Remembering August 2, 2003


It’s our anniversary today!  I thought it would fun to celebrate by sharing here on my blog this tale of our wedding, which first printed in the Agri-News waaaay back in 2004.  Oh, weddings.  (I think next time around, Beau and I might just elope!)  Enjoy!

(PS:  My sister feels it is necessary for me to mention that in the photo above, she was 7 months pregnant.  She is worried that readers might be concerned about her figure or lack thereof evident under her gown.  I can confirm that she was, indeed, very pregnant that day… and that it was very, very hot in the church.)


Cowcamp #1

“Some time ago I mentioned to Editor Linda that I would be interested in writing a regular column for the Agri-News.  You see, I was married in August and live with my husband at Horse Camp on the PV Ranch near Hysham. As twenty-something newlyweds surviving the comedy of the cattle business 11 miles from the nearest neighbor, there will no doubt be plenty of stories to tell!

Only yesterday did I finally find the inspiration to write something. Be forewarned, there are no cows in this tale. You see, in the five months since our wedding, I have been so busy recovering from the whole ordeal that there was not an iota of space remaining in my imagination for any original ideas.

Now that I’ve had adequate time to sort through the emotional drama of the Big Day, I feel well-qualified to share some Wedding Hints with those of you who may eventually be involved in planning and executing a lovely, unforgettable event like our own.

1) DO NOT plan a wedding for August! For those of you who may have forgotten, August in Montana is fire season. In total, we had a bridesmaid, a vocalist, and a wine server cooking for fire crews in other parts of the Northwest just days before the wedding! Good thing the bridesmaid made it home on time for the rehearsal, because the rehearsal happened to be synchronized with the blazing eruption of her own family’s pastureland. Her hair looks a little singed in the wedding party photos, but other than that it’s hard to tell she hadn’t slept for three days.

Meanwhile, the neighbor’s place caught fire, too. Our out-of-state guests stood awed in the front yard and watched as flames licked at the Hysham Hills not four miles away.  And because at least half of Hysham is on the volunteer fire department, we slightly overestimated on the guest list. As a result, we had leftover cake, wedding mints, wine, deli cuts, rolls, mustard, and more… but my mom solved our dilemma in donating to the cause of the volunteer fire fighters.

2) Advise all of your wedding party and any other suspicious persons (Stacey Ogren, you know who you are) that the week of the wedding is not a good time to play a trick on the Mother of the Bride.  I neglected doing so, and endured a near-catastrophe!

Because my husband is a native Alabamian (I know, I’m a lucky girl), there were droves of Southerners to be picked up at the airport in the days prior to the wedding. With one particular car load, we saw a fine touristy opportunity and stopped on the return home at Pompey’s Pillar.

Panting after climbing the rock, we returned to the car and I discovered a message on my cell phone. It was my mother’s distraught voice: “Tam, call me as soon as you get this.”  I was sure somebody had died. Either that, or our place had caught fire, burning the reception site along with it.

I quickly returned her call and found her out of breath. “There’s this message… on the answering machine… and it’s a man with a Southern accent… and he says he’s been waiting at the airport… for three hours and he wonders why somebody doesn’t come pick him up… and he doesn’t know what to do!”

“Well, did he say his name?” I asked.

“No, he just sounded REALLY distressed.”

“Well, why wouldn’t he say his name?”

“Because he was just so worried. I’m sure he just forgot.”

At this point in the conversation I was starting to suspect foul play. I turned toward my fiancé and his parents and asked if anyone else was scheduled to fly in that day. Just as I thought, the answer was no.

“Well, Mom,” I said, attempting to convey calmness, “did the voice sound like Stacey to you?”

“No, no, this was a real Southerner.”

“Okay. Well, why don’t you try to get ahold of somebody at the airport so you can tell them about this guy and they can try to find him in the receiving area and tell him we’ll come pick him up. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

I left my mother to discover for herself what I already knew:  It is IMPOSSIBLE to call the airport. Call the airlines, call the rent-a-car place, call the police. But, alas, there is no friendly face sitting at an information booth at the airport ready to connect travelers and their loved ones.  Meanwhile, I dialed the number of our long-time family friends, the home of Stacey, a groomsman in the wedding. His mother-in-law picked up the phone.

“Hey, is Stacey around?” I thought she sounded ashamed from “hello.”

“No.  He’s… out right now,” she said.

“Well, do you happen to know if he called my mom today and left her a message?”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as she contemplated whether or not to spill the beans.  And then a chuckle. “Yes… he called and left her a message.”

