Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Who is Ralph you ask? Let’s just say picture Gus off of Lonesome Dove and you have him. Ralph is a veterinarian who has been preg-testing our cattle for the last fifteen years. He owns a ranch in White Sulphur Springs, MT. He’s a rough and tough old cowboy; he feeds his cattle by a team of horses in the winter and relishes in the old school way of ranching. Currently, he is in his 70’s and still goes around preg-checking people’s cattle for them weeks at a time from late July-Early October. Would you be able to stick your arm in 600 hundred heifers/cows rears in the 80-90 degree heat all in one day? I’m getting a little sidetracked but I wanted to give a proper example defining Ralph’s level of grit.
After my sophomore year of college ended I convinced my friend Quinn into going up to Ralph’s ranch with me to work for a couple days. First you need to understand Quinn is a city girl, she grew up in a culdasack and has a heart attack if she gets her shoes dirty (nothing wrong with that either we all like clean shoes.) Our first night upon arrival we finally made it to Ralph’s ranch and drove down the long gravel road into his place. We slowed down when we reached the fork in the road that led to the barns, turned the corner and right there hanging on the tractor was a dead, skinned steer. Ralph had his hired hand named J.D. preparing him for the freezer. I knew Quinn had never even witnessed a dead cow so you can imagine the horror written on her face as I explained what was going on. This was also Quinn’s first impression of J.D who looks like he popped straight out of a western movie. He has a handle bar mustache that curls to the tips of his nose that most men couldn’t dream of growing. I’m certain Quinn was wondering what on earth I had dragged her into, she later told me she felt like she was in the twilight zone.
We briefly checked in with Ralph said our hello’s and he showed us around the cabin we would be staying in. It was called the “cook house cabin”, because that’s where the cook sleeps during calving season. Before Ralph headed back to his cabin we asked what time he would like for us to meet him in the morning. Without a pause he said 4:30 A.M. We gave him a nod like that was a totally normal time for someone to wake up and waited for him to leave before we could laugh about new alarm time. It didn’t take long for 4:00 A.M. to roll around, we cooked ourselves some scrambled eggs, and headed for the barn. We were bundled to the brim to brave the brisk Montana air on a May morning.
We walked down to the barns and sat in the old pickup truck to stay warm while we waited for Ralph to appear. Leaned backed against the dusty old truck seat, we both sat with our eyes closed for a second, to tired to even think or wonder what on earth Ralph could even be having us do at that time in the morning…I mean the gosh darn sun wasn’t even up yet! We heard the drum of an old truck puddle down the hill and sure enough it was J.D. and the infamous mustache behind the wheel. Quinn out of nowhere grew a southern accent and asked me, “Wonder what that some-bich is doing!?” I looked at my sweet friend in awe of her suddenly foul mouth and burst into laughter and asked, “what are you talking like that for!?”, she straight faced replied, “gotta get my ranch talk going!” It’s probably one of my all time favorite recollections of my friend.
Not long after that Ralph emerged chugging along in his green tractor with a bale on the front ready to feed some cows. We walked over to the bottom of the steps wondering what he wanted us to start doing for the day. He hollered our first duties out the tractor door over the roar. Before we could ask him, “what was that again?” the door was shut and he was chugging along down the road. We both shrugged our shoulders unsure of what he said and agreed on a plan of what we thought he instructed and started pouring corn in the yearlings feed bunks. About fifteen minutes later we heard Ralph come around the corner looking at us like we were completely incompetent and started hollering, “What are you two going to do hold hands all day!?” Apparently we got our initial instructions wrong and took note that we would not be working together that day. I was sent down to the main barn to help J.D. start breeding heifers and sweet Quinn whose only rode a horse once was sent with the other hired hand to saddle up and check pairs! (That’s a whole story for another day!)
I could recount a million hilarities about that weekend, but I will end with this. That evening when Quinn unsaddled her horse Ralph tried teaching her how to brush it down. Clearly not impressed with her horse brushing skills he decided Quinn might best thrive in the kitchen. He kindly asked if she would like to go help get dinner ready. Meanwhile J.D. and I finished breeding the heifers for the evening and put them away before walking up to Ralphs cabin for dinner.
Before you read this next part of the story, please understand at this point in my life I could out eat most men (still probably true), I never skipped a meal (still typically don’t) and if I did eat a salad it was considered an appetizer. Anyways, Quinn greeted us at the door and walked with me to the back bathroom to wash up. After a long day, I tiredly looked at her and asked what she made for dinner. She responded, “salad.” I looked at her again like quit messing around, “seriously what are we having for dinner?” Quinn politely responded straight-faced as if she to knew we were about to starve and again said, “salad”. We both looked at each other not sure whether to laugh or cry because we were so tired and hungry.
Ranch talk is still our funny inside joke and I am proud to say we have now grown to appreciate a healthy mixed salad for dinner! Hope you enjoyed a little look into our adventure at Ralphs!