Warning: Brief but Shameless Self Promotion Ahead!
Because, believe it or not, I do write books as an attempt to shore up the ol' ranch income, which is notoriously fickle, especially this year. Whether you're looking for a great stocking stuffer or an excuse to go hide from the family in a closet with a flashlight for a few hours of holiday alone time, you can find my books digitally or in print at nearly all online vendors, in stock at most Barnes and Noble stores, and by request from the majority of independent bookstores.
And YES, I do by chance have a Christmas book! This one is part prodigal son, part 'romance for those over a certain age', and part homage to both adoptive parents and the birth parents who were brave enough to give their child to someone who could offer them the life and love they deserved. Now THAT'S a gift that never stops giving.
I would also like to point out that I made that wreath you see on the cover with my own fumbling little hardly-ever-crafty fingers, from one of my actual rodeo ropes. Go me! And go you, to my website for links on how to buy any of my books, at KariLynnDell.com.
Whew! Enough of that stuff.
Hey, U.S. readers, how was your Thanksgiving? If you by chance spent it sleeping in an airport or otherwise NOT where you wanted to be, I just want to say I AM SO SORRY. I should have realized the consequences when I bought my husband last minute tickets to fly out to South Dakota and spend the holiday with his family. There is no surer way to guarantee epic snowfall and wind and cold than to let him leave me in charge of the chores. A good wife might muddle through, keeping her travails to herself so her husband could enjoy his time away without worry. Me, I prefer to share the joy, which led to a lot of interesting text message exchanges:
We had four straight days of single digit to subzero weather, with the obligatory wind and intermittent snow. The water tank for the heifers froze. The electric waterer for the horses and newly weaned bulls froze. The water to the house even froze briefly. The phrase, "Just whack it with a hammer, that'll usually knock the float loose" was exchanged via frazzled phone call.
But the crowning moment was when my son and I were filling the bunks with the nifty, labor-saving hopper bottom feeder and the switch started smoking in my hand, along with the wire that runs all the way across the dashboard. Needless to say, there was some pretty impressive panic going on inside that cab until I shut it off, it stopped smoking, and we realized that we probably weren't going to burn up the entire pickup.
Oh, but the gods of Everything that Can Go Wrong were not done with us yet. By now the calves were threatening to eat us and the pickup we came in if they didn't get their grain pellets, so I shoveled two hundred pounds worth out of the top of the tank and into the bunks. Then we parked the pickup outside the gate while we pitched hay in the round bale feeders. And then we turned to leave and discovered this:
Somehow, while we weren't looking, the auger inside the feeder turned itself on and ran the other two hundred pounds of feed out onto the snow, where we got to shovel it back up again. And yes, for the hundredth time, the stupid switch was turned OFF!
All in all, though, we managed pretty well. Everything ate. Everything eventually drank. Nothing died or went missing. That's about as good as you can expect on an average week on the ranch, let alone one when Greg is gone. And the snowplow even showed up in time for me to escape and pull into the Calgary airport just as he walked out of the terminal.
But I was reminded of a newspaper column I wrote a few years back, after what was probably the last time I let him leave me home and in charge.
The Curse of the Missing Man
Among the innumerable addendums to our old friend Murphy's Law is one that reads: Whatever can go wrong will, as soon as your husband leaves for a week.
I don't know about town women, but I guarantee all you ranch wives know exactly what I'm talking about. Every horse on the place will be sound and healthy as a…well...horse, until your husband's truck disappears over the hill. Then one of them will immediately fall over and start kicking at its belly. While you're leading the horse around for the nineteenth hour straight per the vet's instructions to prevent the dreaded colic, one dog will jump up a porcupine and get a face full of quills while the other gets hosed by a skunk, and the wind will blow the satellite dish off the roof so the kid is whining louder than either of them.
Right then your husband will call and ask, "Hey, honey, how's it going?" My typical response is a perfect example of why we call it a Curse.
There was the time my husband drove my car out to South Dakota to visit his family, leaving me his field pickup to commute the fifty miles to my then day job. For those who aren’t aware, ‘field pickup’ is shorthand for 'pickup consigned to the field because it's not safe at highway speed', but I managed to keep it between the ditches. Just outside of town, though, it developed a new, more troubling shimmy. When I parked at the office I saw a front tire was low, so I delivered it straight to the shop. Problem solved.
Hah! the Curse chortled.
An hour later they called me to come take a look at some big metal brace attached to the wheel and explained that it's supposed to curve down, not up, and wow, they'd never seen one bent that bad. And by the way your tire is shot, your spare is dicey and we don't have anything for under a hundred and fifty bucks that will fit.
Unsure of whether we wanted to invest twice the value of the pickup in a new tire, I took my chances and wobbled almost home. At least it was a lovely evening to hike that last mile after the dicey spare went flat, and hey, cardio workout done for the day. Then Dad asked if I could haul a couple of plastic water tanks up to the horses and roping calves because the big stock tank had sprung a leak overnight.
Gotta love the Curse.
Vehicle wise, the most panic-inducing case was in Oregon, when we’d just moved there and knew almost no one. My husband had barely cleared the state line when my pickup overheated. I watched in dismay as the radiator puked the last of its contents onto the pavement and a stranger at a convenience store somberly informed me the water pump had gone out.
Know how many auto repair shops are open on Memorial Day weekend? Zero. That left me with no form of transportation that didn't run on hay, and I was entered in a rodeo on Tuesday night in Caldwell, Idaho. I hitched a ride to the nearest auto parts store, bought a water pump and a repair manual for a 1989 Dodge Ram, and invested a day and a half and all the hide on all my knuckles doing what would have taken my husband one afternoon. By golly, though, I made it to Caldwell, the Curse be damned.
The next time he left, the mainline to our community water system broke. I showered at the gym and hauled drinking and toilet water for three days while they waited for a backhoe to come and dig up the line. A backhoe just like the one my husband--had he only been around--could have immediately borrowed from his boss to excavate the pipe, saving me from missing a single flush. More Curses.
Then there was the evening I was home alone and heard weird, moaning noises coming from the sagebrush on the other side of our horse pasture and found a woman sitting in the dirt, high as a kite, singing to the birdies with no idea where she was or how she got there. I don't believe even my husband would have been much help with her. I went ahead and called The Man.
After all my struggles, I couldn't help but wonder: is there also a Missing Woman Curse? Do things immediately start to fall apart when I'm gone? I believe they must. In fact, from the looks of the refrigerator whenever I come home after a trip, it appears the minute I leave the kitchen range and every cooking appliance in the house except the hotcake griddle goes on the blink.