03 March, 2015

Life on the Farm

Friday’s prompt reminded me of my childhood. It brought up memories of the ranch where I grew up, of Sunday rodeos, square dancing on Tuesday nights, and countless melodramas. It brought up memories of innocence and joy. Growing up in that idyllic place in the mountains gave me space to dream, to run and roam. I have to admit, I thought I would spend the rest of my life there. I thought I would meet a cowboy, fall in love, get married and inherit what my grandparents built. But life had other plans.

I still go between being a city girl and craving those wide open spaces. I miss a lot of things about the ranch, but realize nostalgia can do that. They are treasured memories and I have no guarantee that going back would not tarnish them. It is not the ranch my family left 15 years ago.

I have tried to write about it, but it’s more scattered moments and not something I can really capture. Maybe someday I will sit down and get some clarity on the place that meant everything to me. But for now it’s locked in memories of dance lessons, laughter, the quiet of winter and the joy of being in the mountains.

She stood at the fence, looking at the horizon. In the distance she could see the dust settling. They had taken the cows out to wander, leaving them in the woods over the summer to fatten up. It was such an odd tradition. They would be gone for two days, taking the cattle to the spot the forest service asked them to. Then the cows would roam free. They might send someone to go make sure they didn’t go too far, but until the fall the cows were free to do what they pleased. 

She thought about the fight the night before. The words screamed out in moments of frustration. She flinched slightly, still upset. Why couldn’t they find a place to settle on this? Realizing she was clenching her fists, she relaxed her hands. She tried to see his point, and knew his feelings were valid. But she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to be like those women she had seen at church with children climbing all over them. She already felt slightly claustrophobic with nothing but the four walls of the cabin and the daily activities of food prep, washing clothes, and milking the cows to keep her busy.

A child would not change things. It would be one more thing for her to take care of while he went out and played. He said he would help, but he couldn’t even take his socks off the floor.

Letting out her breath angrily, she looked to the horizon. Two days would be good. Let him be in the woods with his friends. They could build a campfire, talk about whatever men talked about, get away. She hoped maybe he would drag it out. Let it take an extra day, she could manage the farm.

Turning back to the cabin, she looked at what they had built. It sounded so idyllic in California: a cow farm in Colorado, deep in the woods. If only she had known that meant being a day’s ride from the closest store and having no one but him to talk to. Now that they were settled he wanted a family. But to be honest, she felt like she was already raising one. His friends were over all the time, sleeping in the barn, eating their food. Their manners were abhorrent. They cleaned up after the animals, she cleaned after them. And they smelled like the cattle. No matter how hard she scrubbed that smell would not come out of her husband’s clothing.

That smell – opportunity, prosperity, sweat, loss, dashed dreams, isolation.

But she had signed up for this. Till death do us part, she said to herself. She did love him. Why was she so scared of the next step?

Moving to hang the clothes on the line, she wiped the tear from her cheek. Two days. Two days with nothing but an empty house and her mind that would not stop running.

What was to come of them?

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© Amanda Lunday