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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