A seasoned ranch wife has an ulterior motive for helping her husband clean his bedroll.
My husband, Jim, day-works for a living, and I sometimes help take care of his gear in between jobs. Cowboys work in the dust, camp outside and eat their meals in the dirt for weeks on end. They don’t often realize the extent of the accumulated grime until the wagon camp starts to look like a pigpen convention.
Jim has owned the same bedroll tarp since he was 15 years old. It has survived fall works, spring floods, dirty bunkhouses, the state of Texas and one small teepee fire, but it has only been washed twice. Both times, I was responsible for the scrubbing.
The first time, I was a rookie ranch wife who just wanted to make sure my new husband’s gear was clean. I wanted him to feel cared for and appreciated by his loving bride. The novelty of turning sweat-soaked socks right side out, finding his misplaced wallet and burning breakfast hadn’t yet worn off. One hot summer day, I decided to wash his bedroll tarp.
Washing a bedroll is no small task—you can’t just remove the mattress and throw the tarp in the washing machine. The tarp must be laid flat on a large porch or slab of concrete, or draped over a tall fence and sprayed with a garden hose. I laid the large canvas rectangle on the porch, then scrubbed it with Dawn dish soap and a horse brush while on my hands and knees. It was mid-July and I was eight months pregnant. The morning sun had waxed into an afternoon inferno by the time I rinsed off the final soap bubble. Sweat dripped down the sides of my face and false contractions tightened my abdomen every five to seven minutes. I figured that within the house, I would probably either go into labor or die.
“If I deliver our son right here and don’t make it, take good care of the baby,” I told Jim as I supported my lower back with one hand and hosed off the last suds with the other.
“Will do,” Jim said. “But first help me hang the tarp over the railing so it fully dries in the sun. I don’t want this thing to mildew.”
I survived to safely deliver our baby, plus one more a few years later. I’m no longer a member of the baby-having community, but I’m still seized by an overpowering urge to wash something periodically. When Jim came home recently for a short break between fall works, I decided to help him with a few housekeeping items.
“Honey, bring me your bedroll, and I’ll give it a good scrubbing,” I said with a sweet smile.
This time, I draped the tarp over a tall fence and sprayed it with a garden hose while the kids played in the sudsy water. We enjoyed the project as a family, and I smiled to myself in anticipation of Jim’s delight when he discovered his freshly washed bedroll.
And he will make another surprise discovery when he unrolls his bed at cow camp. Because I am no longer a blushing bride who finds personal fulfillment in bleaching my husband’s underwear, I definitely washed his bedroll for the sole purpose of hiding a giant fake tarantula between the sheets.
I’m only sad because I won’t be present to hear his horrified yell. Sometimes, the difference between a two-year-old marriage and a seven-year union can be found on the bottom shelf of the dollar store.