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Across the fence: In sickness and in health

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 March 2019

My husband coughed 5,218 times last night. His lung is in the bathroom. He is sweating through his PJs, but he’s putting on his coveralls.

When we started ranching, there was no covenant like you have with a marriage. In marriage, we pledge to love our spouses in sickness and in health. We vow to care for one another whether they are grumpy in the corral or nice in the house.

There wasn’t any covenant like that for ranching, but there might as well have been.

When we are sporting a fever or struggling through little sleep, we don’t call in sick. The cattle would’ve noticed if they didn’t get fed this past winter, and we would’ve felt worse not checking on them.

Calling in sick isn’t something we think about until the plague strikes.

Many of us have great neighbors that’ll lend a hand should we get in a real bind, but most of us don’t stop. Usually, we can hand those chores over to our partner or a family member. It’s just that for some of us – it takes a lot of convincing to take time off.

I mean, I really have to come up with some good arguments to get my hubby to stay inside when he’s down-and-out, even after surgery.

Me: “You just had surgery yesterday. You shouldn’t be outside working.”

Him: “I’m not working.”

Me: “You’re not? Why are you underneath the trailer with tools in your hand?”

Him: “I’m not working.”

Me: Eyebrow raise he can’t see. Deep breath he can hear.

Him: “Really. I’m just rewiring the trailer lights. It’s not work. It’s like un-work. It’s a fact that these lights need rewired, but they just keep getting bumped to the back of the to-do list. Now is a great time because I’ve got nothing else to do.”

Me: “Right. You can’t rest inside? What if you pop your stitches?”

Him: “I won’t. I’m tilting sideways to not put pressure on them.”

Me: “Did you take more painkillers than what I gave you?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “Did you drink?”

Him: “Not that I remember.” Laughs. “Ow, that hurt.”

Me: “Laughing hurts? You should go inside.”

Him: “No, I’m relaxing out here.”

You get the idea. My husband did in fact heal from his emergency appendectomy (not laparoscopic) and get the trailer lights rewired.

However, should the man get a cold:

Him: “Everything hurts. I think I’m dying. My hair is on fire. My insides are a mess. Oh my gosh, see that? My nose almost ran. I think my eyes are going to pop out of my head. I can’t even walk. Or take a shower.”

Me: “You don’t have a fever, so that’s good.”

Him: “The thermometer must be broken.”

Me: “Well, you rest, I’ll do chores.”

Him: “I hope I’m still alive when you get back.”

Okay, just kidding, he never says this. He actually still tries to do chores when he’s sick. I just try to beat him to it because goodness knows I have my own issues.

When I get sick:

Him: “Why are you folding laundry?”

Me: “I’m fine.”

Him: “Why are you cooking supper?”

Child: “Ooh, Mom, that’s gross. You’re going to get us all sick.”

Me: “Pretty sure I got this from you, but you’re right. I’ll go watch a Hallmark movie.”

That is a sure-fire way for a cowboy wife to get some time alone.

The reality is, even when we aren’t sick or recovering from surgery, we still have times when we think we can do everything on our own.

Him: “Don’t you think you overestimated what it would take to pick up this stuff?”

Me: “What stuff?”

Him: “You bought a table off Craigslist that you need four men and a baby to lift and you think you can get it all by yourself.”

Me: “I can’t?”

Him: “Not to mention the fact that we are supposed to be somewhere five minutes after picking up this table. How is that even possible?”

Me: “Well … OK. You’re right. It’ll be fine.”

I guess we are all a work in progress.

My man is equally guilty for trying to do things on his own: lifting too many panels at a time, attempting to fix a roof on his own or squeezing in too many activities in a day.

“Sure we have enough daylight left to gather and then process cows.”

Our intentions include being productive and being good stewards, but I suppose it can go overboard. We can create more work if we aren’t careful. No one needs more of that.

I guess doing chores when you are sick isn’t too big a deal. I mean, it always works out, and the cows don’t catch a cold.

The more important thing is that you take care of each other, spouse and cattle included, whether in sickness or in health. Besides, fresh air is good for us, right?  end mark