The Real Life Ranch Wife takes a moment in between refilling her coffee cup to give thanks for her chaotic, wonderful rural life.

ranch kids wearing santa hats
Pearl snap shirts and Santa hats go together well.

2018 was a big year for the Youngs. We expanded our family, moved to a new ranch in Oregon, and I finally cleaned out the glove box in the pickup. Those of you with neatly organized vehicles will scoff, but the other 95% of the population will join me in celebrating the discovery of my travel hairbrush, last year’s W2 forms, and the registration papers for a horse that died in 2011.

My husband, Jim, and I welcomed another baby in October, mainly because last year’s cow camp winter was especially long. In hindsight, it would’ve been cheaper to just get satellite TV. But the baby’s head smells delicious, and he looks just like his daddy, so we plan to keep him.

Little Levi is a happy infant and much adored by his older siblings, even though big sister, Grace, was initially disappointed to learn that he wasn’t a girl. She cheered up when her dad said she could still dress him up in headbands and bows until he was big enough to defend himself.

baby boy wearing bow
Baby boy Levi looking happy despite wearing a big blue boy courtesy of his big sister, Grace.

Besides playing with her real, live baby doll, Grace started kindergarten this fall. Due to our extremely remote location, she rides the school bus 42 miles one-way and attends a two-room schoolhouse. Including transit time, our 5-year-old daughter is gone 40 hours each week. She basically has a full-time job, except with more fruit snacks and Play-Doh.

Our newly minted middle child, 3-year-old Milo, has recently developed speech skills comparable with his older sister. Road trips now include backseat conversations consisting entirely of “No way, Jose,” countered by “Yes way, Jose” for 300 miles. Sometimes, our eardrums actually jump out and run alongside the vehicle screaming in agony.

Besides increased agony, my recent promotion to Mom Of Three has brought a few other changes to my parenting style. I now say things like “Don’t use your baby brother for a pillow” and “Please don’t jump directly over the baby. Give his head at least a two-inch space cushion.”

With three kids living in the house and zero kids sleeping through the night, I now frequently find myself awake between the hours of “all” and “of them.” I often wonder how much coffee is too much for a nursing mom, but I am afraid to ask because the authorities might make me remove my intravenous caffeine drip. I’m equally curious and similarly afraid to ask why the baby is riding the dog around the house yelling “Yee-haw” and “gig ‘em!”

My husband is now home more often to help me drink coffee and chase children. For the first time in three years, he works at a ranch that doesn’t pull a spring and fall wagon. At first, he wasn’t sure he could handle not sleeping in a bedroll and living in a tipi during the freezing rain and sweltering heat. Could his system handle eating off plates washed with actual dish soap after months of playing the guessing game “ash clump or dead fly” while eating beef stew around a campfire? He was apprehensive, but bravely sampled my homemade lasagna and didn’t even complain about using a clean fork.

I hope this year was equally chaotic and wonderful for each and every one of you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make another pot of coffee and file an amendment with the IRS. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

VIP Newsletter


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.

Write A Comment