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Published November 22, 2010, 09:39 AM

When your best ranch hand also is your wife

TOWNER, N.D. — If you do a Google search on “teamwork marriage,” you’ll get 827,000 results in 0.2 seconds. When I want to work on the teamwork aspect of my marriage, I skip reading the books and articles. I just look across the breakfast table and say something sweet like, “Hey, honey, wanna work some cattle today?”

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — If you do a Google search on “teamwork marriage,” you’ll get 827,000 results in 0.2 seconds. When I want to work on the teamwork aspect of my marriage, I skip reading the books and articles. I just look across the breakfast table and say something sweet like, “Hey, honey, wanna work some cattle today?”

The cattle processing aspect of teamwork in a marriage didn’t make the first 10 article hits on the Internet search, but it should have. A couple who work cattle together, stay together, I say. Of course, the success of that theory depends on the couple, the cattle, how they handle the cattle and how they treat each other while they’re doing it.

If the details and personalities aren’t right, the whole cattle working activity could be disastrous for the marriage, bad for the cattle and ought to be avoided like the plague. If the ingredients are right, though, calmly and happily working cattle through the chute side by side with your life partner is right up there with a romantic dinner together.

Pick your partner

Knowing that your spouse may be called upon to help you work cattle adds a whole new aspect to the culture of courtship as you evaluate lifelong compatibility with possible mates. Somewhere along with physical attraction, emotional support, work ethic, desire to raise a family, molasses cookie recipes and such, you have to look deeper and ask your potential partner their theories on cattle handling.

I do have some gender bias when it comes to working cattle. I think most women are better at it, especially if you’re trying to keep stress to a minimum.

Sure, there’re plenty of men in my neighborhood who are good at working cattle, but I think we testosterone-clad guys need to work hard at it. We need to make conscious efforts to keep our cool or we go caveman and start screaming and thumping and slow down the whole process.

Women who I’ve seen work cattle have a much longer fuse, and if they know a little about cattle and how they react to pressure points and where to locate themselves, they’re 10 times the help of some guy yelling and screaming and grumbling about not having an electric prod to “make them go.”

Growth constraints

There are plenty of times where the work we do with the cattle requires more help than my wife and me, and we have a good neighborhood crew when we ask for it.

But our herd isn’t so big that we can’t vaccinate or wean the calves by ourselves in a couple different bunches if we get a baby sitter for the little ranch hands. When the two of us work the calves and nobody blows their top or throws a sorting stick at the other, I know I married the right person to support me in my ranching habit.

According to the so-called laws of economics, we ought to be growing our herd, renting more pasture, buying more machinery and hiring more help, but I don’t like the thought of having so many cattle that I’d have to “cheat” on my wife by working cattle with other people, especially people who might not be as good at it as she is.

I think this was all in the vows somewhere, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish and to calmly work cattle together, until death or upon sale of the herd do us part.

But not until we’ve helped each other load the cattle truck.

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