In honor of my main man’s birthday today, I’m writing a post today about birthdays on the ranch, and what it’s like being married to a cowboy.
I’d love to write a whole post about all of his excellent qualities, complete with poems and pictures, but it would embarrass the living daylights out of him (and not in an endearing, oh-gosh-you-shouldn’t-have kind of way, more like a remove-that-post-now-you’re-nutty kind of way) so I won’t.
Not directly, anyways.
He’s a low-key guy, so we usually do low-key birthdays. This year, his big gift was from me and his parents–a new pair of shotgun chaps. But they arrived early, so he’s already been wearing them for a few weeks, womp womp. But, I’m glad because he loves them and we’ve had some chilly days. And three inches of rain yesterday. London, you can take your weather back anytime.
This morning, we had chocolate donuts with sprinkles for breakfast, and I surprised him with a few little presents–a new rope, and some books by Dr. Ben Green–because you just can’t have a birthday without a little surprise! I also made him his favorite cake–German Chocolate–which doesn’t get made much because it’s got three layers and uses something like six or seven bowls, and always makes my kitchen look like a toddler ran amok.
Which, someday, will happen. Saints preserve us.
Amok! Amok amok amok amok! Ten points if you can name the movie.
What to Expect (and Know) When You Are Married to a Cowboy
(disclaimer: cowboys/ranchers/etc. are people, so they’re all different. But from the last two years of marriage, and almost four of living together on ranches, this is what I have found to be generally true)
1. Don’t expect him to have weekends off.
The grand, vast majority of the time, we have Sundays off, and I almost always have Saturdays. He usually works on Saturdays, but tries to come home early. It’s his day to catch up on little things that didn’t get done during the week, or get some cows moved around in preparation for next week. However, sometimes working cows has to fall on a Saturday, so you just say okay! Gals, if you’re missing your fella on the weekends, you have two options: a) go with him! Even if you’re not ranch-y, I’m sure he’d love the company. We’ve had tons of fun loading in the truck with a couple of sodas and some chips to put out salt or check on cows. or b) embrace a husband-less house, if you’re like me and like to get things cleaned and organized when no one else is around because cleaning turns you into a tyrant and it’s best for all involved if you’re alone :)
2. You are always on something else’s time.
I don’t say someone’s, because we’re all really on the animals’ time. This took a lot of getting used to for me, but in the end, it’s sort of the job description. There have been many times when we’re getting ready to go to dinner, or about to eat, or relaxing watching a movie when we get a call or a visitor telling us a) cows are out b) something is sick/hurt c) there’s some other kind of problem. Like they drove through a fence. Sometimes things can wait, but sometimes you have to stop what you’re doing, or turn back around, and go get cows off the road so old Mrs. Peterson doesn’t hit one again, or MacGyver a solution to get barbed wire unwrapped from a steer’s foot with nothing but your pickup and some twine, and your wife is no help because you were on your way to town and she’s wearing tiny flats, for heaven’s sake. This has happened, and it was awesome, and we even made our dinner reservation!
Our rule, though is that cows/horses/dogs take a backseat to human births, deaths and nuptials, an some milestones, except in cases of life-threatening emergency on both ends.
3. There are certain times of the year when you feel like he’s never home. Because he isn’t.
This is not because he doesn’t love you anymore, or because he wants to be gone all day. It’s because it’s a busy season and he has animals and other people relying on him. These times can be true at weaning, when there’s a lot of work to do, but especially at calving, and especially if there’s a storm. Calves are dependent upon him to stay alive, and their mothers are sometimes dependent on him to deliver the calf, so that’s going to be his priority for awhile. Again, go with him! Even if you’ve never done it, he’ll be grateful for the help and you’ll love to see all the baby calves. Bring cookies, and you’ve just won yourself some major points, my friend.
4. Jeans. You will go through them. Rapidly. Also shirts. He will disintegrate them faster than you thought possible. Causes and reasons for these phenomena are unknown.
No matter what brand he wears, you should probably just take out stock in the company because you’re about to contribute a whole lot to their bottom line. I can’t even tell you how it happens. But I can tell you the Wrangler has a couple of mail-in rebate sales each year that we anticipate greatly because you can save a pile and feel like you’re sticking it to the man.
