She was an Eastern Idaho country girl. Each fall during potato harvest the schools in Eastern Idaho would have a 2 week potato harvest vacation, she would work on a spud harvester for her sister in laws family at Grant Idaho. That connection is where she found her future husband, or he found her. He wasn’t a Ranch Hand when they married but fresh out of the Marine Corps and a Southern Idaho farm boy with a love for animals and Aviation; also blessed or cursed with a huge dose of wanderlust. They were married in the early 70’s.
After college and work on a couple of ranch’s in Idaho and Utah, and 3 kids later they found their selves on a Ranch in Southwest Montana. Her husband had more drive than to be a hired hand, he wanted to own a few cows and eventually their own place. Working as a herdsman or ranch manager with the option to run a few cows was a step in that direction.
She toiled beside him where ever they were and never received a cent for her labor.
It was the fall of 1980 or somewhere around there and the time of year to work cows, wean calves and maybe ship a few head. It was early on a Monday morning around 2am when she miscarriaged; she knew that she was pregnant and had verified her husbands suspicions, another child wasn’t unexpected but maybe this one was a bit sooner than planned; the miscarriage was unwelcome news.
It complicated the day for them as there was a crew of ranching neighbors gathering to help work cattle. The husband asked his bride if he needed to reschedule the day and she replied ‘no’, she’d be fine. Along with caring for their 3 little ones and possibly working a vaccination gun she would be required to feed the crew at lunch time; all without pay. Against his better judgment he took her at her word and pushed forward with the plan for the day.
He asked the ranch’s other hired man’s wife to assist his bride and explained briefly the circumstances; she didn’t turn out to be much help which puzzled him but they were to find out why later; evidently they had other plans for their selves and the ranch.
Early afternoon after the crew was fed and kids were being watched, she drove herself to the hospital in Butte Montana. The Doc performed the necessary surgery required after a miscarriage and kept her in the hospital overnight.
That evening after the cattle were worked and kids taken care of and a baby sitter found the ranch hand drove to Butte to check on his wife and spend a few moments with her. On one of the exits, I 15 northbound he pulled off and took a few minutes to compose his self; he wasn’t happy with his decision to put the ranch’s need’s before his wife’s. He drove on to Butte after a few moments and was grateful that all was well with her. Later that evening he returned to the ranch and their little brood of children. The next day she drove herself home from the hospital.
A month later the ranch cut them loose.
Without a written contract they had no recourse and packed up kids, cattle, horses and furniture and moved on. The owners said that they were taking the ranch in a different direction and their or rather his, the ranch hands, services were no longer needed. There was no evidence that they were being told the truth and it not only appeared that they had been lied to but that lies were spread about them after their departure from the ranch. It was sorry thanks for a job well done.
They moved on to the next job trying not to look back and question their selves but their loyalty had been poorly repaid. But in the end they wouldn’t have done anything different; what else would you expect from the ranch hands WIFE.
Most all of my stories are based on real people and true life experiences, who actually I’m talking about in this short story is not as important as the fact that it is a tribute to “The ranch hands Wife’ not the gal that wants to be on a horse everyday with her husband but who can be when necessary but the gal that is behind the scenes raising their family or at least doing her part because most Ranching husbands spend a good deal of their time with at least one if not two bambino’s bouncing around in the cab of a pickup with them or asleep in the cab of a tractor while putting up hay; quite often those bambino’s are a horse back before they can walk.
So to all of you wives and girlfriends of ‘The Ranch Hand’, THANK YOU.
Brian Spaulding 10/16/2022