Life of cowboy’s wife hardly idyllic

By Glenda Price: New Mexico columnist

The cowboy rides up horseback, leading a good-looking sorrel mare that’s his gift to you, and the two of you ride off into the sunset and live “happily ever after.” That’s the way it happens in the movies and the romantic novels.

Excuse me.

Here is a typical morning in the life of a cowboy’s wife:

You get the joyful job of milking the cow. There’s this romantic picture of a maiden with her stool, the milk flowing almost by itself into her shiny clean bucket while the cow’s baby calf frolics nearby.

Here is what really happens. You’ve got the old lady’s head in the stanchion, and you’ve given her some feed. You have to let the calf suck first so she’ll let her milk down. If you’re really fast, you can get your half while the calf gets his. But for most of us that doesn’t work. After the calf has sucked all around, you finally out-stout him and drag him away.

Her bag is now loaded with calf slobbers. Imagine grabbing onto raw, warm egg whites. After you get going you can wipe your hands on your britches legs and get rid of the worst of them, though.

It’s early spring, and you’re in a drought of course. The only thing green the cow can graze is various weeds down by the river. You’re making headway with the milking when she swats you with her tail — loaded with cockleburs. This definitely gets your attention.

So you hang a piece of baling wire from the roof and tie her tail to it.

At last you’ve got the milk coming in great white streams. You start whistling a happy tune to the rhythm of milk squirting into the bucket, You change teats. The one you get next turns out to be sore.

Old Biddy raises her leg, kicks out at you and plants her foot — which is loaded with manure — smack in the middle of the half-full bucket. So you pour that milk into the pigs’ trough, and get another bucket.

Finally, you end up with a little milk you can keep. You let the calf back in so he can get all the rest of the milk because if you don’t take it all she’ll make less the next round.

Back at the house you use a cloth to strain the milk into the separator. At last you’re ready for the other chores.

The house windmill is on the fritz, so you load water cans in the back of the pickup and drive two miles to the well that has a working windmill. The wind is not blowing (for once) so the well is not pumping water. So you dip water out of the drinking tub, ignoring the green stuff growing there.

Your “romantic” cowboy gets back to the house about the same time you do. He grins and asks, “How you doin’ this wonderful mornin’, Hon?”

You can’t help it. You grin back — and swat him with a handful of cockleburs.