It’s funny how a cowboy can chase wild cows, rope and brand calves in pain, but he’s sidelined by the common cold.

All year long, I hoped like heck we wouldn’t be affected. I prayed our household would be spared, that our lives would be untouched. My husband had horses to ride, cows to catch and dogs to discipline. I had a house to clean, dinners to burn and kids to discipline. I didn’t want anything to derail our harmonious — yet sometimes loud — existence.

Then one day the worst happened. Out of the blue, on a day just like any other day, Jim coughed.

Was it bronchitis? Pneumonia? Influenza? The dreaded coronavirus that has masked the world and uncovered the truth about Americans’ inability to agree on what is the best way to fight the spread of the highly contagious disease: drinking bleach or paying for groceries with your phone?

No, it was worse — much worse. Jim had contracted the father of infirmity, the patriarch of pathology, the granddaddy of all diseases. He had a “man cold.”

“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” I said soothingly. “Here’s a cough drop. Now take some Dayquil and go shoe a horse.”

cowboys work cattle even with a "man cold."
In sickness and in health, cowboys have to get their jobs done.
Photo by Jolyn Young

For some reason, he found my reaction to his “man cold” less than sympathetic. This is probably because, despite women’s suffrage and equal pay, I, as the sole female in our relationship, am still expected to give bloody birth to the children. Then sleep in three-hour stretches around the clock so I can feed, comfort and clean the children for the duration of their childhoods or all eternity, whichever seems longer by 8 p.m. every weeknight. So, when my husband gets the sniffles and declares that death is imminent, I’m a bit skeptical. 

As Jim grumbled out the door and buckled on his shoeing chaps, I asked if he recalled what happened in Arizona last winter.

“Remember when you were catching cows and that big roan SOB bucked you off 10 miles into the drive, then backed up and kicked you with both hind feet? And you got back on, roped a maverick bull, camped out in a canyon, then led the bull plus another cow back out the next day? Then you sat down for a minute because you felt out of breath, and it turned out that the bronc had cracked several ribs the day before?”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “So?”

“So how can you do all that crazy cowboy stuff with THREE BROKEN RIBS, but an ordinary cold virus has you calling a lawyer to make out your last will and testament?” I replied.

“I don’t know,” Jim said. “Hold my shaping hammer. I’m seeing spots.”

My theory is that cowboys have a malfunctioning pain scale. They can run an entire vaccine gun through their thigh, push it out the other side, look down at the blood pooling in their boot and say, “Huh.” Then beat the whole crew to set the rope on the next calf. And then they work heads the rest of the day and help tear down the panel trap. But these rugged ropers, these calloused cowboys who don’t think twice about roping a hind leg to shoe a circle horse, use up all their immunity on the big ailments and have no defense left when struck down by minor illnesses like the “man cold.”

Or maybe Jim is just looking for some wifely sympathy. I better take some cough drops and a box of horseshoe nails out to the saddle house and see if it cures the “man cold.”

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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