For almost half a year now I’ve been writing a weekly column for our local paper, trying to catch the little shifts in the seasons as they arrive, and the little celebrations that occur during our chore rituals and the other activities that make up daily life on a ranch. I am going to start sharing them more regularly on this blog, but with the addition of photos. I hope you enjoy!
This is a column from just before the holidays – written just a few days after the man of the ranch and I officially tied the knot. Which I guess officially makes me the woman of the ranch now…Hope you enjoy!
We’d just made it through two weeks of festivities and relatives, and though delightful, it nearly killed us. With Thanksgiving and the wedding behind, a few more weeks till Christmas ahead, this Sunday, the man of the ranch and I finally had a chance to see what it felt like to be married.
“Want to take a walk?” he asked this evening. I did. It had been warm earlier, but the wind had risen up from the west, and a silver fleece of clouds was covering the last of the afternoon sun. So, I bundled myself to snowman proportions, and we set off.
First stop was the old, tin barn to get horse cookies. Jane, the colt, came to greet me at the gate. She nuzzled my hand and looked at me through soft, brown eyes, paying no mind to Ellie, who was tearing across the slick mud with all the vigor you’d expect from a half-grown pup. Jane, on the other hand, has a temperament that is peaceful and calm, not at all what you’d expect from a colt only 6 months old. “We sure got lucky with her,” I said to the man of the ranch, and he nodded in agreement, neither of us mentioning the bespattered ball of fur that had just barreled between our legs.
We continued down the gravel path, while Ellie led the parade at top speeds. My old dog Lily joined us at the turn and the red calves watched from their corral. “Hello, girls!” we shouted as we rustled past. They bellowed their greetings in return, although they may have just been reminding us supper time was fast approaching.
We circled down the little hill to the south pasture fence. Carl and Wallace and Charlie, having spotted our descent, came trotting over, their long manes like dark flags against the gray and brown of the winter prairie.
I spent all summer visiting them out in the fields, usually with a pocket of treats, so we are the absolute best of friends now. In the summer we often shared long chats, and they would even follow the dogs and I for a portion of the walk. Today, however, was not the time for a long chat. The wind was treating my coveralls like a kite, so we passed out cookies and headed north again.
Up through the triangular hay yard we marched, Ellie circling the bales with abandon, chasing Lily, who seemed to be trying to lose her in the hale bale maze. I stayed just a step behind, hoping for a little cover from the gale, till we made it to the windbreak.
“Want to go visit the sheep?” I asked. And this is how you can tell we are newlyweds: the man of the ranch said yes, even though visiting sheep has never once been on a list of things he wanted to do.
Tumbleweed, tumbled by the wind, crowded every inch of the wire fence. We pulled the prickly bundles away, and climbed through. Not an easy feat for me in my snowman costume, so the man of the ranch pulled the wires wide to let me pass, and I made it through unsnagged.
The sheep stood in a white, wooly clump at the far end of the little pasture, but when they saw us they ran over, baaing all the way. Leading the flock were Daisy and Nibbler. A young friend of ours recently had to sell her small flock of sheep. Daisy and Nibbler were two of her first bottle lambs, given to her when she was a little girl. Nibbler in particular loved to follow her everywhere she went. Nibbler and Daisy are old ladies now, but still friendly as can be, and still precious to a little girl who is nearly grown – which makes them exactly the kind of sheep we like to keep.
In a matter of seconds we were surrounded on all sides. Unlike the horses, these sheep rarely get treats, but the distant memory of bottles still make me a very popular person in the pasture. Daisy and Nibbler got head scratches first, then Violet and Dot, then Meri and Malka, the two lambs that came to me crippled, though you’d never know it now, then Pearl and Theo, my first two bums. The only two that remained aloof were Bjorn, the long-wool ram, with whom I have an uneasy truce (I think he is jealous that the girls like me best) and Twigs, who, though I have known her since the first day of her life, has always been independent and a bit wild. Constantly in motion, she has no patience for petting. That’s fine by me – eight sheep clamoring for attention is arguably too many already.
The sun peaked below the cloud cover, glowing rosily in the last few minutes before it dropped behind the western curve of the earth. Soon it would be dark. We all started back toward the barn, dogs ahead, sheep following single file behind, the grass flowing in dusky-tinted waves. It felt like walking through a glimmering, amber-colored ocean, but with the shore, solid and safe beneath our feet. When we reached the pasture gate, I kissed the lambs goodnight, and we headed to the barn to start our evening chores, then back to the house for our supper.
So, how does it feel to be married? It feels wonderful.