It’s the time of year that many Americans are making their plans to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Reservations are made at fancy romantic restaurants, millions of dollars are spent on flowers and candy and many choose this day to trot on down to City Hall to get married.
And as I got to thinking about the coming holiday and how it is celebrated, I wondered what Valentine’s Day was like for my friends in Idaho’s cowboy country where planning for any holiday is difficult given the fact that ranch work don’t necessarily follow the calendar.
So I called one of the “real housewives of Idaho”, Jayme to find out.
Jayme and her husband Matt run cattle near Shelley, Idaho. Matt is also a saddle maker and a true artist with leather.
They have three sons Jackson, 14, Mattson, 10 and Dawson, 8 months. In addition to their schoolwork, sports and other activities the two older boys are also ranch hands and have daily chores that need to get done come Hell or high water. And as soon as he is old enough Dawson will also be in the saddle doing his part.
I asked her with all that needs to be done every day, how they celebrated Valentine’s Day.
Her answer was right to the point.
“Every day has to be Valentine’s Day.”
She said that they make homemade Valentines cards for each other and last year Matt made a special one out of leather.
But a bigger Valentine for Jayme is sharing the hard work of raising a family and running a ranch--taking on one another’s chores to give them a break from routine. If Jayme needs to go drive the school bus as she does every day, Matt will take care of the youngest and if he has to go out and feed cows he takes little Dawson with him.
As the saying goes, when you’re pickin’ flowers everybody gets along. When it’s time to muck out the stalls you find out how true your love is.
“You have to take life as it comes and be in it together”, Jayme said. For them the phrase “for better or for worse” from the marriage vow has special meaning because you might have both of those happen in a single day.
Another reason that it is tough to plan a night out for Valentine’s Day is that cows can’t read a calendar either. And this time of year is the beginning of calving season. The night before I spoke with her one of their heifers dropped the first calf of the year.
Matt will now begin the annual ranch ritual of going out at night to check on the herd in case there are any complications as the cows birth the newborns that provide their livelihood.
Jayme and Matt certainly aren’t unique nor is their situation unique.
Across America on farms and ranches, couples work together and share both the good and the bad. And it is also true of the family that is struggling to make ends meet.
A spouse that needs to work far away in a different city because that is where the job is and they can’t afford to move the whole family.
Couples who barely get time to see each other because one works a night shift and one works a day shift. Or the spouse who is at home while the other is serving our country at a lonely outpost far from home.
As Jayme says, “You have to work together to make it work.”
Valentine’s Day is about love and romance.
But the meaning of true love does not come in a card with a sentiment written by a stranger or flowers that eventually fade and die.
It comes from two people in harness pulling on the wagon of life equally, sharing the ups and downs and then, years from now looking back on all they have accomplished together, riding happily and confidently into the sunset of life.
Or as the old cowboy saying goes.
“Love is a rocky trail but it sure promises a scenic ride.”
Patrick Dorinson aka "The Cowboy Libertarian"