Hope for the bunkhouses

I finally threw in the towel and advertised for someone to clean the bunkhouses here at ranch headquarters.  Clean weekly, was my specific wording.  Because I’ve been putting that exact job on my “next week” list for three years now, and like I told Beau:  if I ever do end up with a little spare time to do something extra, I certainly won’t want to be cleaning the bunkhouses.  I’m probably not the best person for the job anyhow.  Honestly, I can barely keep my own house presentable!

There are two buildings we consider to be bunkhouses right now at ranch headquarters:  First, the vet shack, which includes the only “public” restroom on the place — meaning if a truck driver was here to get a load of calves and needed to use the restroom, that’s the one he’d use.  The guys wear their muddy boots in there all the time because they’re always in a rush to get back to work (and, well, because they’re guys, right?).  The building itself is just a notch above decrepit, and though its condition has been mentioned at many an annual budget meeting, at this point my mom and I can only hope we’ll live to see the day when more appropriate restroom facilities go up on this corporate outfit!

The second bunkhouse is a newer trailer house that was moved in as employee housing a few years back.  In our (admittedly very short) experience in managing employees, Beau and I are finding that, at least here at headquarters, dayworkers are much easier to keep happy than salaried employees are.  (The cow camp employees enjoy more independence and so are a different breed.)  Dayworkers come for a few days, usually during an exciting season like weaning or branding, they have fun riding and they liven things up, and then they go back to where they came from until next time, almost always leaving on a happy note.  Salaried employees, in our (again, limited) hiring history, always start out really good… and then things slide downhill.  Maybe it’s the whole “a new bike rides best” rule of the human condition.  Probably the monotony and frustrations of corporate ranching are reasons too, not to mention the fact that we live and work in crowded conditions.  (Also, I’m guessing that I and Beau are hard to get along with on a daily basis?)

Anyhow, that new-ish trailer is currently serving as lodging where dayworkers can roll out their bedrolls while they’re here.  It doesn’t get a ton of use, but it does need to be looked over on a regular basis.  And even though it’s only 75 yards away, out the window of my house here, I don’t get over there to check on it often enough.

The question of whose job it is to clean the bunkhouses here on this corporate outfit plagued my mom before it plagued me.  Clean toilets do not rate on the priority lists of the men who run the place – my dad, my husband, the general manager who never stops long enough to use the facilities.  And the guys who actually use the bathrooms certainly aren’t interested in scrubbing toilets in the middle of their workday.  As a very tidy gal, Mom always figured the bunkhouses needed to be clean — because where in the world does a bathroom exist that nobody ever cleans? — but she wasn’t totally convinced it ought to be her job, and certainly no one was offering to pay her well to do it, and so guilt and bitterness kinda crept into both of us concerning the bunkhouses.

In another life I don’t think I would mind the job.  Make a regular day of it each week, spend a couple hours cleaning, by golly turn in my time and receive a small check at the end of the month.

But that’s another life.  That’s a life where regular things happen on my calendar, where a couple hours are actually available, and where I’m organized enough to turn in my time.  That’s not my life now… and though I occasionally yearn to know what a structured existence might be like, I’m not sure that will ever be in the cards for me.

So, finally, I asked Beau if I could advertise for help for the bunkhouses.  Even he had to agree that, if our job here at the PV is to steward this place for the absentee owner and the trusting general manager, we should try to maintain a level of cleanliness.  I put out a “help wanted” notice on the community page on Facebook and got several responses.  Apparently there are lots of women out there who are interested in a regular gig that will only require a couple hours a week, which I totally understand.  After all, it’s a chance to get out of the house and make a few dollars while you’re at it!  The surprising response to that ad offers, for me, a real glimmer of hope for all of us out there who just wish we could have a little help every once in a while!

The first person to respond to the ad came out to the ranch yesterday, and though I had warned her that the vet shack was “grody” and “appalling,” she didn’t let on that she was overwhelmed by what she saw.  (She said that she would bring her shop vac next time and stock up on bleach at Costco.)  We both agreed that with an initial deep-cleaning and consistent care following, the vet shack would soon be at maintenance level.  I was mighty proud to escort her to Beau’s office to discuss her payment options… because as far as I’m concerned, the job she’s about to do is invaluable.

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Yesterday’s Weather — High of 33, low of 12.  Snowed pretty heavily throughout the afternoon but only added up to an inch or so.  I wonder if it’s only Eastern Montana where it can snow hard but never really hit the ground?

Yesterday On The Ranch — Beau was doing office work in the morning as I toured the bunkhouses.  After lunch he caked at Creeks’ and I did school with the kids.  About six I headed to my folks’ house (they live about four miles from here now, in their own house on their own land) to drop the three oldest kids off for a visit.  Before we had even unloaded, though, I made a pretty stupid driving maneuver and got the van stuck in Mom and Dad’s yard!  Not because of deep snow, but because it was slick and the van is pretty much gutless in slick conditions.  Dad and Mom had to pull me up the hill with their pickup, but not before (again, because of a stupid maneuver on my part) we broke part of the plastic grill on the van.  Sigh.

In the end I left our two oldest, Asher and Emi, at my folks’ for an overnight stay, with the master plan of taking our two youngest, Marsi and Muggins, to the babysitter this morning and then enjoying a couple hours of quiet during which I would get our taxes ready.  Oh man am I great at coming up with big plans!

To be continued…

© Tami Blake

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