- John Wayne: Not clothes but always good to have around as the model for the perfect man. I bet he could appreciate intricate wrapping.
Wool socks: My mom bought Cowboy a pair of Alpaca wool socks last year, which he regarded with fear and I have since adopted because they are fabulous and crazy warm. I’ll end up getting him which ever pair have the manilest looking packaging or say anything about “extreme” or “hunting”.
- Carhartt Artic coat & vest: Absolutley essential. Plan on a new vest every year and a new coat every two years.
- Montana Silversmiths Money Clip: Cowboy recently lost his and, seeing as I work Montana Silversmiths, it would be inappropriate not to replace it for Christmas. He loves the tension clip, I love the classic scallop shape and floral hand engraving.
- Wranglers Jeans: Actually, I buy him stacks of Wranglers throughout the year. Literally, the man shreds jeans. It’s impressive. And expensive.
- Wrangler Flannel Shirts: This is actually a pre-emptive move. I have to buy Cowboy flannel shirts before fall in colors that I can tolerate so that he doesn’t buy his own, which are always in the most obnoxious prints and colors.
- Long Handle Underwear: I wish he would wear these! They are awesome, but ironically, not that warm.
- Scotch Cap: Must have earflaps.
I woke this morning to heavy dew filled air and the ever-present mountain backdrop gone. Vanished into the foggy sky. I grabbed my coffee and watched from the window as freshly weaned calves milled around just beyond our front yard. Like opportunistic predators, they check every morning to see if somebody forgot to shut the gate. They seem to sense that newly planted apple trees and other delights await them on the other side of the fence. I smiled to myself and shook my head “not today kids”. This is my fourth fall here and there has been more than one morning spent chasing calves around our house in my robe and slippers. Many things have changed in my life the past few years, but this seems to remain a constant. Like many of us humans, every calf crop feels that the grass must be oh so much greener on the other side. They want in.
It has been a little over a year since this naïve California city girl married the Montana cowboy of her dreams, and the first year of married country life has been everything and nothing like what I thought it would be. I have a lot to be grateful for. I am fortunate enough to be able to work alongside my husband almost everyday. We are not just lovers; we are partners. I am able to ride to my heart’s content (something that is a real joy for a horse lover like myself). I continue to learn more about cattle than I ever thought possible, and to my surprise, find it all fascinating. I am learning to rope. And I have begun to form real bonds and friendships with people in the community. This is a tremendously rewarding life for someone like me. Yet it comes with its own significant set of challenges.
Some days I struggle to distinguish my role on the ranch, and more importantly, my own identity. My husband and I work as partners and equals, but let’s be frank; I stepped into his world. I long to create something all my own yet I find myself unsure of what that something is or how to obtain it in this unique and remote environment.
I am unsettled by the tensions that have arisen between my in-laws and my husband and me since our wedding. It’s amazing the questions and concerns about control, power, and fairness that come to light after a significant life event. It forces everyone to take a long hard look at their own mortality and the future. It’s a fascinating dance of love, loyalty, passive aggression and open defiance. It is also exhausting. Ranch family dynamics are sooo complex. Somebody should write a book. Maybe that can by my niche 😉
The isolation can be hard, even for a self-proclaimed loner like me. Some days I really long for those everyday interactions with strangers that people in cities take for granted. I know because I used to take them for granted. I long to encounter the “new” or the “weird”. I long for the fresh exchange of ideas that leaves my mind energized for days. I long for the anonymity that only a city can bring which paradoxically leaves me feeling connected and relevant. Out in the country it is easy to get lost. It takes a real effort to stay engaged and not let oneself slip into passivity.
I think about these challenges that confront me presently and then I amusingly reflect back on a few short years ago when I faced the opposite affliction. When I longed to leave the city and break the mold. When I desired something physical, something tangible, something REAL. With all the superficial bullshit that permeates a city, I yearned for something to reach out and shake me to my core and fill my heart with truth. And that is exactly what I found on a little ranch in Montana.
So watching the calves in the morning I remind myself of this. Like them, I suffer from the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Ultimately though, I try to think of what feels right in my heart. Where do I find the most happiness? If the calves did manage a yard break-in this morning they would no doubt have a ball. Like kids in a candy store, they’d rub and eat on our trees, trample my garden and shit everywhere. Eventually though, they’d realize that our yard is tiny; a fraction the size of their pasture, and they’d desperately want out. I can relate to this. Yep, I’m comparing myself to a cow. When it’s all said and done, I need room to roam.
