Ranch Wife Tryouts

This post was originally published in the Progressive Cattleman Extra- read it here!

I recently saw an ad on Facebook for “The Bachelor” of a bunch of very well- dressed young ladies feeding dairy calves and shoveling manure out of a cattle barn. It was kind like a train wreck- painful to watch, but I couldn’t look away! Mr. Bachelor looked mighty pleased with himself; surrounded by a bunch of girls that were literally turning green as their pretty clothes and fancy hair sucked up the “Odeur de Stockyards”. I thought, “Ain’t that romantic?”  I mean, is there no better way to gauge someone’s character than seeing how well they hold up in high heels while shoveling poop? It made me thankful for my barn boots and for growing up in agriculture, and not having to try-out to marry into it.

One frigid evening after work, I was feeding horses and checking the stock tank when it occurred to me that stopping at the house to change into more appropriate attire might not have been such a bad idea. As I started to crawl through the barbed wire fence, I remembered I was wearing a brand new coat that I had just gotten from my employer as an anniversary gift, and new slacks. The problem was, though, that I had already committed myself to the situation. I was trying to push the wires apart just a little farther than was really necessary, while gingerly attempting to crawl between them without catching my new coat on a barb. I realized, right there, that this is exactly why ranchers have to keep a separate wardrobe of “town clothes” and “work clothes”… and just how quickly a favorite piece of “town clothes” can be demoted to the “work clothes” part of the closet. Thankfully I managed to get through  the fence, check the tank, crawl back through a second time, and not fall into a snowdrift or tear anything.

I have learned, through many years of experience, to always have a second pair of extra shoes in  my car. Manure happens. It never fails that the more expensive the boot, the chances of it landing in crap increase exponentially the closer I get to the barn. I don’t know if anyone else has the same problem, but it could be twenty degrees below zero, and everything from the stock tank to the fireplace could be frozen- and the minute I step out the barn door in a pair of “good” boots, I would land in the only pile of unfrozen manure on the entire place.

Of course Mother Nature only makes living on a ranch even less fashionable. Sometimes I find myself looking around the parking lot where I work, jealously pining for a vehicle with paint that is still visible. Then I remember that clean cars and gravel road don’t exactly go together. Anytime we help friends ride or work cows, it isn’t unusual for everyone to be wearing ball caps rather than cowboy hats… thanks to the wind that never stops here, ball caps are easier to keep track of than a cowboy hat. Weather is always unpredictable. If the back seat of every pickup on our place is an indication, I could easily switch from a tank top in July to a parka, and back to a flannel sweatshirt at a moment’s notice. If you can find it, you can wear it.

If you have a real fondness for material things, don’t live with a cowdog. Cowdogs (particularly puppies) are probably the real reason ranch families can’t have anything nice. Most cowdogs don’t get to live in the house, and quite frankly, I am pretty sure they wouldn’t want to even if they could. (Let’s clarify, though, that our cowdog does indeed live in the house with us; in fact, he sleeps in our bedroom on his own dog pillow, because he is spoiled).  If you think a Lab puppy can destroy your shoes or home furnishings in a hurry, just leave your Heeler pup unattended for anything longer than a nanosecond. Chances are, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised. If they aren’t destroying something with their jaws, they probably stink from rolling in something unrecognizable; or have drug something dead into the yard and are waiting for your approval.

As for “The Bachelor”, while it was mildly entertaining, it showed the stark contrast between city life, and a life in agriculture. Life with livestock is dirty. Life with barbed wire and cow dogs is precarious, at best. Being at the mercy of greasy tractors, baling twine, loose hay, frozen water tanks, snotcicles, dirty trucks, and all the other things that come with a life in ranching doesn’t necessarily leave a lot of room for fancy clothes, manicures, or clean houses. Being a ranch wife may be messy, but at least I know there is never going to be a day when I have to clean the calving shed out in high heels and leggings!

Til next time,

Richelle

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