Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: Just one cookie
I learned the other night that Mary Jane Strand had died. It immediately brought back memories of gathering the old 55 Ranch after her stepfather’s death. My dad and I offered to help ride the pasture that joined our ranch near the head of the Cheyenne River. The plan was that we would start on the west side and meet the rest of the crew somewhere in the middle. Mary Jane promised to provide lunch.
We had a six mile jog from Bobcat Creek to the old Bryan place where we would start gathering sheep and cattle. There was 89,000 acres in the 55 Ranch so the idea was to only make one gather for everything. The pasture we were working was maybe ten sections in size but had quite a bit of timber on it so we had to be careful to find all the livestock. By the time we had four hundred cows and a couple thousand sheep together, I was interested in having lunch. When we got to where the lunch was supposed to be cached out, there was just a thermos and a couple of coffee cans. Mary Jane apologized and said there had been a mix up and the lunch had been left behind. She said everybody could have a cup of coffee and one cookie.
I was a little disappointed until I saw the cookies. They were the most amazing cookies I had ever seen. A coffee can held a stack of about eight cookies. Each cookie was just slightly smaller than the round end of the can and about a half an inch thick. She told me the cookies fit perfectly because she used the coffee can to cut out the cookie dough. Once baked, the cookies fit snuggly back in the can.
It was probably the only time in my life that I ever ate just one cookie. Those cookies were a lesson in practical ranch frugality. The empty coffee can wasn’t thrown away, it became a cookie cutter and a container to be used again and again. We might recycle a few items today but we don’t quite get the good out of things like she did. About twenty years ago I mentioned those cookies in an article I wrote. A few days after it was published I found a red coffee can on my porch. It was full of large cookies.
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Calves on the ground eventually mean dollars in the pocket and steaks in the meat case. It’s the basics of the beef industry.