5. Vet supplies–bovine, equine, canine, feline, porcine–you name it. They’ll be everywhere.
This includes (unopened) needles and syringes in the wash, in his pockets, in his sock drawer, in your sock drawer, in every vehicle and coat that either one of you owns, and likely in every room of the house. It also likely includes veterinary penicillin in your refrigerator, oxytetracycline in your laundry room, boluses everywhere, and Resflor on his dresser. It’s okay. And, humans can take oxytet (an antibiotic) in a pinch, just in case you didn’t know. Just drink it! Apparently it’s awful.
6. He will spend ungodly amounts of money on leather and silver goods.
This includes, but is not limited to: boots, chaps, saddles, bridles, bits and spurs. However, he uses these things every day, while he’s working hard, and they last a very long time. And, it makes the price tag on your favorite pair of boots (or purse–purses are like saddlebags, right??) much more justifiable. And who knows, maybe you will also accumulate your own collection of saddles, headstalls, chinks, boots and spurs yourself, if you’re lucky (double luck if you have a father-in-law or other friend/relation who does leather work!).
This also goes for hats. But, he’ll look so handsome when he wears one that you won’t mind at all.
7. Pickups. You’ll have ‘em.
So, learn to drive one. They’re big and fun and can fit all kinds of things in the bed. Like furniture. On a whim.
8. Dirt. It’ll be everywhere.
It’s okay. I don’t judge, and neither does anyone else who understands that you live in your house and that even Swiffer doesn’t make anything spiffy enough to keep up on the dirt all the time.
9. He’s doing what he loves.
So, it helps if you love it, too. You certainly don’t have to love all of it (because I guarantee he doesn’t, either), but finding your favorite things will make life easier and better for the both of you. You’ll find something, it’s hard not to. It’s also hard not to get sucked in when someone is so passionate about something. Also, baby calves. Also, baby horses. Also, baby bunnies.
10. His co-workers are more than that.
These guys have each other’s backs in dangerous and stressful situations. They’re a team. They spend long hours together, doing hard work that they love, and will help each other out. That might mean that his Saturday is spent helping another guy doctor calves, or fix his pens, or work some heifers. I am so grateful that Bert has such excellent coworkers, because it makes things so much more fun, and less stressful, for the both of us.
Get to know them! They’re nice, and pretty fun! Don’t be the bee-yatchy wife who never comes out of the house. Unless they show up randomly, and you are wearing your bathrobe and look like a swamp beast because it’s not even sunrise yet. Then, feel free to stay inside!!! This doesn’t mean you have to show up everywhere with cookies and covered dishes, but if you do, call me, because I would love a cookie right now. Or maybe six. Six cookies.
11. Expect that sometimes, he’ll smell…unique.
When your husband/SO/person is involved with animals, outside, working physically, outside, in close contact with animals, and their poop (and more!), sometimes it’s better if he takes off his clothes off in the mudroom. Or outside. Unless you have neighbors. Then the mudroom is a good option. Straight into the washer. This is not for clandestine encounters, or gettin’ a little somethin-somethin. It’s for ohmyheavenswhatisthatsmell. And unidentified crusts, stains and bloodstains.
A tip: sometimes, the dumpster is the best option. For the clothes. Not the husband.
11b. Expect that sometimes, you will see stains on clothes, blankets, sheets, towels, the floor…
…and you will have no idea whatsoever what it is, but suspect it is mammal-based. Go with it. Simple Green dissolves anything, and when in doubt, grab some bleach. They sell it by the gallon! For cheap!
12. Mustache wax is a thing.
Don’t run it through the dryer.
13. Expect to learn how to cook with beef, if you don’t already.
Because you’re probably going to get at least a half a beef every year as part of his paycheck or for a discounted price. Mosey on over to the Pioneer Woman’s website. She’ll hook you up!
14. Expect that you’ll love him more than anything
Because I bet he’s a pretty cool guy. Even if he smells a little funky sometimes :)