“Did he pretend to be a Southerner, by chance?”

There is a point at which a mother can no longer protect her brood, when her brood has gone too far astray.  “Yes, he did,” she said, after a pause and defeated. And then, in a final attempt to save the family name: “He tried to call back and leave another one right away, but the answering machine was full and cut him off.”

(No surprise.  My mother regularly keeps 20 to 30 old messages stored on the memory of her answering machine. She says each one is special. “This is when your sister called that one time, and this is when you called from college that one time.”  I guess it’s her way of keeping a scrapbook, but it bit her in the back end this time. I’m sure she’ll be a little more suspicious the next time she receives a message starting with “Hey, ya’ll!”)


3) If you discern that the ring bearer is too young/reckless to carry the actual rings on his pillow, be certain he understands that the rings under his charge will not be used during the ceremony.

Our three-year-old ring bearer, Knox, is exceptionally intelligent for his age and realized when the time in the ceremony for the ring exchange had arrived. The video shows him struggling valiantly to remove the toy rings, tied securely to the satin pillow with silk ribbon.  It was his shining moment and he didn’t even get to play a part!  Meanwhile, the best man presented the real wedding bands to the minister and the show moved on.  Knox was distraught and it took help from his mother to convince him everything was okay.


4) If, during the pre-wedding meeting, the deejay mentions that he sometimes sings karaoke to “liven up the crowd” during wedding receptions, be veryveryvery sure that he understands he will NOT sing at YOUR wedding reception. I only made it veryvery clear that I did not want him to sing, and it wasn’t enough. He spilled his heart out singing along to some 1970s Meat Loaf on the mic in front of our guests.

Music is very important to me. For this reason, I had made a long list for him of songs that were okay to play at our wedding reception. Meat Loaf, and most of the other music he played, was not on the list.

Guess that’s what I get for being a control freak.

5) Finally, if the hotel at which you have reserved your honeymoon suite for the night of the wedding calls you, early in the week of the wedding, to confirm your reservation, and the friendly voice says it isn’t necessary to call back to confirm on the day of the wedding, even though you will be arriving late at night, DON’T BELIEVE IT!

Beau and I left our reception around midnight. The hour-and-a-half drive to Billings was exhausting for him. (I was already exhausted, so I slept in the passenger seat!)  Needless to say, we were relieved to reach our hotel.

We traipsed through the front doors of the popular lodge and were greeted by a man with long gray hair who made a show of gearing himself up in elastic gloves the entire time we were talking to him. Presumably to clean the pool.

“I’m sorry, we have no vacancies,” he told us.

“Oh, it’s okay, we have a reservation,” I said, rubbing my eyes.

“No, all the rooms are taken,” he replied firmly.

“The honeymoon suite,” I said emphatically, feeling more awake every second. As though it wasn’t obvious – I was wearing a white gown and Beau was in a tux. “Look under Blake.”  Behind the counter he did something – I’m not sure he looked.


“Okay, look under Arvik,” I said, thinking maybe I’d reserved the room under my maiden name.

“Nothing.” He snapped the wrist of his left glove in place.

“What do you mean? They just called me this week and confirmed our reservation.”

“We show no record under Arvik or Blake. You’ll have to look elsewhere.”

“What do you mean look elsewhere? This is our wedding night!”

Before things got too ugly, Beau dragged me out the door by my sash and train. We traipsed across the street to another hotel. I conjured up some tears, but again, there was no room at the inn.

We returned to our car. There were some strangers lurking nearby. I sobbed. The male stranger approached.

“Hey,” he began, “I think we took your room. We got here just before you and the guy said he was giving us the last room. It’s really nice, hot tub and everything.”

The female stranger approached. “He even gave it to us at a discount, because it was all he had. We want you two to have the room, since it’s your wedding night and all.”

What do you say to an offer like that? We all went inside. The gray-haired glove-wearing guy was appalled, even more so when Beau demanded that he give us the same discount.  We exchanged addresses with the friendly folks – turns out they were tourists from Minnesota – and sent them into the night of “no vacancy.”  (Hello, strangers, wherever you are!)

The moral of the story? For every long-haired glove-snapping weirdo in the world, there are two nice people from Minnesota.

Well, that concludes my first “Tale from Cow Camp.”  Not really what you’d expect, I know. But, as every experienced bride knows, a lot of things happen in life that you wouldn’t really expect.”

(Photos by Swede Pfaffinger!)

© Tami Blake

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