Yeah, it's been a while. Life sort of gang tackled us in the past month, the way life will do on a ranch. We've had cows to artificially inseminate and bulls to fertility test, and consider yourself lucky that I'm not sharing details or photos of either. Then there's branding and trailing to pastures and pondering which bulls should go with which bunch of cows, and oh, yeah, how 'bout all those fences the drifting snow knocked flat?
And somewhere in there, we do a little farming. And oh, right, on top of all of that? I'm in the process of training my replacement at my town job, which is requiring me to all of the sudden stop and explain all those million and one things you normally do at work without really thinking, and let me tell you, that much thinking pains me considerably. Not to mention the part about having to talk to people all day, when I'm used to just hiding back in my little billing office, safely away from the public eye.
Times like this, you sort of wish you didn't live in the place where it stays daylight until 9:30 pm, cuz that working 'til dark can damn near kill a person. Notice I didn't mention anything about starting at daylight. Morning people we are not, and if a person's gonna be self employed, they oughta at least get to choose what time they go to work in the morning.
In the meantime, though, my newspaper column does go on, so I do have a story to share. Here's one about our branding crew:
Just Don't Shoot the Banjo Player
Over time, we have accumulated a rather motley collection of acquaintances and relatives, as one does. Our collection is a touch more diverse, due to our family's propensity for rodeoing and dragging home strays from all over the country. Plus the younger generations have moved around a lot and married people from 'away'. Plus I've become involved with writing and an arts festival that brought me into contact with performers from here and there. Plus there's this exchange program that brings young people from countries like England, Sweden, Norway and Australia to work for six months at a time on local ranches.
All of that is to explain how we ended up with all of this descending upon us for Memorial Day weekend:
First off, let it be clear that there is no holiday involved. We will be branding calves, the main herd on Saturday and a smaller bunch on Sunday. This requires gathering up a crew, which consists of friends, neighbors and family, whom one might rightly expect would be a solid cross section of native Montana ranch stock.
Yeah. Not so much.
First there's my husband, the pride of Bath, South Dakota. My cousin to the east will bring her husband, who is a former Highway Patrol officer and native of Long Island, New York. My cousin to the west will bring along his wife Charlotta, who is a native Swede but speaks four other languages. They'll also bring their current exchange worker Mitchell, who hails from New South Wales, Australia and speaks something none of us can understand unless enunciated slowly. He sports shoulder to wrist tattoos and sleeveless muscle shirts to show them off, which is fine by me because the tattoos are beautifully done--and so are the muscles.
So much for the locals. Next we have my sister and her two kids, who planned to pop over from Spokane for the weekend, except it got a little more complicated because my brother is currently deployed at what I swear he told me was a place called Skank in Afghanistan, and his wife was depressed about being home alone for the long weekend, so she's loading up her four boys and driving over from Tacoma to meet my sister and come to the ranch. Did I mention my sister in law is a native of the Dominican Republic, and Spanish is her first language?
Into that mix toss a bluegrass banjo player from the Flathead Valley who comes around two or three times a summer to practice his target shooting while helping to rid us of our constant infestation of gophers. Yep, we have the makin's of quite a crew. Or a backwoods version of the United Nations, except with varmint guns.
I starting counting heads and beds and meals and said, "I'd better make a run to the grocery store."
My husband started calculating how many shooters he was going to have on hand and said, "I'm gonna need more ammunition."
And then he looked at me and spoke the immortal words of redneck party planners everywhere: "You get the beer, honey, I'll get the bullets."
It'll all be good as long as nobody shoots the banjo player while he strums the theme from Deliverance in the background.