Why I am warmin’ up dinner, watchin’ for dust

The #1 rule of being a cowboy’s wife is Don’t Worry. If a cowboy was supposed to come home late and it’s getting later, Don’t Worry. If you have no idea where on the vast, empty desert he might be, Don’t Worry. If you’re wondering if the yellow paint horse finally bronked him down and he’s laying unconscious in a rock pile, Don’t Worry.

Without cell phone service to call for help/call their wives to tell them they’ll be late coming home from work, cowboys nearly always manage to return home sometime between now and time to catch horses tomorrow morning. Their schedules are run by what unforeseen jobs come up, not by a lunch hour and predictable quitting time. Sometimes the cows all run east when they’re supposed to run west; sometimes a rogue bull just won’t take a haze; sometimes the hunters camped up the canyon have beer. The cowboy’s job is to take care of cows (and drink beer, if it’s available); his wife’s job is Don’t Worry.

When Jim and I got married last summer, we wanted to have sit-down dinners together each night, like we each did with our families growing up. When your husband is home from work at 6 PM each night, I imagine you can plan for dinner to be fresh and hot by 6:30 or whenever you want to eat. When your cowboy husband is home from work each day sometime between noon and midnight, it’s a little trickier.

I’ve experimented with cooking a big pot of something, then heating up leftovers whenever he shows up. I’ve finished cooking casseroles while throwing granola bars at him from a distance, hoping to stave off his hunger long enough for the cheese to melt. I’ve thought, “He’ll be home at 2:30 today” and cooked chicken and noodles, only to have him eat it cold at 6.

I’ve thought, “He won’t be home till 5” and whipped up a last-minute breakfast sandwich when he came home ravenously hungry at 3 and I didn’t have time to cook the meatloaf and roasted potatoes dinner I’d planned. I’ve given up trying to “plan” in the traditional sense for our family dinners. Whenever Jim comes home, I stop what I’m doing, fix him something to eat, and we sit and visit about our days while one or both of us eats.

I have learned that no matter how much I want to, I cannot will the sound of his pickup engine into existence. When the sun is getting too close to the western skyline, I’m constantly looking out the window or opening the front door to see if the sound I hoped I heard really was a diesel engine or just the hot water heater kicking on again. I’m always so glad to hear the jingle of his spurs approaching the front door.

We live in the bottom of a canyon at the Diamond A now, but last year when we lived at the 25 near Battle Mountain, we were right in the middle of the desert, surrounded by endless miles of sagebrush and sand on all sides. I was always looking out the windows of the house, hoping to see a tall trail of dust preceded by a company pickup and horse trailer. If dinner wasn’t hot and the table set, I at least had a plan for what to feed my cowboy. The center point of my days now, as then, is warmin’ up dinner, watchin’ for dust.


My favorite sight: Jim coming home after a long day of work.

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6 thoughts on “Why I am warmin’ up dinner, watchin’ for dust

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  1. Jolyn, I learned this about my husband a long time ago. You could set your watch by my dad, he was in at 11:30 for lunch and 5:30 for dinner, all washed up and waiting. When my husband and I got married almost 37 years ago, I tried cooking like that, only to have it be spoiled. Finally I learned to start cooking when I see the whites of his eyes!!! He is pretty patient about waiting also, but I laughed at the “throwing granola bars at him”. I haven’t quite got to that stage, but he eats alot of crackers!!! Enjoy your blogs.

    1. Jim is very patient too but sometimes after 10 hours of processing cows I know he has got to be starving and I feel bad asking him to wait while dinner finishes. Glad you like the blog, thanks for reading šŸ™‚

      1. Well, after that I can understand!!! However, I was usually out there processing cows too, so he didn’t care as much. Some other ranch wives and I were talking one day about wives helping husbands and we all said we didn’t know we had a choice!!! But with your little one it is harder, I know. I didn’t help as much when our daughter was little, we were like you, not as remote, but no one was close to watch her!!! Grace has a great place to grow up!

      2. I know from my time cowboying for a living that those guys are HUNGRY and grateful for the cook when they get home. Now that I am a ranch wife, I can appreciate all the work that cooks do even more!

    1. Thanks for reading and for the positive feedback! It can be a little tricky to navigate, but on my home page there should be a little “follow” button you can click. That’s all you do, and you’re all signed up to receive email notifications when I post a blog! I’ll check out your site today šŸ™‚ Thanks and have a wonderful day!

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