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Across the Fence: He says, she says – How to appreciate perspective in the cowboy world

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 12 June 2018
river crossing

My idea of a risk is far different from my cowboy's. I take tiny, calculated risks. My idea of a risk involves trying a new recipe or taking an alternate route on a trip.

My hubby's idea of risk includes life-altering circumstances. It's not a risk to him unless someone might die.


Here's my side of a story that happened last June:

We moved cow-calf pairs and would be coming back the next day to move another bunch. (Our leased land was about an hour drive from our home.) My hubby says, "Let's leave the horses in this 500-acre meadow. I'll grab them in the morning."

Me: "Let's put them in the corral, so we know where they are in the morning. Tomorrow is our anniversary. We don't want things to go wrong like last year and the year before. …"

Hubby: "They'll be fine."

Next morning … the horses have swum the river and are far away on an "island" paradise. It's flood season, and the river's flowing at 12,600 cfs.

Hubby: "Let's swim across and get them."

Hubby's friend: "Good idea."

They spend the day lining up a boat to take them to the island and rescue their bodies in case they drown in the high river current. Then they swim the horses across raging waters in their underwear. Three times they nearly went under. The horses almost gave up. Bonus points: Life jackets and life ropes were involved. Negative: It was our anniversary.

Hubby comes home with more adrenaline running through him than blood. "That was awesome! You wouldn't believe how good that felt!"

Me: Fake smile.

The horses are too tired to be used the next day because they nearly drowned.

To be fair, here's his side of the story:

After moving pairs:

Him: "Let's leave the horses in this small meadow. They'll have plenty to eat and I won't have to haul water to the corral."

Me: "That's a wonderful idea. I love everything you say and do."

Him: "I know. I'm amazing."

Meanwhile back at the ranch … the horses have crossed the river and are not available to ride.

Him: "How did this happen? I never imagined anything like this could happen." Deep breath. "I think my horse just gave me the finger."

Me: Silence.

Friend: "I've got a friend with a boat. Let's call him."

Him: "Perfect. We'll swim the river and get the horses back."

Friend: "He'll boat us across."

Him: "Sweet. This is going to be awesome."

They boat across the river, catch the horses, strip to their underwear and hats, and plunge them bareback into the water, where they safely swim the 200 yards across the Missouri River.

Him: "That was fantastic! Let's post pictures and video on Facebook. Maybe we should do this every year."

Okay. Somewhere in the middle (but closer to my side) is the real story.

We did at least eat together on our anniversary (after sunset), which beats the alternative.

He said, she said is taken to a whole different level in ranching. I'm sure you all have your own stories. I'm certain the balance is somewhere in the middle and the key is honoring each other's perspectives. Are you the gas or the brakes in your relationships? Thank goodness for balance!  end mark

Marci Whitehurst ranches with her husband and three kids in southwest Montana. Her Across the Fence blog offers a unique viewpoint about life, livestock, cowgirl lingo and family bonds strengthened on the ranch.

Marci Whitehurst
  • Marci Whitehurst

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PHOTO: An appropriate river crossing with cattle. Photo by Marci Whitehurst.