Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mail Disorder


Working in a doctor’s office, it is not unusual to encounter patients who have scheduled an appointment for what they delicately refer to as ‘female problems’. I assume they are not referring to the fact that laundry, left in a dark closet, can and will breed like mosquitoes, doubling its volume overnight. Or that pants sold in the women’s section of clothing stores do not seem to be designed for people who have thighs. Or butts.

Those are problems I’m sure any female can relate to. Me, I have mail problems. 

Yes, I do mean mail, as in the U.S. Postal service, although I am outnumbered by Y chromosomes in my household two to one, so I occasionally have problems of the male variety, too.

It’s not a complicated process, mailing a letter. People have been doing it successfully for centuries. You put something in an envelope, seal the flap, scribble an address on the front, apply postage, and deposit it into an approved mail receptacle. And yet…

First, there’s the stuff you put inside. Like the phone bill. Which requires that you not only write a check in the proper amount, but also put the check into the envelope before you seal the flap. And position the invoice so the address actually shows through the window. Or remember to copy the address from the invoice onto the envelope, again before sealing that pesky flap.

I use a lot of Scotch tape.

Next, there is the postage. You have to have some. Preferably in the current approved amount, and applied before you drop the envelope into the mail slot. Especially if you are six hundred miles from home when you mail your car payment, meaning the letter won’t bounce back to you the next day in the hand of a mail carrier with a pained expression.

I’m fairly sure my picture is on a dartboard somewhere down at the post office. You could probably go there tomorrow, drop a blank, sealed envelope into the slot, and they would bring it to my office on the assumption it must be mine. I am, after all, the person who managed to mail a letter that was not only not addressed or stamped—it wasn’t even in an envelope.

And that’s only run of mill stuff. Add the pressure of mailing something that’s time sensitive and I really fall apart. Don’t even talk to me about Next Day Air, or FedEx and UPS and their convoluted packing slips. I have to have a telephone number for the recipient? A physical address, instead of that handy P.O. Box number? Aiiggh!

And there are deadlines.

We sold our house in Oregon on a contract for deed. This required much faxing, reviewing and signing of documents, which the title company requested that we return to them ASAP, so they could close the deal before the end of the month. We dashed into town on Friday afternoon to have the paperwork notarized and copied. Carefully filled out the FedEx slip. Checked and double checked that all of the required documents were included before sealing the envelope.

“You’re sure we’ve got time?” my husband asked. “We could take it to UPS this afternoon.”

“Nah. We’ve got another ten minutes before they pick up packages from the Fed Ex box.”

I walked the block down to the box. Carefully slid the envelope into the hatch. And just as it slipped from my fingers and beyond retrieval, I saw the little sign.

Today’s pick up complete. Next scheduled pickup…Monday.

I stared at the box. Stared at the sign. May have muttered a few bad words. Then I walked back to the car.

“Good to go?” my husband asked.

“Yep,” I said.

Because it turns out those women’s magazines are right. Some secrets are good for a marriage. 


Friday, October 22, 2010

In The Can


No, no that kind of can, although this may be one of my favorite cartoons of all time:

(If any of you can read the signature, post it in the comments. I'd love to give the cartoonist full credit)

Anyway, what I'm talking about are rope cans. Go to any rodeo and you will find a spot where the calf ropers park their horses and their gear, and it will look something like this:

Rope cans are mostly fiberglass these days, though we still have an old tin one up in our tack room. (We also have harness collars for work horses. We don't use those anymore, either.) Rope cans have two purposes: to keep the rope clean and dry, and to keep it kink free. The poly and poly grass ropes used by calf ropers are much higher maintenance than the stiffer nylon ropes used by team ropers. (For more on the subject of how ropes are made see A Rope by Any Other Name.) Rope cans keep them in a flat position, nicely coiled, and seal out moisture. Even if you hang the can in the tack room, the rope stays put:

That flat round top just begs to be decorated and personalized. Some of the most gorgeous leather and silver you see at rodeos is on the top of rope cans:

Rope cans are also very popular awards. I believe this one was made by Shane Crossley from Hermiston, Oregon, who made most of the Nationals Finals and World Champion awards last time I checked:

Since I brought a few souvenirs home from the Pendleton Round Up, I think it's time we had a little contest. Study the photo below. The guy on the left is a Cooper. Either Clif or Clint, I'm not sure. Your assignment is to identify the cowboy on the right. Even those of you who aren't rodeo fans should be able to figure it out, with a little help from an online search engine. Your clue: It's in the can, of course. 

And for the winner: In keeping with today's theme, your very own Pendleton Round Up can cozy, designed to look like the Kevlar vests worn by bucking horse and bull riders. We'll talk more about these vests and the story behind their origin when I announce the contest winner. And since this particular prize will fit in a standard mailing envelope, I'd like to give a special shout out to my international readers to be sure and enter. 

You can post your entry as a comment below or email it to me at the link up at the top left of the blog, or even DM me on twitter. I ain't picky. The contest runs until next Wednesday at noon Mountain Time. I will draw a winner from all the correct answers.  In order to make it fair, I'm going to hold the comments so you can't see anyone else's answer. (I'll make all the comments visible at the end of the contest, if you've got anything else you want to add.)  So as we say in rodeo land...enter up!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hay Haulers Shape Up Plan

Thanks to the overwhelming response to last spring’s Ranch Wife’s Swimsuit Diet, we have decided to offer a fall session: The Hay Hauler’s Holiday Shape Up. We know all of you rural ladies will be needing to shimmy into the perfect cocktail dress for your endless round of glamorous holiday parties, and that sexy down-filled witch’s costume you’ve got picked out for Halloween.

Or at least fit into last year’s Carhartt coveralls.

