Working remote is the norm for cow-camp cowboys.

Cowboys currently working in remote camps have missed most of the COVID-19 updates altogether, while all of us with a Wi-Fi connection are inundated with new, constantly changing information. My husband is day-working through the spring works at the C Punch Ranch in northern Nevada, and he drove up a mountain to cell phone service to call me the other day. I told him that the NBA cancelled the rest of its season, Disney World shut down, grocery stores shelves were empty, and the stock market experienced its worst one-day fall since 1987.

“Huh,” he replied. “It sounds crazy down there.”

It feels crazy down here as well. My first-grader’s school is shut down for at least three weeks. My son’s T-ball season is postponed for the same amount of time. As a stay-at-home mom, my daily job doesn’t change too much. My biggest challenge is maintaining a sense of calm for my kids during this turbulent, unprecedented situation.

I also face the challenge of explaining the new coronavirus to my children, ages 7, 4 and 1. Well, I mostly disregard the 1-year-old’s contagion education, because he still wears diapers and thinks that sticking his fingers up my nose is an appropriate social interaction. But I told the older two that we all had to be careful and not share germs. Also, we might run out of toilet paper.

Cowboys already practice social distancing for work.
Cowboys tend to already practice social distancing, for working at a cow camp is typically isolated.

The TP shortage is bizarre and a bit disconcerting, but I developed a workaround for my household. I bought several packages of 4-ply paper napkins at a restaurant supply store. Then I swung by a thrift store and purchased a couple used bed sheets for $2 each. Plan A is to use toilet paper. Plan B is to use napkins and toss them into the bathroom trash can. Plan C involves cutting up the sheets and wiping our tooshes with 100 percent Egyptian cotton.

Actually, I might move Plan C up a notch. That sounds like an improvement over anything Charmin has to offer.

I also bought a large sack of flour and a five-pound tub of baking powder, because I like to bake from scratch. With schools unexpectedly closed, the stock market falling, and economies crumbling, I want to make sure my family can still enjoy fluffy biscuits. Keeping comfort dishes on the table is one way to keep the anxiety from gaining too big a foothold in my mind.

Stocking the cupboards with nonperishables and preparing to hunker down for an indefinite period of time is nothing new for the Young family. When snowed in at a remote cow camp a couple winters ago, we once spent 17 days without seeing a single person outside our immediate family of four. Talk about cabin fever. I was overjoyed when the cowboss and his wife used the ranch’s best four-wheel-drive pickup to bring us hay, beef and the mail. These days, we are encouraged to practice social distancing and stay six feet away from other people, though.

Ranch and cowboy families have been avoiding the general populace for generations. Self-isolating is already our norm, and hopefully enough urban citizens can adopt the custom and help stop the spread of COVID-19 throughout our country. As a nation, we have always relied on positive individual actions, common sense and faith to get through hard times.

That is probably why at bedtime prayers, my seven-year-old daughter asked God to “Please keep everyone safe and happy and please help us to be able to buy toilet paper. Amen.”

For more information and resources on coronavirus, check out Western Horseman‘s “A Horseman’s Guide to COVID-19.”

Author

Jolyn Young lives with her cowboy husband, Jim, and their three kids near Fallon, Nevada. She chooses to focus on the comical side of life, because her family is going to laugh at her anyway.

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