The Vows and Working Cows
Do you know what almost 16 years of marital bliss looks like? It looks like yelling at each other in the wind across the cow pasture because 1) you didn’t fully understand his plan 2) even if you did, the plan wouldn’t have worked and 3) you don’t and never will understand his hand-signaling for crying out loud and 4) turns out catching an orphan calf with you in the ATV and him on foot real quick before our daughter’s piano recital was not, in fact, going to be real quick.
My husband and I have known each other since we were kids. We have had so much fun together, lots of lovely moments, which really helps in the stupid idea times, like taking on a total house remodel in our 20s and not taking the time to go get a horse to get this calf in. And the hard times, like years of infertility, a sick parent and cancer. But working cows together? Well, it’s in a league of its own in the marriage department. There should be a line item in the vows about it. Like, “I vow to not hold anything you say or do against you when we are working cows if you promise to do the same for me. Amen.”
When it comes to starting a life together, no one really mentions stuff like that. I’m not just talking about the annoying and surprising things, but the things that come with sharing a house, and plans, and dinner and children and new businesses and careers and remodels and a herd of cattle and six bottle calves in the barn.
Because, if we’re lucky, there’s a lot of life in between those “I do’s” and the whole “death parting us” thing. Not even our own wedding day went off without hitches. (If I recall, there was a cattle incident that day as well. Guess that’s what you get when you get married in the middle of a cow pasture.)
Yes, marriage officially joins us together, our love, yes, but also our mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works. You’re in it together. You get a witness. You get a built-in dinner date that sometimes is really late to dinner and it now you’re annoyed.
And it isn’t our anniversary or anything, but, after we chased that tiny calf across the pasture and down the road and into the next pasture and then into my little sister’s backyard where my husband finally dove in and caught a leg as I slid down a muddy gumbo hill in my muck boots after him and we finally got that calf onto the floor of the side-by-side and drove her to the barn, made her a bottle and got her to drink and wiped the sweat off of our faces, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the reason this will last until death parts us is that we don’t hold grudges.
Because (and this doesn’t always happen) we were laughing at the end of it. About the yelling part. About the dumb idea part. About the part where he’s terrible with a rope and knows it. About the ridiculous predicaments raising kids and cattle put us in. How is it that it’s equal parts easier and harder to do these things together? What a balancing act for a life that’s never balanced.
Because it’s all so annoying sometimes, and sometimes it’s his fault. Sometimes it’s mine. But I tell you what’s also annoying, that pickle jar that I can never open myself or the flat tire he’s out there fixing on the side of the road in the middle of a winter blizzard, proving that regardless of our shortcomings, life is easier with him around.
Ugh, it just has to work out. That’s something, isn’t it? As if the whole working out thing happens on its own because love will make it so. Love helps, but it doesn’t make you agree on the arrangement of the furniture. Love will not make him throw away that ratty state wrestling T-shirt, but it will make you change out of those sweatpants he hates every once in a while, you know, on special nights. And initially, love will send him running when he hears you scream in the other room, but there will come a time when he will wait for a follow-up noise, because love has made the man mistake a stray spider for a bloody mangled limb too many times. And, really, love makes it so you don’t really blame him.
And, just for the record, sometimes love is not patient. Sometimes it needs to get to town and she’s trying on her third dress of the evening.
And sometimes love is not as kind as it should be. Because love is human.
And no human is perfect. Not individually and surely not together. And especially not when working cows.
FANTASTIC LOVE STORY — As you mentions a few articles back about the picture of ranch life that the tourist buys at the Cenex store.
Relationship, the “stuff” in the middle. — enduring, longsuffering, patient, commitment that makes every moment worthwhile
Another blank page with blinking cursor — letting each moment be a keystroke as the love story is composed …. may you have many Happy Trails!!!
We so enjoyed this article! I read the whole thing to my husband of 55 years….Other than the involvement of cattle, the hand signal thing was spot on, as was the whole story line. Thanks for giving us a good laugh. ( he did construction, our hand signal issue was the finger across the neck, he said it meant shut it down. I was as OR nurse….that signal meant someone died..big difference!) Have a good summer.
Oh my gosh that’s hilarious, the finger across your neck. Love it!
I loved this and it made me laugh. I was raised on our cattle ranch with 7 siblings and can relate to all of your story.
On our Homestead at the bottom of the planet there’s no cows but otherwise we’re so on the same page. Its the yelling and laughing, mad adventures and nights in front of the TV, scary bits and safe and “phew” bits; the just knowing the crap and loving – not in spite of but just because thats who they and you are – thats what it is. 35 years married and his stupid, nonsensical hand signals still make no sense to me – and my yelling about it still makes him snigger.
This one hit home today and was just perfect. I would love to reprint it in the Wibaux Pioneer Gazette, if you would allow me. I was reading it to my family this morning and we were all laughing because they know Dad with his arthritic hand signals and we haven’t a clue other than the years of being around him and Mom. Thank you for truly a wonderful story.
A wonderful story. I’m so glad you found each other, and married each other, and long may you continue, hand signals and stupid plans notwithstanding.