Last year I gave you a handful (ok 2 handfuls) of things that I've learned as my time as a rancher's wife. Let me tell ya, that was not an all included list. There are so many gems out there. If people really only knew all the truths of making it married to a cowboy they would say we live such a bizarre life! So as weird as you may think I am, I have another 10 lessons I've learned.
- There gonna be dirt. And manure. And mud. And dust and grit and weeds and anything else dirty you can think of. Ok so that isn't too much of a stretch to imagine all that until you start to think of all the places this dirtiness goes. If it's on your boots it's on your floor. If it's on your pants it's on the couch. If it's on your hands it's on every blasted light switch, door handle, counter, key, or button you touch! So this is my advice: DON'T EVER CLEAN!! It's all going to be messy all the time, so don't worry about putting any effort to it… Ok that's not how I roll. I do clean. The barn dirt and germs can stay in the barn but you have to pace yourself. Or hire a maid. I'd really love a maid…
- Learn your 1st aid and always keep band aids on hand. It's one if those Murphy proof things. If your prepared it's not gonna happen, right?! Actually no... Cowboys think that they are either invincible and nothing will happen to them or they are can handle any type of wound or pain. And that leads to another lesson- know how to MAKE them stop and get real help. My rancher is pro at washing it in the ditch and calling it good. It's only after I make him go to the doctor that he realizes that a pretty intense infection has set in and I was right.
- You can hope for a set dinner time but don't be heart broken when he's late. In fact, that is more of the rule than the exception. Some machinery will brake down or a pipe will break or he might just forget what time dinner is on. That gives you two options- you either start eating without him or slap a smile on your face and wait. Its as simple as that.
- Ranching and cowboying can be tough work but that doesn't mean it isn't fun. They really are just little boys playing with bigger toys. Having to saddle the horse to go rope a bull or load up the motorbike to bring in a few strays might be their job but that doesn't mean they don't get any thrills out of it. You might think then, that since they play all day on horses and tractors and bikes that when they can really go play, they will head out to do something else. But likely not… With any free time they will head to some team roping or start working a new colt or take the bike up in the mountains. Some days its hard to know what is work and what is play! We just roll with it and jump in no matter what he's doing.
- There will be so many hats. So many!! And I'm not talking figuratively. Sure, there is that too- he is the vet, the mechanic, the feeder, the farmer, the business man, the irrigator, and the milker. But right now I mean to tell you that ranchers have so many hats. They buy a new swather and they give him a new hat. He gets a load of feed in an he given another couple of hats. The vet comes around and has a handful of hats to give away. But he still needs a good cowboy hat to the keep the sun off of him so every few months its time for a new one of those. And not to mention that that he needs felt hats and wool hats in the winter. And heaven forbid it when a new hat comes in, we throw an old one out. You'll get some sort of response like, "But it has a lot of good life in it!" or "I just got it to fit me just right!". It may be greasy, grimy, poopy, and sporting a nice sweat ring but it MUST stay. Just call him a hat collector and move on… (and sneak a few out to the garbage during spring cleaning!)
- Just because you don't get a paycheck from the ranch doesn't mean you don't get called into work. In fact, you are on call… 24/7… no weekends, holidays, or even birthdays off. You have to have a really good excuse like in the hospital having a baby or on the couch with a broken leg to get off the hook. You never know quite what to expect when it is time to drop everything and go help. It could be something quick like stand on the road to turn the cows or come help moves the trucks to the next field ready to farm. But it could be in the middle of the night because you have to help with the calving. Or it could be an all day thing and you are sent on a parts run. I guess that’s what you sign up for when you marry a rancher, but you could always try to guilt him into a nice foot rub at the end of your long day!
- Have you ever seen a cowboy in a tux? I mean, aside from a wedding, where the groom was threatened within an inch of his life that if he didn't where his tux on the MOST important day of his life his bride would throw out his favorite rope, slash the tires on his truck and smash his best cowboy hat. His formal attire looks a lot like his work attire except that its clean. He will still have his boots, belt and buckle, jeans and a good western shirt topped off by his favorite hat. If its super fancy he might throw on a tie, but you can guarantee that it won't last the night. I've been told that I can get all fancied up and it will work for the two of us. Naturally, If I'm dressed up appropriately for whatever event we are at, he is too simply by association. Honestly, I stopped caring… So long as he is clean and doesn't stink, jeans and boots suit me just fine!
- You will find that no matter the experience you are trying to help him relate to, he will find a way to compare it to ranching. You want him to understand that you are trying to eat nutritiously and he starts talking about feed supplements and offers you a salt block. You are trying to help him understand that he has to move the furniture when he vacuums and he realizes its much like how he has to move the wheel lines to cut all the hay. The best is when it comes to having babies, nursing babies, and raising babies. He is the expert in this field since every year he helps hundreds of mothers and babies. I guess that means that he is trying to get it if he is making the effort to make the comparisons.
- This next little lesson was a hard one to take… A rancher isn't always that sympathetic. There is no room for weakness in cowboying. It doesn't matter the reason you need a little pat on the back… If you want to be out with the guys you had better suck it up and tough it out. After enough days of trying to get a "thanks, honey" for the late nights checking cows, early mornings haying, painfully cold days calving, or sweltering afternoons of hot fencing I've just decided its not gonna happen. I guess when your job demands that you show up no matter the conditions, you just expect it out of everyone else. And wives are no exception… Darn it…
- When its movie night, just go for the western. You will never go wrong with a little gun play, a few pretty ponies and the handsome cowboy saving the day. When in doubt go with John Wayne or Tom Selleck. Or if you have the time you could even go with Lonesome Dove (although I have to admit, I have only done that once… and I think that’s plenty). Fortunately, there is a plethera of great old westerns that will make your cowboy proud to ride and a little more manly at the end of the night.
Here's one last bonus thought… Crap runs downhill, therefore stay upriver, upwind and out of the spray zone!