Date night!

You know you’re a ranch manager’s wife if your date nights look like this:

manager's wife

Beau (the ranch manager) and I (the straw boss around here) are a young(ish) couple with four small kids.  Some of our peers are super into date nights and speak glowingly of the ability of a night out, without kids, to revive and reconnect a marriage.  I like to think that Beau and I are both pretty low-maintenance mates, and so — right or wrong — date night usually seems like an impractical thing for us to accomplish in any given 24-hour period.  Sleeping on the couch while half-watching Longmire after the kids are asleep?  That we can maybe accomplish.  That seems practical.  But rounding up a babysitter, driving a half hour to the nearest movie theater or eatery (okay, I mean bar there — this is Eastern Montana, after all), and finding some extra cash at the bottom of the budget after a month of buying groceries and diapers for our herd?  We hardly find it worth the effort.

However.  If we receive a card in the mail that contains wording like “rancher information seminar” and “dinner will be served” (which suggests free food) and, what’s more, a promise of a discussion on “mineral nutrition” and even a “special offer”… well… we can hardly turn down the opportunity for a date night.

So last week Beau and I left the three big kids with Grandma — I don’t go anywhere without Baby Muggins yet — and treated ourselves to a date night ranch manager style.  We left the house mostly on time and drove the 27 miles north to the almost-ghost-town of Ingomar, home to the Jersey Lilly.  I always enjoy leaving the Yellowstone Valley behind on the drive north across the treeless and barren pastureland which probably wouldn’t appeal to all folks but of which I am especially fond.  I especially enjoy driving alone in the vehicle with Beau, without little pitchers and big ears tuning in from the backseat.  (Beau and I often grin over a previous time in our marriage, when the two of us were so caught up in work and caring for children and falling into bed exhausted at the end of every day that we had gone entirely too long without an opportunity to discuss important grown-up subjects without little kids listening in.  Resultantly, we were minding our manners in conversation instead of really getting down to the nitty gritty.  In presenting to him our need for some time along together, we both remember me hollering at him, “The purpose of a date night is not ROMANCE!  The purpose of a date night is me being able to say whatever in the hell I want to say to you!”)

(Suffice it to say Beau is the romantic in our relationship.  I was raised on Eastern Montana values, for goodness sake.  We’re trying to survive here, folks!  There’s no time for romance!)

(God bless Beau for putting up with me all these years.)

Anyhow, the two of us very much enjoyed our night on the town courtesy of Valley Farmers Supply.  Our hosts were gracious, the drinks were much needed, the food at the Jersey Lilly was comforting as ever, and it was good to see folks and visit.

Now, full disclaimer:  Though I consider myself to be interested in and proficient at most areas of ranch management — I mean, I am the self-certified straw boss around here — animal nutrition is not one of my areas of interest or expertise.  When people start dropping words like rumen health, calcium, copper, magnesium, and iron, I have a hard time focusing.  The premise is, of course, that (just like humans are in need of vitamins and essential oils — he-he-he!) cows are in need of supplements to balance the workings of their bodies and in order to maximize production.  And so we humans attend information seminars to make educated decisions about what the cows here need most.

I feel like I just don’t have the brain power at this point of motherhood to invest time in cracking the code of which, of all the minerals and lick tubs on the market, the cows in any given pasture would benefit from.  I am easily overwhelmed by all the options available from all the different companies seeking to sell their wares to the ranch, which makes me completely susceptible to sales gimmicks.  Buy me supper?  I favor your product.  Give me an embroidered vest?  I think I like yours best.  Deliver a box of donuts to my front door?  Yes, we need 200 tons of whatever you’re selling!

The good news is that Beau thrives both on scientific equations and comparison shopping.  He welcomes the challenge of solving the mystery of which cows are deficient in what and which soils are proficient in something else and how mixing it all up could result in better herd health.  So I just humbly bow out and leave herd nutrition completely up to him, without even pretending that he needs me to weigh in with an opinion.  And I bet he thinks to himself, Phew!  For once this woman is not going to weigh in with her opinion!

Long story short, after Baby Muggins attempted to jerk the projector off the table by the extension cord at the Rancher Information Seminar, he and I retired to the pickup.  We left Beau finishing up the last of his Pendleton & Seven, engaged in a heated debate concerning percent solids in water and bentonite.  Baby Muggins was soon sound asleep in my arms as I sat curled up in the passenger seat with my Kindle glowing warmly in my hands — the importance of reading aloud to children of all ages was the topic I chose to soak up that night (check out The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie).  After Beau took his fill of rumen-talk, he returned to the pickup and drove me home… in blissful quiet.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how date night is done.

© Tami Blake

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