The Cook and the Cowboy

The Cook and the Cowboy

(The photo included with this post shows a section of the road that I refer to in this story. The ranch I refer to lies south from where I stood to take the photo.)


As I drove east out of Jackson Hole, on the narrow, winding road that served as access to the Gros Ventre Wilderness, I couldn't help but feel I was on the precipice of another adventure. The scenery became more spectacular with every mile, and signs of civilization became fewer and farther between. It wasn't long before the pavement turned to gravel, and the road itself became somewhat of an adventure. After I had put several miles behind me, the road spilled out onto the valley floor that was home to the guest ranch I had been told was in need of summer help. As I neared my destination, I marveled at the beauty of the ranch, which boasted a clear mountain stream, red cliffs and snow-capped peaks. I quickly became determined to nail down the job I had come to interview for. It was exciting to think that such a place could be my home, even if just for the summer.

I did not leave disappointed that day, and as the spring rolled into summer, I realized I was, indeed, on another adventure. I was living and working on a "working" guest ranch. This meant there were hayfields to irrigate, fences to build and repair, a hay crop to put up, cattle to push out to summer pastures and then gather again in the fall. I was drawn to this world of cattle ranching in a big way, and during my time at the ranch, I jumped at every opportunity to be part of it. I had no way of knowing that this introduction to cattle ranching was to be the beginning of a life-long adventure. After all, where there are cattle, there are cowboys...

The cowboy who was assigned to stay at cow camp for the summer, made his way down to the ranch every ten days or so. For a day or two, he would spend time doing laundry, enjoying home-cooked meals, and resupplying groceries, grain for his horses and salt for the cattle. On many occasions, he would also enjoy a night out on the town. At the end of his time in civilization, he would load up all the supplies on his pack string, climb into the saddle and ride back up into the mountains to cow camp.

As the ranch's assistant cook, one of my many duties was to do the baking for both crew and guests. I can't tell you how many dozens of cookies I baked that summer, as well as loaves of bread, pies, and the like. As fate would have it, the ranch cowboy had a great fondness for baked goods and enjoyed many of them during his visits to the ranch. To make a long story short, this cook eventually married the cowboy and has baked, seemingly, thousands of dozens of cookies since. Apparently, there is some truth to the old adage, "a way to a man's heart is through his stomach".

Barry has done his best to teach his greenhorn wife all about cattle ranching and what it takes to be a cowboy's wife. We had to start with the very basics and work our way through it all over the years, and he has done so with a great deal of patience. The learning curve I was thrown when I married my cowboy was incredible, as was the lifetime of adventure that opened up before me. I enjoy sharing stories of our adventures together with family and friends, some of whom have encouraged me to write them down to share with others. So, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

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