In the present day of Facebook where everybody has a forum to advertise their wonderful perfect lives, it is a struggle to remain grateful for what you have. The truth is, nobody’s life is perfect and everybody has their battles to overcome. These are some of mine. Truth is, at the end of the day, I’m a pretty lucky girl. I think I’ll go kiss my husband and ride my horse now J
Cowboy is convinced that my acute native-print addiction is more than trend deep, it’s genetic, he says. Could be. After all, while my mom (Ponderosa Queen on this here blog) was pregnant with me she experience a similar, overwhelming affinity for all things native — clothes, jewelry, books, movies. She couldn’t get enough. My father finally drew the line in the sand when my mother declared that she would name her new baby girl due in a few short months… Buffalo. Buffalo?! Yes, my mother wanted to name me Buffalo, shortened to Buff for a boy and Buffy for a girl, like that would make it better. Can you imagine the first day of school, every year, teachers stumbling over the name:
My mom, the Ponderosa Queen, had chickens when I was younger. I was still in elementary school and my feeling towards those chickens was that of love… and hate. They smelled, they had to be fed, they had to be locked up at night and let out first thing in the morning. Being the only kid around, chicken care, it seemed, was always my job. The chicken coop was located a couple hundred yards from our old white farmhouse. It was a ancient coop, small with peeling white paint. The attached yard was hardly predator proof so eventually Mom’s chickens had free range of our spread. I can’t remember the details of their arrival of course, but I do recall that there were two roosters, one large regal rooster that matched the rest of the hens and one orange fuzzy headed rooster that matched no one and was clearly an outcast. What do you do with a orange, fuzzy headed rooster that none of the other fowl likes? Why, you name him, of course. Fufu, the Ponderosa Queen dubbed him, or I should same damned him. As a recall, Fufu stuck around for less than 24 hours after being harnessed with his new name. The last time I ever saw Fufu, he was cruising up a dry irrigation ditch either to find a new set of hens or to outrun his name. I’m guessing he found a raccoon or a dog up that irrigation ditch because, either way, we never saw feather nor fluff of Fufu again. This, my friends, is what happens when you name chickens.
That said, Cowboy and I welcomed 10 chickens into our lives on Elk Creek in April. Well, actually I welcomed them and Cowboy tolerated them. Getting and housing these chickens was the single most challenging obstacles for Cowboy and I in our first year of marriage. I insisted on chickens and he resisted on chickens. Check that, he actually only resisted on building me a chicken coop. He knew that if I got a coop, I would definitely get chickens, not just allow my attention to drift onto the next entertaining endeavor. I called his bluff and then his grandpa, and needless to say, my chicken coop was finished the next week. We now have 8 Rhode Island Reds and 2 Ameraucanas — ranging in age from pullets to almost two years old. No chicks, no roosters, no messing around. I needed grown-up, egg-producing survivor chickens that would be able to brave the weather and predator danger that comes with living under a mountain range. And that’s exactly what I got.
“The Girls”, as I call them, have completely taken over our place, and lives. Though chickens are much easier than both Cowboy and I anticipated, there have been a few nights we had to leave friends early to get home and put the chickens in and there is chicken shit on our deck constantly. They have eaten my flowers and we eat their eggs. And now they have taken to watching the livingroom and patio windows. If they see me, they rush the windows, clucking excitedly and waiting for some scraps. Open a door and they are on you like, well, stink on chicken shit. I am being held hostage in my own house by chickens. Originally, they were shy and reserved. Walk towards them and they would move. Now, at a high trot, they follow anyone who dares to enter our yard, sqwacking their case for food, especially any form of cheap, white carbohydrates. They have the dogs completely buffaloed and our cat now believes that she is one of them, and has been seen more than once eating scraps amongst our small flock. They move out of the way of the vehicles only if they feel so inclined and have very little respect for brooms, shovels or water sprayed from a hose. And while the pheasants that once ate amongst them have moved on and likely been eaten, the Elk Creek Chicken Militia soldiers on, eating anything in sight and producing eggs and chickens poop at an alarming rate.
Maybe I should name them afterall…[slideshow]