In Which I “Work Some Cattle”

Melanie, Sophie and I met up with Ree at her family's ranch on Monday for a girls' getaway.  Guess how I got to start my day this morning?

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Not bad at all.  That strange glow in the air is a phenomenon they call "sunrise", perhaps you've heard of it?  I'm pretty sure the last time I was up this early I was timing labor contractions.  But starting my day with that view is almost enough to turn me into a morning person.  I even hummed a few bars of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'".  I had to hum; I was too sleepy to remember any of the words.

Our little adventure started yesterday morning, when we headed out of my city toward Ree's ranch, her meticulous directions clutched in my hand.  I have a poor track record with maps (ask Hubs about the Unfortunate Memphis Incident Of 2006), but I figured that surely three college-educated women with a working knowledge of Google Maps could find Ree's place. 

We meandered our way through the prettiest patch of Oklahoma I've ever seen–tall trees, rolling hills, winding roads.  Then, very suddenly, we crested a ridge, only to find that the curves and hills behind us abruptly opened right up into the wide-open, flat, treeless ranch land ahead.  "Girls," I whispered, feeling every bit like Ma Ingalls, "I think we found the prairie."

(I appreciate the beauty of expansive prairie land, especially the giant sky, but–at the same time–I'm strangely unnerved by it, as well.  I feel a little "exposed".  Perhaps it's a function of growing up in the cozy hillls of Arkansas.  Perhaps I am psychologically unable to function without a silhouette of a Target in the horizon.  Perhaps I'm just one endless parade of neuroses.)

Ree had mentioned that we'd turn off the main highway and drive "a bit" before we reached the Lodge.  So we were picturing, I don't know, maybe a long driveway.

100_4222 We turned off the main highway, and we drove.  And we drove and we drove.  And we drove some more.  Everywhere, as far as we could see, was beautiful, wide-open, gently rolling prairie.  Hardly a tree in site.  Just grass.  And cows.  And an endless amount of blue sky.  We were speechless (a rare occurrence) at the vastness and beauty of it.  A horse (a horse!), taller than my car, stepped out on the road in front of us, then slowly he sauntered off.  Melanie pointed out our next turn, and so I flipped on my turn signal.  MY TURN SIGNAL.  You know, just in case that one truck we saw 15 miles ago needed to know what we were doing.  Suddenly and painfully aware of the "city girl" labels stamped on our foreheads, we started giggling.  Then laughing.  Then snorting.  We were laughing so hard I had to pull the car over.  Delirium had set in.  (It's prairie madness, I'm sure.  Just like the original pioneers, except with an air-conditioned Honda).

But we forged ahead, meeting up with Ree at the Lodge.  She showed up bearing a giant dish full of this–between that and the unhealthy amount of chips and salsa I've eaten in the last 24 hours, Sophie and Melanie may have to roll me home.  We spent a quiet afternoon and evening with Ree, laughing and talking and generally discussing The State Of the World (and sighing some sad sighs over this).  When we parted last night, she let us know she'd be picking us up at the crack o' dawn this morning to work some cattle.  I thought that perhaps "work some cattle" might be ranch-speak for "sit on the deck and read a good book with my feet propped up". 

In fact, "work some cattle" is ranch-speak for "work some cattle".  Marlboro Man kindly offered to saddle up some horses for us.  As tempting as it was to climb up on a horse for my very first time in front of a bunch of professional cowboys, I decided to ride in the car with Ree and Sophie (though Melanie, feeling the need to represent the state of Texas well, gave it a very honorable effort).

Here is the point in this post where I would like to describe to you the morning's events, but my questionable grasp of ranching terminology makes a it a little difficult to communicate.  So instead, I'll just tell you that we watched a whole bunch of very strong cowboys do this:

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Mostly, we just tried (successfully) to stay out of the way, and we tried (unsuccessfully) not to ask too many questions.  Our best source of information was Ree's oldest daughter, who is remarkably well-informed about various and sundry ranch-related issues.  When we found ourselves standing in a pen with several newly-branded-and-vaccinated (and understandably cranky) calves, Ree's daughter quietly advised us that "if they run at you, just wave your arms."

If they run at me?

Alrighty.  I'll be sure to remember that while I'm dropping to the ground and crying in terror.

It was only shortly thereafter that one calf, especially frustrated by the morning's events, seemed to zero in on Sophie, Melanie and me as the source of all his problems.  Is it my imagination, or is he giving us a dirty look?

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I thought about telling him to wipe that scowl off his face, but then Ree's daughter told me he weighs three times what I do, so I changed my mind.

Now I'm at the end of this remarkable day (not really at the end, but when you're up at 4:45 a.m., mid-afternoon feels like the end of the day).  My feet are propped up on a comfy couch in the Lodge, and I'm looking out over an incredible view.  Ree is headed back up this way in a little while to cook for us (oh yes, please!)

Do you think my family would notice if I decided to stay here just a little longer, like, maybe a year or two?

