Monday, January 14, 2013

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The story behind the story

By Julie Carter

There are some constants in life you can count on and in ranching it’s no different. Guaranteed right up there with the promise of “death and taxes” are the events that you don’t plan for but know they will happen.

Water problems always top the list when you are discussing the certainties of what can and will go wrong. With livestock, water is a sacred necessity. The first thing you can count on is when you have water troubles the weather will not be pleasant in any way.

The heat of June is when cattle shade up around the water hole just waiting for the next drink. You can mark the days with broken water lines, wells that “go down”, and pumps that quit. The same applies for a cold miserable January day. General philosophy is that if your storage tank is full your pump will last 30 years.  If you ever let it get below half way mark, you may as well plan the next days for pulling a well and hauling water.

The day that you have a meeting to get to, a funeral to attend, or a date with your banker in town, guaranteed, you will end with a job with the calf pullers.  That last check on the heifers on your way off the ranch is your undoing.

In your Sunday best you will slip and slide around in the corral to get the wild wench (heifer) captured enough to pull the calf. The bonus to follow is bodily adornment of manure, amniotic fluid and a little blood for color.

By the time you have wallered the slimy calf around to save his life so his wild-eyed mother doesn’t step on him and then wallered him a little more to get him to stand up and suck, your appearance is not fit for polite company.  This is more often than not in the same miserable cold weather you had to pull the well in yesterday.

For the ranch wife there are some constants that can and do include the aforementioned and some that are unique to her gender.

In the remote living of ranching on a day she has stolen from routine, she might dare stay in her jammies without brushing her hair until past 8 a.m. It’s a guaranteed invitation for the feed salesman to happen by or a hunter to arrive asking permission to hunt.

If for some unknown reason she decides to drive the kids to the school bus in her nightie, it’s a 90-to-1 odds deal that the pickup will break down and she’ll have to catch a ride home with the neighbor. It’s pretty hard to look ol’ neighbor Fred in the eye anytime after that.

For the wife, most of her dilemmas occur either because of her husband or when he is on the other side of the state buying something—cattle, horses or equipment.  It is then she will find the milk cow has milk fever and the pickup he left her has a flat tire and the jack and four-way tire wrench went with him on the trip.  By the time he gets home, invitations to his lynching have been printed and mailed out.

Horses that come in every morning for feed and water will not be seen all day if you so much as whisper the words, “We need to catch a horse tomorrow.” The same science applies for the day you intend to rope or work on the windmill; the wind will blow with a gusto seen only in hurricane ratings.

Events that provide such entertainment are ongoing and there is no end to the list.  The romanticism of ranching has been painted, photographed and often captured in word without the underbelly of the story. I offer truth in the telling.

Julie can be reached for comment at

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