Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

The Ranch Hand’s Diary:
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Nothing has died or suffered overly while Jesse and I were away to Texas. Lance even took the time to pluck handfuls of grass to give to the turkeys in between his other chores and discovered he loves them. The turkeys are charming. Despite his initial reluctance to like the ranch life, Lance has learned to love the cows, at least Norma and her calf Little Dude, to enjoy harvesting wild spinach, and to relish his time in the kitchen washing dishes. In the weeks that he's been here, Lance has quickly become family, a part of our small community. But the days have passed quickly. The weeks sped by. His dad comes Friday night to take him back to Idaho so that Lance can start his last year of high school.

"Not to be sentimental," I tell him. "But I will miss having you around."

"I’ll miss you guys too. You and Jesse are the best coworkers, and that includes my family, that I've ever had," he says. "You work really hard."

Lance and his dad leave early Saturday morning. None of us like goodbyes. So I don't try and get to the lodge before they're gone. Lance’s leaving creates a silence. His quick wit and smile, his joyful chatter and helpfulness are one-of-a-kind. He'd told me that if he ever became rich he would hire someone to make him kombucha. It's the biggest compliment I’ve had; I make the kombucha.

Karen's niece Riley is here for ten days or so. And she carries some of the workload while Greg takes his oldest daughter off to college.

Nevertheless, Jesse and I work long hours, long days. We're down to a scant crew. Basically, we’re it.

"It's no way to live," Jesse says one tiring afternoon, "counting down the days. Five more weeks, right? We have to find a way to enjoy the time. The present."

We have five weeks of ranch life left. Five weeks of milking, tending turkeys, chickens, and the new goats. Five more weeks of yogurt, cheese, buttermilk, kefir, and kombucha making. Five more weeks of dishwashing, tree watering, lawn care, pruning, weeding, planting, and harvesting. Five more weeks of watching the elk and deer fill the far pastures in the early evening light. Of hearing the now unseen owls who-whoing after dark. Of quick rainstorms that bring in wind like a banshee or a whirling dervish. Of the sound of the running stream outside our cabin, the early morning call of coyotes so happy to be alive, the constant chirping of a diverse community of birds, the passing buzz of a bumblebee who gets tangled in my hair and stings me in fright.

Five more weeks of the swift, shifting clouds, the majestic, light-changing faces of the looming, surrounding mountains, the crisp chill air of a cool Wyoming summer.

Five more weeks filled with the smell of fresh baked bread. Five more weeks washing newly lain eggs, fending off the attacking roosters, watching a weasel watch me as I sit on my porch and take a much needed break.

We’ll blink and the time will be gone. Like Lance and Michael and Tom and Sami and Darby, Riley will leave. Greg will return. Karen will return. Then, Jesse’s and my time to leave will come as well. Soon enough, our days as ranch hands will be over. Nothing more than stories to entertain those we meet up with later on. Stories to tell our niece and nephew when they're old enough to ask for them. Details for me to attach to characters in novels and short stories for depth and entertainment as I continue to write.

Five more weeks.

Oh, the life we lead.

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