Fall works are officially underway around here. The crew got started last week in the way we always start: gathering and pregnancy-checking replacement heifers. Three times in the last week I’ve hauled lunch out to the cowboys who have been working heifers through the South Butte Creek corrals. It’s an hour-long drive up there for me, and that means bundling enough food to feed a crew in blankets and rugs, then loading it in coolers to keep it hot until it’s time to serve, and it also means that Baby Muggins has lots of time to scream at me from his carseat on the trip to the corrals (so the other kids and I sing Old McDonald Had A Farm over and over and over again)… but I wouldn’t trade days hauling lunch out for anything. For one, I like cooking for folks. For two, feeding lunch to the crew is the main way my kids and I can be involved in ranch work at this stage of our lives (a stage marked by my two inadequate arms and my four excellent helpers ages 7 and under).
All my life I’ve enjoyed the PV tradition of co-workers eating lunch together. When I was a youngster there was still a cookhouse operating here at headquarters, but the cookhouse closed about 20 years ago due to budgetary constraints. These days the PV employees don’t eat together all the time; only if it’s a day when a crew is assembled for a big job like weaning or branding — or, in quieter seasons, if a feller is closer to someone else’s house at noontime than he is to his own. If they’re working close to headquarters or one of the cow camps, the crew will eat inside a house — God bless the other ladies here on the PV who cook for ’em, even better than I can. And on days when the crew works through lunch far from anybody’s home, I or one of the cow camp wives will haul lunch out.
It’s how my mom did it for decades. And it’s how I’m doing it now.
So today I fed meatloaf, baked potatoes, rolls, corn pudding, and lemon meringue pie to nine (not counting my kids, my mom, and my 92-year-old grandma) off the bale bed of a ranch pickup.
My old camera has officially given up the ghost, so I stole Beau’s iPhone when I got there and snapped a few quick photos:
(I tied the coolers to the headache rack with the girls’ jump rope!)
The crew was hard at work when we (the kids, my mom, my grandma, and I) showed up with lunch, but they took a quick break to eat after I had lunch laid out — there was more work to do after the meal. A cold wind was blowing, and the main battle this time of year is keeping food hot until it hits mouths. On cold days I try to leave the dishes mostly bundled in warm towels.
A partial cast of characters:
The indomitable Dr. Plympton of Treasure Vet is always good to work with!
No matter the weather, no matter the circumstances, Beau’s coworker Nate the Great (as my kids call him) always claims that he’s having an awesome day. And you know what? That’s not a bad quality for a feller to have.
It was nice to have my mom (the ol’ lunch-feeding pro, now retired) there today — Muggins is safest and cleanest if somebody’s holding him. Grandma’s arms gave mine a break so I could pour coffee two-handed.
I am thankful for the life we lead. Thankful for the kind of job that allows for my 5-year-old daughter to crouch with her back against a working alley, just out of sight of the heifers, in the middle of nowhere, and eat lunch with her daddy… at 1 o’clock on a Monday afternoon.
© Tami Blake