The secret to our program is in our exercise equipment. After decades of exhaustive research, we have determined that nothing can match our device for overall strengthening and rapid weight loss. Ladies, we give you…the 1963 International Harvestor grain truck.

We have had to make a few key modifications to ol’ Yeller in order to maximize the calorie-burning potential of this amazing machine. First off, we had to beat the suspension to death over hundreds of miles of rocks and washboards. The resulting lack of shock absorption allows the operator to experience the full benefits of every badger hole and boulder, blasting those fat cells right off your thighs. (Note to clients: the more well-endowed amongst you will want to bring along your extra super support garments.)

Of course, to achieve those totally ripped arms, the power steering had to go. The clutch and brake have been adjusted to increase resistance which, combined with the extended arc of motion in the pedals on this particular vehicle, provides an experience very similar to the leg press machines you’ll find in those fancy health clubs. The knobs that must be pulled and pushed to operate the hoist are the perfect tool for increasing grip strength and targeting those flabby wrists.

You will begin each workout session at the hay yard. One of our assistants will apply the exact combination of ether, jumper cables and prayer needed to get ol’ Yeller up and running, stick you behind the wheel and point you in the right direction. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to master the controls as you rattle across half a mile of bone-jarring alfalfa field in first gear. The tractor will be waiting to load eight one ton round hay bales, after which you’ll crank ol’ Yeller around and rattle back again.

Round bales, being round, have a tendency to roll. To curb this tendency, each load must be dumped right next to the last load, so you don’t end up with a hay yard that looks like someone blew up a bag of mega-marshmallows. To add that extra level of difficulty, we’ve designed the hay rack so the line of sight through the rearview mirrors is completely blocked by the bales. Shouldn’t take you more than three or four tries per load to get it wrestled into position, back up until the rear of the truck bounces off the stack, and pull forward a couple of feet. 

Then comes the good part.                                                                                                       
Raising the hoist is a simple procedure, requiring only that you push in the clutch with your left foot, shift the truck into neutral and pull out and hold the PTO** knob while simultaneously pulling out and holding the hoist knob. You may also need to rev the truck a little with your right foot while letting the clutch out with your left. Watch carefully as the hoist rises. At the exact instant gravity overcomes friction and the bales begin to slide, slam the clutch to the floor. The weight of the sliding bales will propel the truck out from under them, depositing the bales neatly in place.

You will get used to that ‘shot out of a slingshot’ sensation after fifteen or twenty loads (complimentary cervical collars and ibuprofen are available from the concierge), and the big ker-bang when the truck bed slams back down. Until then, the burst of adrenaline will give your metabolism a nice boost. And feel free to pump the brakes. It’s excellent for quadriceps development, even if it does nothing in the way of slowing the truck.

As an added bonus, after the first load or two the floorboards of the truck will begin to heat up, emitting a unique blend of baked grease and essence de toasted mouse turd guaranteed to squelch those pesky snack cravings. And since the heater knob has been stuck in the ‘On’ position for approximately twenty years, the cab will soon become your own private sauna. Don’t be surprised to find you’ve melted off a pound or two in just the first afternoon, especially if it’s a bright sunny day.

We guarantee after a few days on this regimen, that party dress will fit like never before. Demand will be high for this special program, though, so sign up now. We’ve only got 247 more loads to haul.  

NOW AVAILABLE: The home video version of the Hay Hauler's Shape Up, only $9.99! Equipment plus shipping and handling are extra.

Music by Bill Hammond

**PTO stands for Power Take Off. Pulling out the knob engages the gear that connects to the shaft that spins around and raises the hoist on the truck. Or something like that. 


Friday, October 01, 2010

Here Come Da Judge


There are a lot of things that claim to be the ultimate American experience. Apple pie. Baseball. Hot dogs. Tackle football. But for my money, nothing strikes a deeper chord in my nostalgic little hometown heart than the Homecoming parade.

For those of you from other countries, Homecoming is a fall event staged by high schools and colleges, generally linked to football. The original intent was to provide a designated home football game and a few surrounding activities to which alumni of the school could come and mingle with other alumni. Now it's mostly a week long frenzy of school spirit activities. The level of frenzy varies depending on the attitude of the school administration toward sports and the level of fanaticism amongst the followers of the school and team in question. But for most small towns, it includes a parade, in which each of the four high school grade levels enter a float of their own construction.

My class stunk at floats. We are the only class in memory that DIDN'T win as seniors. As juniors, we had a little mishap with the extension hose on the tailpipe and gassed our driver. We are probably the reason the floats are now built on trailers instead of directly over the chassis of the vehicle. That was, of course, the best float we ever constructed, but we were disqualified because it failed to finish the parade. A little harsh, we thought, considering the driver didn't even bash in any parked cars when he passed out.

Given all that, it makes perfect sense that I was asked to judge this year's floats.

It turned out to be a relatively painless and not particularly difficult task. And yes, I voted for the seniors. Hey, they had Axel Rose singing Welcome to the Jungle, monkeys in hammocks, and boa constrictors made out of ventilation hoses. Hard to beat.

 Kudos to the sophomores, though, for their sandy beach, cityscape, and an killer sound system blasting Paradise City. (No, the theme wasn't Guns and Roses, just seemed like it).

The freshman did a decent job with Surfin' USA. That blue thing on the front is a wave. There's a wolf (our mascot) on a surf board on top of it. 

Mostly, though, kudos to the weatherman. I don't recall a single year in high school when the candidates for Homecoming Queen and the cheerleaders didn't have to wear thermal underwear under their dresses. Or down-filled jackets over them. 

*I had to do my judging and get back to work, so all pictures are pre-parade. And unlike the old days when we started our float construction early in the week, this year's classes started at 8:45 am this morning and had only until noon to finish. Not bad for three and half hours' work.