12 days ’til Christmas

We continue our march toward Beau’s goal of finishing fall works on the ranch before Christmas.  I took this photo early this morning, as the guys were just leaving the barn:

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Today Beau and crew gathered the pairs in Froze-to-Death pasture and then completed both typical fall jobs:  they separated calves from cows, shipping the calves down to the feedlot; and they worked the cows through the chute for the vet to pregnancy-check.  At the feedlot a second crew processed the heifer calves before daylight failed us.

I fed lunch, as usual, with the help of my mom and eight small hands.  First to Joe and Teal right here in the kitchen.  They ate quickly and headed back to the processing shed.  Next, we cooks took our show on the road.  With roast and gravy and baked potatoes wrapped in towels and packed into coolers, Mom and the kids and I (and Teal’s kids) sped down the Mission Valley Road to the Red Corrals (yes, in our full-size van, which Beau and I continue to not be embarrassed of, and which comes in handy more often than not, thank you very much).  It was 28° when we got there and snowing lightly.

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At the Red Corrals we fed Beau, my dad, Vergal, Nate, Brian, Jacob, Sterling, Dr. Cunningham, and the vet’s assistant (whose name is escaping me right now).  On a day like today everybody eats quickly, standing up, and they’re careful not to eat too much because they don’t want to be uncomfortable riding after lunch.  They usually remember to say thanks for the meal.

The casual reader might think that my life pretty much revolves around food.  And during busy seasons on the ranch I sometimes think it does too.

The thing is, it was never my dream to be a ranch cook.  In fact, my aspirations were always more along the managerial lines.  In my earliest memories I am my Dad’s little tagalong, assuming I’ll grow up to manage the PV some day, just like Dad.  I don’t know if that thought was engrained in me when I was born, but it was dang sure there by the time I was putting thoughts together.

I have reminded my husband often in the last three years that it was never my dream for my husband to run this place; at the most I thought we would be partners.

But life happens, doesn’t it?  So many little roads I veered down between that little girl I was and the woman I am today led me away from my in-born dream becoming reality.  I studied ag business in college, never considering that my degree would lend very little practical application to my future life.  Then I worked in the newspaper business, missing out on several years’ worth of practical on-the-ground experience that would have benefited a would-be ranch manager.

And then I had four kids.  It was a dream of mine, this having four kids.  But for some crazy reason I had never ever considered that the four kids/homeschooling dream was mutually exclusive of the ranch manager dream.  Like, you just can’t be both.  Simon says.

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So.  While I was busy veering down little roads in life, my dear husband was working every day here at the PV, learning not just the romantic side of the ranch that I know so well but the business side of it too, and he diligently rose through the ranks.  And in the end…

… he stole my dream job.

Now, I can’t think of a nicer person to steal my dream job.  Not only is he nice, but Beau is a hard worker with a wide range of practical knowledge and experience, a brilliant numbers guy with a sharp big-picture view of both the PV and its place in the corporate structure.

But still.  Sometimes I’m still kinda mad that I’m the cook instead of the manager here.

When I’m in my right mind, though, I inevitably decide it’s not as bad as it seems.  Given the reality that I signed up for the mutually exclusive dreams and both couldn’t come true, at least I still get to live here on the PV, right?  And it’s sure nice of my husband to let me manage vicariously through him, isn’t it?  Sure, the dynamics of the whole deal complicate our life a little bit… but whose life isn’t complicated?

The other thing:  I have to assume that everything has come together as part of a much bigger plan than I can comprehend.

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So back to the beginning:  Why do I cook?

Because home-cooked meals fed to the crew are a tradition here on this ranch to which I inexplicably belong.

Because it’s the only way I can consistently be a part of ranch life while simultaneously mothering and schooling these little children of ours.

Not because cooking for cowboys is dreamy, I’ll have you know that.  But because… life happens.

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© Tami Blake

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