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Across the fence: Ye ol’ ranch house

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 July 2021

When we first got married, we lived in a single-wide trailer on a chunk of land outside of Bozeman. The trailer was older than the two of us combined. Well, not quite, but it groaned and creaked like it.


The first time I used the bathroom, I realized the toilet had as much buck as a bronc in a rodeo. It wobbled on the seal, teetering and tottering. My quads got strong balancing on the porcelain throne because goodness knows a seat belt was necessary if you were going to stay on it for more than eight seconds.

We also discovered we had roommates – the mice were procreating faster than we could set out Decon.

In the winter, it felt chilly inside, but the landlord didn’t want us using the woodstove due to fire hazards – probably a good call. We had a furnace, but it was no match for winter temps. I put a 10”x15” pan with water in it on the kitchen floor one night. The next morning, it was frozen. We put plastic over the windows, but I doubt there was much insulation in the walls.

Even so, it was ours. Plus, it was in a beautiful area – mountain views near a creek – nearly paradise.

Our neighbors to the east were a retired couple who couldn’t have been better to us. They watched out for us like family. We have fond memories of our first home.

Our second home was a nicer home but just as cold.

The ranch house we moved into next was decent enough. It was an old farmhouse that had been added on to – and added on to – and added on to. The character grew with each addition.

The following ranch home was probably the grossest house I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, the ranch hired a woman to come help me clean (and I didn’t even ask them to. This alone is telling.) We cleaned for a couple days. By this point, our first child was crawling. I had her in a Pack-n-Play because the woman cleaning with me agreed that I should not put her on the floor.

There were flies between the window panes and the screens that were probably two feet up the window, making it difficult to see out. Yuck. We took a putty knife to the walls and the stove in the kitchen. The toilet, however, did not require a seatbelt. We realized after a couple days this home also had a house guest. On the porch, where the laundry area was located, sunned a green snake. Fortunately, it wasn’t poisonous, but I did not appreciate his presence in front of the washing machine. We tried to relocate him, but he was faster than us. He eventually quit coming around – maybe it was because the washing machine whirred like a helicopter. Maybe it was because of the cat.

We also had swallows along the side of the house where the bedrooms were. I imagine there were 200 swallows singing to us to announce the approaching glow of dawn. I wish I could say it was like a beautiful serenade, but anyone with 200 swallows under their eaves knows it is far from peaceful.

This house was also in a beautiful area with mountain views but about an hour to a small town and two hours to a Walmart. The road was red clay, so if it rained you may or may not be able to get out. The first time my mom visited, we had to get her unstuck.

Ranch housing differs place to place; not all are adventurous.

After working a couple ranches, we bought our own place.

Each house we’ve lived in has been a gift, even the cold ones. We moved a bit the first years of our marriage, but each house gave us a new appreciation for something. I remember when we got a house with a dishwasher – that was a big deal. Now that we are moving again, I’m a bit teary. It’s beautiful. We’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into this place and we have loved it. I still love it.

That’s the wonderful thing about a home: We love it. A home is a place of love because that’s where your family is located. Yes, the structure itself is important, but it is what is inside the walls that counts. The people who gather under our roof are a gift.

Each house tells a story. We get to add another chapter. end mark

Getty Images.

Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can follow her on her blog (Cowboy Wife).