This month brings another fall wagon for my husband and the other cowboys here at the O RO. Around here, the wagon isn’t just for tradition; the country is too rough, rocky, steep, and otherwise unconducive to driving semi trucks – or even horse trailers – to the far reaches of the ranch to work cattle. So, the cowboy crew plus a handful of dayworkers and a cook camp out for about two months, changing locations every couple weeks or so.
During the spring wagon, we were brand-new to the area and I dreaded being left alone on a remote ranch with our two small children. I didn’t write about that wagon, because all that came to mind was “This is stupid and I hate it.”
Over the summer, I have grown more accustomed to the solitude of camp life at the ROs. When Jim left this fall, I smiled and said me and the kids would be cheerful while he was gone.
I tell Jim not to worry about us,
the kids and I will be all right.
But I toss and turn in our big, empty bed,
I can’t fall asleep ’till after midnight.
Thunder booms and I’m wide awake.
A flash of lightning outlines a tree.
Wind drives the rain against the windows hard,
both kids run to jump in bed with me.
I think of Jim in his canvas house,
beneath the quilt I made for him.
I pray he is warm and dry,
although I know chances of that are slim.
The cowboy crew camps out in range tipis for the duration of the fall works. Tipis are hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and only super fun when there’s a smaller pair of boots by the door. Jim waterproofs his tipi before each wagon, but even the best-made ones can only take so much abuse during a bad storm.
We pass the next day watching too many movies.
The noise takes the edge off the lonely.
We don’t seem quite so all by ourselves,
with Jim Craig and Jessica for company.
When Jim left for the spring wagon, my biggest concern was how I’d manage the evening routine alone. The children had me outnumbered, and I desperately wanted to shower. Now that I’m a semi-seasoned wagon widow, my biggest concern is falling asleep without Jim’s feet underneath the covers next to my feet. In his absence, I wear his t-shirt for pajamas and drop my socks on the floor beside the laundry basket. It’s like he never left.
Holding down the fort can be lonesome,
but it teaches me to rely on me.
And I know Jim is chasing cows on the desert,
which is a good spot for a cowboy to be.
Every night, I pray that Jim is safe and warm. Grace prays that Daddy’s bedroll doesn’t catch on fire. Her concern stems from an incident on the spring wagon during which Jim fell asleep with his tipi heater too close to his bedroll and woke up to a smoke-filled tipi. He quickly hurled the canvas tarp outside and jumped up and down on it until the flames were extinguished wearing nothing but a pair of tennis shoes.
To say hi and check out the camp’s fire safety procedures, the kids and I drive out to the wagon camp about once a week to visit Jim. Grace always squeals “Daddy!” and wraps herself around Jim’s upper body while Milo grins and lays his fuzzy little head on Daddy’s shoulder. I patiently wait my turn, then stand on my tippy toes for the good kissing.
The wagon only lasts for a season,
even though it rolls around twice each year.
My cowboy knows that when the work is done,
his family will be waiting right here.