The Life We Choose

Being a ranch wife can be difficult, but some wouldn't have it any other way.
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Being a ranch wife can be difficult, but some wouldn't have it any other way.

“Never burn your moving boxes,” a veteran ranch wife once told me. I heeded her advice, and it has since paid for itself several times over in the cost of cardboard. 

Credit: Benjamin Putnam

Credit: Benjamin Putnam

Single cowboys move a lot, and, as it turns out, married cowboys do, too. Cowboys will quit a job for any reason from losing health insurance for their family to not liking how the cowboss ropes horses out of the cavvy. They like the new adventures promised by changing ranges, and the women who married them do, as well. We must; if we were strongly attached to things like our mailing addresses and the folks at home, we’d never make it out here on the sagebrush sea. 

No matter where we move, one thing is certain: unless our husbands hire on at Maggie Creek, we are a long ol’ ways from town. For the last two years, groceries have been a three-hour drive from our house. That’s six hours of driving in one day, plus time spent in town to buy food, fill prescriptions, go to the bank, hit up the Burger King drive-through, swing by Big R, and fuel up for the drive home. With a toddler. I couldn’t do a town trip in less than 11 hours if I tried, and that’s with no delays. 

My town friends tell me that the great distance is a deterrent to our chosen lifestyle, but it’s one of my favorite parts. I like that not everyone can live this far from town with no supermarket or medical facilities nearby and keep a house stocked with supplies, raise babies, work from home, and thrive. 

Sometimes it’s terrifying, like the night I learned how to bring down a 103º fever in a baby because we lived on the edge of the wilderness and it was 2 a.m. Sometimes it’s fun, like when the ranch mechanic’s wife taught me to bake bread so I wouldn’t keep running out. I like being resourceful.

I don’t like a good reason to worry, though, and being married to a cowboy provides plenty of those. I don’t like sitting alone in the dark after the kids are asleep because my husband was out catching wild cattle 16 horseback miles past cell phone service and it’s an hour past when he was due to call home. I don’t like when he tells me stories that end with, “that horse almost killed me.” 

But, he’s cowboyed for a living for 18 of his 36 years and has only been married to me for four. So, I take a deep breath, remind myself that he did indeed live through the wreck, and kiss him because he’s home for yet another evening. We eat dinner, cuddle our kids on the couch while we watch TV, put them to bed, and set the alarm for 4 a.m. He’ll be up and gone before the sun, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing the jingle of his spurs on the front porch just past dark once again.