A cowboy’s wife looks looks forward to relaxing with her husband when he comes home from fall works. But she’s also excited for him to mend fences and split firewood.
I can’t wait for my husband, Jim, to get home from the fall works (and not just because we’re almost out of firewood) for Christmas. Besides running a chainsaw, I also need someone to move a stack of three-string alfalfa bales and splice two broken strands of smooth wire in the horse pasture fence. Most cowboys are done with the fall works by now, but we bought a house in northwestern Nevada this January, and Jim has been day-working to pay our bills ever since.
If he works at ranches in different regions, Jim can stay gone and earn a paycheck first in northern Nevada, central Nevada, then Arizona with stops in California as an option for the drive home. This year, he branded calves on two ranches in northern Nevada from May to mid-July. He caught maverick cattle in California, gathered feral horses in central Nevada, then did one complete fall works up north. Once the busy season started this spring, he was home for a total of five nonconsecutive weeks. I miss my husband, but I didn’t get pregnant this year, so that was nice.
Last month, Jim headed south to the Blue River region of Arizona to help a friend who just bought a ranch. Along the way, he stopped and day worked at the Babbitt Ranch. Because why not, right? He is now gathering cattle, catching mavericks, fixing fence, and doing whatever else he can to avoid getting a town job.
While Jim gallivanted around the West and threw his rope at anything that moos, I took care of our three small kids and the home place. He didn’t have phone service on most ranches, but he drove up the nearest mountain with a cell signal once a day to call me. Our conversations consisted mostly of one of us saying “I miss you and can’t wait to see you!” while the other one said “Are you there? Can you hear me? You’re breaking out.” We repeated this exchange until one of the kids tackled another one and I had to hang up and take care of them — but only if there was blood.
In Jim’s absence, I made friends with the other moms in our new town. We talk about kids, homework, class fundraisers, and sleep deprivation so great we sometimes change the pot roast and season the baby, but that’s usually where our similarities end. I haven’t met any other wives whose husbands carry a hacksaw in their chap pocket and send text messages with pictures of bulls tied to trees. He always comes home with some Wild West stories, and I can’t wait to hear his latest tales.
Jim is flying home for a week’s reprieve from riding the bad and roping the wild over Christmas. Then he heads back to Arizona for the rest of the winter. I’m not sure who is more excited to pick Jim up at the airport on Thursday: Me or the kids. We’re going to hold up handmade signs, wear sparkly Santa hats, jump up and down, and scream “Daddy!” I just hope he acts like he knows us in public — or can at least refer me to someone who knows how to use a chain saw.