Real Life Ranch Wife

Six Things to Pack for Cow Camp

Girl watering her horse in cow camp

I can pack only the essentials when headed to cow camp. But six items are a must for my sanity.

When I pack for cow camp, usually an insanely remote and primitive location where my husband is catching wild cattle, I try to pack light. However, even though my stay might be for just a few days, here are a few of my must-have items:

1. Silence

You’d think that there would be plenty of silence 95 miles from the nearest town with a Walmart, but you’d be wrong. This is because I travel with three small children who haven’t yet grasped the concept of “indoor voice.” The camp house was in the bottom of a steep rimrock canyon, and boy, their screams, shouts, yells and wails bouncing off those rocks were something to behold. But not in a good way. More like something to endure. And then apologize to all the local wildlife who instantly relocated to the next canyon over.  And then apologize to my husband, who was catching wild cows on a contract. He’s probably laughing about it by now … or not, but whatever. Two out of the three kids were his idea anyway.

2. Extra Jeans for the Kids

The kids will always, ALWAYS get twice as dirty/muddy/wet as you think they will. And the washing machine may or may not work. Conversely, don’t bother to pack extra jeans for yourself, because you will find that the pair you drove down in are just fine to wear for six days in a row. 

Kid watering a horse at cow camp
Kids always get twice a wet and dirty as you’d think in cow camp. Packing extra jeans is wise.
Photo by Jolyn Young

3. Beef

Ground beef, chuck roast, stew meat and steaks if you can swing it. But one thing is for sure: Don’t serve chicken. Cowboys will do a lot of things, but eating yard bird isn’t generally one of them. 

4. Well-Stocked Makeup Bag

When you’re surrounded by other people’s stinky jeans and someone always tracks cow manure into the kitchen, it’s nice to slap on a little foundation, eye shadow and blush to help you remember that you’re a woman. Add a swipe of lipstick for additional sanity-saving benefits.

5. Smoke Detector

This is one thing I always forget. Then I walk into a camp house built sometime during Will James’ lifetime that has since been outfitted with electric lights and a gas stove. I think, “Oh, crud, we’re all gonna die.” One spark from a missed electrical connection or clogged stove pipe can make these things go up like a tinderbox. Just ask cowboy Dan Lock, whose evening entertainment one night in 2011 was standing in the front yard and watching his camp house burn to the ground. And then ask him if he brings a smoke detector every time he moves into a new camp house. I guarantee he doesn’t, so now we all know what to get “Dano” for Christmas. 

6. A Sense of Awe and Wonder for the Natural World

You’ll be out there in God’s creation, undisturbed by junk mail in your inbox, a vibrating cell phone, a long line in the McDonald’s drive-through, and another celebrity being canceled for voicing a conservative opinion. At camp, there’s nothing to prevent you from putting on your shoes and walking out the door across the pasture, over the creek, through the trees, up the canyon, through the fence, or wherever else you want to wander. Ride a horse if you can, but at the very least sit on the front porch and watch the sun set. Walk down to the river and examine the beaver lodges for teeth marks. Look for coyote tracks. Feel the sun, wind, rain or snow on your face and remember how amazing this planet that we call home really is.

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