Everyone knows the story of the cowboy. He works from sun up until sun down seven days a week, 365 days a year; he tends to his crops and livestock, praying endlessly about the weather and hoping for one year in the black. You know the story of the cowboy, but do you know the story of the cowboy’s wife?
She is the one up before her cowboy to make the coffee and eggs, pack the lunch, wash the thermos and give a kiss goodbye. She’s at home with the kids, schooling, loving and playing the roles of both parents during the busy times. She’s dropping everything when the phone rings to do a parts run into town, to bring something from the shop or to drive a grain truck during harvest. Ever mindful of the calendar and the season, she’s timing her every day to her cowboy’s rhythm.
Baby calves arrive in early Spring and, with them, long 24-hour cycles where her cowboy is watching his cows, praying for an easy calf and being there to assist with the first sign of struggle. It means nights where the only goodnight kisses are from mommy, loads of laundry pile up, there is always a pot of coffee to brew, and everyone hopes silently for another good calf crop that year.
Planting and harvest time means a juggling act of cooking for the crew, delivering to the fields, watching her kids play in the corn for the brief moment they get to see daddy that day, and then home with the dishes to rinse and repeat. Summer grass season means endless days of shopping, cooking, packing her family of four, traveling the 220 miles round trip to unload and continue the routine in a remote location far from her normal. But, summer grass season also means checking cows with daddy, front porch talks and the rare, idol moment to play catch or go for a swim. Fall brings the re-opening of the feedlot, 1200 animals back to the ranch, listening for the last load of the feed truck to end its seven-hour feeding cycle knowing that daddy “should be” home within an hour.
Then there is sale season when the wife puts on her happiest face and dresses her family in their very best cowboy clothes. They spend the day greeting the buyers that travel from across the country because they are the most important people in their business world. They trust in the Black Hereford genetics and the operation they run and it’s important for each and every one of them to see her next generation and the dedication she has to continuing their legacy. It doesn’t matter that they were up for 20 hours a day for two weeks prior; washing, cleaning and readying the bulls and the barn so everything is perfect. That day, they smile and hug and share stories of babies and thank God that they have those wonderful people to share their world with. It is the day that makes the whole ranch go ‘round.
Life on the ranch is a two-step, and it’s this cowboy’s wife’s favorite dance. But, the most beautiful thing about this crazy life we lead is it’s cyclical. Every second Saturday in February we know there will be a sale at JN Ranch and early May begins breeding season. So, as the years go on, the cowboy’s wife only gets better and more seasoned. Just like her favorite cast iron pan, each hot fire she’s in leaves her stronger and truer than before. And, like the cowboy, the cowboy’s wife is not a rare breed. She is over 300 years old and is always there to help the next generation. There isn’t a cowboy’s wife within 100 miles of here that wouldn’t drop every thing she’s doing if I called and asked for help with harvest meals, bottle feeding a calf or watching my kids while I drive the tractor for my cowboy. That’s just what we do and it’s why our industry has stood the test of time.
True, being a rancher 30 miles outside Kansas City is unique, but that's what makes it so great. I'm a cowboy's wife and – like the cycle of our ranch that is tried and true – I'll be here forever.