Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The Ranch Wife in Springtime |

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The Ranch Wife in Springtime

She’s more than a little bit tired this time of year.

This is a time of new life springing forth, with abundance, in her world.

But, with life comes death, and the more life around the more death as well. She knows this, the ranch wife. She is prepared on all fronts except for the emotional blow that comes with the year’s first reality that they just won’t all make it. Part of the deal. Unfortunate as it may be.

She and her fellow ranch wives lament over calves born with sacs over their heads, favorite cows losing their calf due to a leg back. The unexpected twins that allowed a calf to be grafted back on the favorite cow. The fascinating shades of black different sire groups throw. The new and improved ways heifers show their stupidity in this year’s weather/feeding/calving setup.

Non-ag women come and go out of these conversations, usually quickly. Several will kindly comment that the ranch wife looks tired, to which she simply nods and replies that there is a lot going on at her house. She has neither the time nor the patience to explain it beyond that, and well-meaning as they are, most outside her lifestyle really don’t want to hear the nitty gritty. She really doesn’t want to recount it, either.

She has an exhausted husband who she offers to spell from the night shift. She’s been at this long enough to know when to push that he is going straight to bed, and when to give and let him do midnight and 2 a.m., again. Her hungry kids could really use a bath, but it’s already an hour past bedtime. She hustles them through dinner in an effort to get everyone to bed for some rest.

There’s mud and snow and ice and dust. Laundry for days. Never enough dry boots or gloves. Everyone is a little grouchy, including the occasional cow. Things break down, pickups get stuck. She forgot to pay the monthly bills once, and the telephone got shut off. That wasn’t all bad.

Why does she do it?

Well, on the occasion she does get the night shift, and on occasion when all is going well, she gets a front row, flashlight lit show to the miracle of new life entering the world. Of silently watching as that new calf stumbles to his feet and figures out how to eat, all while his mama learns that this new gig of hers is pretty cool.

Her kids can tag calves, check cows, guard the hay corral gate, and sort pairs. Watching them learn and grow makes her heart swell in ways that are hard to explain. Likely just as it did for generations of ranch wives and mamas before her.

She loves those cows. Hard as it may be for some to fathom, she prefers them to most people. Given the choice, she would walk straight away from the laundry and housekeeping and all that hullabaloo to cowboy. But, as a wife and mother, her job description includes a domestic duties clause that she does her best to fulfill in between being a hired hand and parts runner.

Then there are those beautiful, perfect moments, when the calves throw their tails in the air and race around like bovine ninjas. When the weather is ideal, the cows are contently chewing their cuds, the hay pile sufficient, and the year ahead looks like it will be a good one.

Nobody knows exactly how it works, but the ranch wife takes all that in, and uses it to more than offset the blizzards, the sick calves, the wrecks, the exhaustion, the lack of money and all the rest that doesn’t go well.

Part of her earthly work is to store that up and share it with her husband when he needs reminded, as well as instill it in her children. If they decide to ranch, they’re going to have to figure out how to make that conversion as well. That’s why you may catch a glimpse of her pausing to watch those healthy calves race about, or see her spend a little extra time with the bottle calf. Sit in the silent snow of midnight instead of rushing right back inside, or give her favorite old cows a little extra cake, regardless of what it cost that year.

God knows she was made for this.