The term “marital bliss” used during any moment of working cattle at the ranch is said only with the greatest sarcasm. It denotes an impressive amount of verbal restraint indicating the likelihood of an explosive flood of expletives building behind a failing dam of good sense.
Husband and wife ranchers represent the best and the worst of wedded teamwork in sustaining their livelihood in remote locations that come with their own kind of difficulties. If they weren’t speaking to each other before the work happens, they wisely will refrain from it during and after, if only to save on the accident insurance.
A cowboy husband usually has high expectations of his only help, the little missus, when it comes to bailing him out of a bind that he won’t admit he probably shouldn’t have gotten into in the first place. Those expectations don’t lessen with the increase of age—his or his bride’s.
Cell phones have made it ever so much easier for him to get some help when he’s roped himself into a place of needing a second set of hands. The sound of that “ring ring” brings with it both dread and aggravation because it means drop whatever you are doing and come running.
“Bring a rope, a tie down string, pliers and the pickup. I’ve got a heifer down. Now!”
This is coming from a cowboy with a bit of gray around the ears and a few skeletal parts that have been surgically replaced, so the days of roping, tripping and doctoring alone are a thing of the painful past. Add to that a green and very fresh young horse, and yes, probably wasn’t the best recipe at this time for the project, but it happened.
The wife in her mucking-out-the-house wardrobe of cut-off pants and a T-shirt takes a minute to throw on socks and shoes, races around to gather up the ordered items and drives off across the pasture not knowing quite sure where he is exactly. Sure enough, “ring ring.”
“I’m over here, your drove right past me,” he says with not-so-veiled aggravation.
She gets turned around on a rough two-track road, drives back across the pasture and finds him with a yearling heifer he has tripped, lying at the end of the rope dallied to the saddle horn. The wife takes the tie string, ties up the two hind feet, puts another rope on the front feet and hands him the rope. He switches ropes, stretches the heifer out and the wife gets the pliers and begins pulling porcupine quills from the less-than-happy heifer’s nose.
The cowboy bride has thoughts of, “I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff” as the heifer thrashes and fights her restraints. She gets the job done with a measurable amount of huffing and puffing and for reasons known only to him, the cowboy is a tad testy when it’s all over. She doesn’t ask why, or really care at this point. She gets the ropes off the bovine who jumps up and takes off at a run.
Ensuring the beloved feeling of the moment now that the crisis was over, he says to her, not “thanks” or “appreciate the help” but a sure-fire gunpowder moment: “Sure wish I had a camera to get a picture of you in your Walmart shopping clothes.”
And, as they say, that’s when the fight started.
Julie can be reached for comment, if you dare, at email@example.com.