Like the other two young mothers at the O RO Ranch, I am isolated from civilization. We are each surrounded by children of our own making, listlessly drifting through each dusty day on a sea of dirty laundry without a clothes dryer in sight.
“You need a friend,” my husband said.
“What are you talking about? I have a friend.”
“The windmill doesn’t count.”
“Just because you aren’t friends with a lifeless piece of metal doesn’t mean I can’t be,” I huffed.
In addition to Wendy, the cold weather has brought me another close companion that keeps me toasty warm at night but doesn’t threaten my marriage. I call the fireplace “Woody,” but my husband calls it “the reason my back hurts and it’s no longer fun when my wife asks ‘Do you have any wood for me?’”
When I realized that Wendy just creaks and groans and Woody always crackles and snaps at me, I decided that Jim was right. I definitely needed some human interaction. I made plans to pick up my nearest neighbor, Bailey, the following Monday. Then, she and I plus our four children would head to another cow camp to visit Missy and her three-year-old son.
On Monday morning, I applied a fresh coat of lipstick – because I am desperately trying to be high maintenance – and headed to Bailey’s. My destination was only 13 miles away, but the rough dirt roads made it a one-hour trip. We loaded up my Jeep with diaper bags, water bottles, sippy cups and coloring books, then headed to Missy’s. That 16-mile stretch of rutted dirt roads, steep mountains and rocky washes took an hour and fifteen minutes.
Missy was excited to see us, but I didn’t let it go to my head. She lived on a remote ranch hundreds of miles away from her family and friends with no phone, so she would’ve been ecstatic to see an escaped convict, provided he stayed for lunch and some light-hearted banter.
As we visited and prepared to eat lunch, I looked around at the houseful of women and children and smiled. I suddenly felt a little silly for naming the windmill back at my own house. I asked Missy if she ever coped with the isolation by making friends with an inanimate object.
“No, that would be weird,” she said as she set a place at the table for her microwave.
Bailey looked at us both in alarm. Clearly, she hadn’t lived out here long enough to appreciate the companionship afforded by household appliances, although I happen to know that she named her radio “Bob.”
We devoured roast beef and conversation like three starving hyenas on the African Serengeti. We barely stopped eating and chatting long enough to throw pieces of meat at our offspring and break up fights. I was pleased with how my two children interacted with the other three; Grace only walloped another kid over the head with a whiffle ball once, so I counted that as progress. Milo didn’t growl at anyone even once. I was kind of disappointed.
After an afternoon of visiting, Bailey and I loaded up our kids to head back to our respective homes. We all hugged good-bye and promised to get together again soon. My heart was light as I drove away, happy in the knowledge that I had strengthened the bonds of friendship with other ranch ladies. I couldn’t wait to tell Wendy.
We all had fun playing with baby Cody and Grace somehow crammed her big 5-year-old self into his car seat. BTW, isn’t Bailey just the cutest little mama? I think so.