Ranch Mom Lesson #2,471: Even when you’re desperate to get out of the house, don’t ever leave without a spare diaper.

ranch wife gets cabin fever and wants wine

My kindergartner was home on Christmas break, my 3-year-old was in a screeching phase, and the baby had a cold. The daytime temperature had only reached 20 degrees Fahrenheit every day for the last week. Actual sunlight had not touched my face in three days. The closest I got to fresh air was when I brushed my kid’s teeth.

“Honey, I need to get out of the house,” I told my husband, Jim.

“Want to haul water with me?” he asked. As a cowboy, part of his wintertime job was driving a semitruck with a water tank attached to the back, and delivering water to cows on the desert allotment.

“Sure, sounds fun,” I replied. “Is there enough room for all five of us?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

As we climbed into the tall cab, I noticed it only had two seats. But I didn’t say anything, because I wanted to get out of the house like a fresh dog wants off the chain. It’ll be okay, I thought. The big kids can stand and the baby can sit on my lap. This project won’t take too long, anyway.

Fifteen minutes down the dirt road, I asked Jim how long it took to haul a load of water.

“Three hours,” he said.

“Three hours?” I exclaimed. “You watched me get into the truck with three small children and no diaper bag, and you didn’t say anything? I didn’t bring a single extra diaper! I don’t have any snacks! We don’t even have a water bottle! Worse yet, we have no crayons or Matchbox race cars to fend off the children should they become bored and turn on us!”

“We have a whole tank of water on the back. The kids can drink from that,” Jim replied.

With his family’s hydration problem solved, Jim focused on driving the big truck while I stared at him in silent wonder.

I wondered how he had slogged through six years of parenting alongside me and not grasped the importance of supplies on a road trip with small children. He knew we had kids, right? And that they were his? And that they would get kind of mean if they were hungry/tired/trying to keep their balance while standing in the cab of a semi truck for three hours?

The big truck slowly bumped and bucked over the dirt road. Its ancient shocks were no match for the frozen ruts.

“Please remove your elbow from my ear,” I said tersely to my daughter.

“I was just trying not to fall,” she said, as her brother’s head met the dashboard.

“Shhh, stop crying,” I frantically whispered. “You’ll wake the baby. Daddy said that at the next water trough, you can drink from the pipe. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”

When the truck stopped at the next trough, Jim and the big kids trundled out. My daughter slowly chased a gentle cow through the desert, her pink coat and beanie hat bobbing through the sagebrush. Our 3-year-old son quenched his thirst alongside the mama cows, pausing once to smile up at me.

“See, honey,” Jim said. “We can handle a family trip without the diaper bag.”

I smiled down at him.

“You’re right,” I replied. “Now, give me one of your socks. The baby just filled his diaper.”

it's cool to be cowboy


After growing up in a ranching region of northern California, Jolyn Young moved to Elko, Nevada, in her early 20s to work on a local ranch. While helping some neighbors move cattle one day, she met a tall, partially civilized cowboy named Jim. He told her stories about starting 5-year-olds at the Spanish Ranch and roping horses in Owyhee on the Indian reservation. By the time Jim picked Jolyn up for their first date in a ‘92 single cab Ford, she was smitten. The two were married just before the birth of their first baby. Since then, Jolyn has accompanied Jim on a working tour of several ranches in the American West. So far, they have lived in Nevada, Arizona and Oregon. She is convinced that each time they move, he takes it as a personal challenge to move her farther from town. Jolyn now regards cell phone service as a luxury, and she isn’t afraid to build a fire in the front yard to cook hamburger goulash and a loaf of bread. The life of a cowboy’s wife is always challenging and often isolating, but it is never boring. Finding the humor in the hardships can lessen the struggle, and that is what Jolyn strives to share with others through her writing. She and Jim currently live at Mann Lake Ranch in eastern Oregon with their three kids, Grace, Milo and Levi. They have since upgraded from the ‘92 Ford.

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