’.
I am a wife and a mother. If I can sneak in a little cowboy work here and there – great! I enjoy riding – though I rarely ride these days. I enjoy working with cattle, although most of my experience is bottle-feeding calves. I think I would enjoy roping, but I haven’t had the chance to learn so far. Oh, I can throw a loop at the ropin’ dummy, but catchin the dummy and roping off of a horse are two different things, I hear.
I know there are lots and lots of women who do both. They ride all day with their men, packing the babies right along. Stick their kiddos on horseback from a tender age – and that’s OK! I admire these women. I really do. But my husband and I are pretty cautious with our little munchkins. I guess losing one does that to ya. In our experience – it’s not IF you will have a wreck on a horse, but WHEN. And while I do love seeing my kids get out and ride with their Daddy, I don’t think I could forgive myself if I was totin’ a baby and we had a terrible accident. (And don’t talk to me of ‘safe’ horses. No such thing)
So, when it’s cattle-working time, the husband and older kids load up their horses and ride away, and I stay home with the babies. And you know what? It’s OK! I like to be a housewife! I really do. Yes, some days I look at my daughter coming home all windblown and tanned, and I think: “how does she get to go have all the fun?!” But mostly, I am quite satisfied with housework. I will have plenty of time to learn to rope once my babies are a few years older. There are a lot of years left to rope, and really – I could be the best ‘cowgirl’ out there, and yet, what kind of legacy would that leave? None. My kids, on the other hand – no time spent with them is wasted.
I have lots of memories of my mom working, and when she did – our home didn’t have that cozy, ‘mom’ feeling. It was a rushed, tired, cold kind of place.
When she was at home – there was fresh pumpkin pie, music and she would be singing.
I loved the sight of Mom in the kitchen – wearing an apron and stirring jelly or rolling out pie crusts. When she was working, however, there was a hurried, unsettled feeling. The dishes didn’t get done as fast, the meals lacked mom’s special touch, and the house was often left go. Oh, us kids had to pitch in and help, don’t worry. We didn’t have much of a chance to laze around in the mornings, or anytime, really. And that part was OK. But I just wanted mom to be in the house. Granted, we weren’t ranchers. Dad was a logger, and mom operated a home bakery that was just in the back yard. Would it have been different had we been riding together? possibly. But then again – who doesn’t enjoy coming home to a delicious meal after a hard day’s work?
I know that the days I work with my husband, I don’t feel like cooking, cleaning up, doing laundry or anything else that evening. I just want to sit down and rest! So, while I do enjoy an occasional day working with him, most of the time I would rather be a ranch wife. At home, creating a warm, inviting haven for my family to return to. Not perfect by any means. But relaxing.
With Mom in the kitchen.
Will it always be this way? I doubt it. As the kids grow and our herd grows, I am likely to be out there helping more and more. But my home will always come first, and I still want to be known as a ranch wife.
Did you grow up with a mom at home, or did she work? Does that factor into how you treat this issue?