Thegirls

(Ree, Melanie, me and Sophie)

54 thoughts on “In Which I “Work Some Cattle”

  1. Kerry says:

    Your “nervousness” of the prairie made me laugh as I can relate so well…only we’re opposites!
    I grew up in Nebraska and moved to the desert of New Mexico, so the whole big sky, land-without-interruption is my comfort zone. My parents moved to Arkansas, and when I visit I find all the hills, trees, vines, overall “greeness” quite overwhelming. I never feel I can take a deep breath until I’m home!
    Awesome experience at the ranch. I’m just going to live vicariously through you, if you don’t mind!
    Kerry

  2. Sarah @ Short Stop says:

    Shannon! How awesome that you went to PW’s. I secretly dream of going to her lodge – though I guess not so secretly anymore. Only, I want to cook for her! I think she deserves to have someone cook her a great meal after all the *virtual* cooking she’s done for the rest of us.
    It sounds like you’re having a great time! Enjoy!

  3. k&c's mom says:

    Loving your post and Melanie’s on the same subject. Can’t wait to see Sophie’s take of working the ranch. Know you’ll continue to have lots of fun. Bless you all.

  4. Daiquiri says:

    What? Huh? How come I didn’t know anything about this? And why wasn’t little ole green me invited? πŸ˜‰ Can’t wait to see more photos – I’m all about the photos.

  5. Marie says:

    Shannon, you look amazing ! Bravo on the weight loss !! And I am so very jealous that you are at the ranch with Ree and her family !

  6. se7en says:

    How cool is that!!! Isn’t it amazing – one can actually get up before dawn and still survive. Could never do it at home, but the adventure of being away seems to make it – well survivable!

  7. Just Mom says:

    “I appreciate the beauty of expansive prairie land, especially the giant sky, but–at the same time–I’m strangely unnerved by it, as well. I feel a little “exposed”. ”
    Brought back memories of when my hubby and I moved from mountainous Oregon to the prairie lands of South Dakota a little over a decade ago. Now I have the opposite reaction and feel somewhat claustrophobic when we go back to Oregon to visit his family.
    Sounds as if you had a wonderful time.

  8. Heather F. says:

    OMG, so jealous. Long-time follower, first-time commenter and I must say I’m green with envy! Hope you had a blast and let us all know how it went! Enjoy your time. ❀

  9. Sandra says:

    Oh the irony … how many city folk think that the country is peaceful, restful and thought provoking.
    It’s pretty much the same as the city; busy, productive and has you thinking til your head drops off …. although the herds of cattle here are furry and not the two legged office kind.

  10. Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience says:

    Really? Ree got to meet you? How blessed is she!?!
    And you all look the vision of radiant country women… Beautiful! (Want to come feed our hogs? Collect the eggs? Combine the wheat? ~smile~)
    Fine, fine writing, Miz Shannon. ~warm laugh~
    All’s grace…

  11. Kristi says:

    Your prairie pictures make me homesick for my Alberta prairie. I’m a Canadian-Alberta-Prairie girl transplanted to Florida, so it was nice to see some pictures that look like home!

  12. Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) says:

    FINALLY… a photo of y’all together!!! What a good-looking bunch (that’s ranch speak for what we Down Under like to refer to as a “mob”! A bunch here means a posy!).
    You lot all write so beautifully, I totally feel like I was there. Great effort. Go put those boots up again!
    πŸ™‚
    BB

  13. Robin ~ PENSIEVE says:

    So I’m thinkin’ you’re totally copying my omni-present feet-at-the-beach shot, which is way more cool than your boot shot, except I’m talking literally and you’re talkin’ figuratively.
    I love foot picchas.
    Anyways, what I mostly wanted to say is a) I’m glad this trip is everything you hoped for and MORE, and b) you and Sophie sporting the gingham? Oh, the ranch stereotyping…I just had to giggle at your “when in Rome” attempt at fashion.
    My crush on the trio continues…..;)
    xo

  14. TRS says:

    Yeah, I’m with Kerry.
    I grew up in Nebraska and never understood why folks would say the interstate here was miles of nothing.
    I finally visited the east coast a few years ago — and discovered – guess what – you can’t see anything because there’s trees in the way!!!
    OMG! It’s clausterphobic! How the heck do you know where you’re going or where you are when it all looks the same? Trees trees trees!
    At least in Nebraska you know where to turn because you see the intersection from 10 miles away!!

  15. *~Michelle~* says:

    Now that is a vacation!!!!!!!!
    Looks like you had a blast…I would give my left ovary to stay on a ranch like that for a week! Well, maybe not my left ovary, but you know what I mean. That place looks heavenly!
    Good for you! So happy you had a great time with great people.

  16. BlueCastle says:

    You lucky duck! Two of my favorite, been-reading-you-since-I-discovered-blogs bloggers together in one place. Looks like a lot of fun. Except for the 5 am part. πŸ™‚

  17. Gena says:

    Three blog favorites all at one ranch. I’m feeling a little left out! Love all your Oklahoma stories and articles on motherhood. Hope you’re having fun!

  18. Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting says:

    Oh, Shannon! Firstly, let me say how rockin’ you look! Seriously smokin’ in that picture, honey (in a non-lesbian, you’re just a friend, kind-of way)!
    Secondly, I agree with everyone else who is so jealous it hurts! Two of my favorite bloggers hangin’ out together? Fab-u-lous!

  19. Linda Sue says:

    I’m so glad I read your blog today – Sophie wasn’t talking about the food and I just KNEW you’d talk about the food – whew! Wonderful picture of 4 of the best bloggers around – and Shannon – you look SKINNY

  20. Amy in TN says:

    Sounds like you had a great trip. How awesome that Pioneer Woman cooked for you!!! By the way, you look GREAT in the picture. Skinny-minny plus lipstick at the crack of dawn….impressive!

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