Before her husband leaves for fall works, ranch wife Jolyn Young does what most wives do before a big trip—pick a petty fight.
My husband, Jim, is a day-work cowboy who just left for the fall works. In preparation for his departure, I followed my standard three-step procedure: 1) locate his duffel bag, 2) tell him how much I’ll miss him, and 3) pick a fight.
Jim could probably find his own luggage, and he knows I love him and will miss him, but finding something insignificant to argue about right before he leaves me alone to take care of three kids, five acres, a handful of horses, and a pack of catch dogs seems to be my special project. Once, I got mad at him for putting too much creamer in my coffee when I was trying to cut calories but hadn’t yet told him. Another time, he unloaded the groceries in the wrong order.
This go-round found us running a bit behind schedule. The morning of his departure rolled around, and we still had yet to say a single cross word to each other.
Wow, I thought. Are we actually starting to mature past the point of bickering over trivial things due to underlying stress?
Thirty minutes before his ride was due to show up, Jim started to pack his clothes. He pulled out the top drawer of the dresser and stopped packing.
“Why do I only have three clean socks?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I huffily replied. “Why does the baby only have a diaper blowout when we’re late for church? Why did our son sign his name on all my picture frames with permanent marker? Why does our 6-year-old daughter have a better sense of direction than I do?”
I stomped into the kitchen, determined to glare at my husband until he left, and I wouldn’t see him again for several weeks. Like Great-Grandma Ethel used to say, “Don’t leave mad. Just leave.”
It’s not fair, I thought. He gets to take his bed roll and sleep all night long undisturbed by small yet violent children with poor bladder control. He gets to ride and rope all day long, eat meals that someone else cooked, then read peacefully until he falls asleep. Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to figure out how I’m going to feed and bathe all three kids, wash the dishes, take a shower, vacuum the living room, remember to let the dog out, and catch a few hours of sleep before my alarm clock goes off and I get to do it all over again.
Right before he left, Jim hugged each of the kids.
“Levi will probably be talking by the time I get back,” he said. “Grace, you keep doing all your homework and listen to your teacher, okay? Milo, take care of Momma for me, will you?”
My heart softened as I closed my eyes and leaned against the pearl snaps of my husband’s shirt.
“I love you,” I said. “Don’t forget to come home.”
“Oh, I won’t,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me. “Home has some of my very favorite things.”
“Oh, really?” I smiled. “Like what?”
“Like my recliner with the electric massage pad and Netflix account.”
“Of course,” I said. “Get out of here.” But I said it with a smile. It’s good for a cowboy to do what he loves, even if it takes him away from those he loves for a while.