By Lanna Mills
Do you take your lunch to work with you? Maybe you go out to eat on your lunch break, or you drive through a fast food joint to grab a quick bite. A lot of jobs give you a set time for lunch. If you do not have a set time you just eat when you get hungry. What about cowboys? When is their lunch break? Just ask a cowboy that question and they will probably laugh and tell you- lunch comes when it’s handy, when you get to a stopping point, or when all the work is done.
Many times ranch work takes you miles from the nearest restaurant, so going out to eat is out of the question. Sometimes the work takes you miles from home, so going home to eat is out of the question as well. Cowboys are quite versatile. They do not mind if a meal is served out of the back of a pickup. They do not mind if lunch comes at 11 a.m., 12 p.m. or 1 p.m., just so they get to eat.
As a ranch wife I get to prepare food for the cowboys when we are working cattle. Do not let that fool you; that does not mean I’m exempt from the work. It just means I might skip out a little early to get everything ready. It’s easiest to cook the night before if possible and just keep it in warmers, or if we’re close to home I can start a brisket early in the morning so it’s done at lunch time. I absolutely love cooking for a crew of cowboys. They are always grateful, they tell you it tastes great and they always say thank you.
A couple of months ago we branded a set of calves. Like always, we called on some of our cowboy buddies to help. Along with the help of my mother-in-law, we prepared lunch for the crew. We did what we could the evening before and finished up what we could not that day. We served ham, potato casserole, mac and cheese, corn and rolls along with apple pie and brownies for dessert.
We have a great friend and fellow rancher and cowboy, Charlie Stanford, who owns a chuck wagon. He sets up during some cowboy gatherings nearby. It takes hours for him to set up everything and get ready to cook. It may be 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside and standing over a hot fire just makes it that much warmer, but cowboys still have to eat. Many folks would think it was too much work for a meal that’s devoured in minutes. With all things cowboy, it’s not about what’s easy, quick, or convenient. It’s about tradition, hard work, and doing things the right way.
We are lucky that in this day and time we have modern conveniences such as coolers to keep meat and other perishables from spoiling, canned and bottled drinks, canned foods, electricity, pickups and so much more. Can you just imagine trying to prepare a meal for a bunch of hungry cowboys in the old times before all these handy tools?
Cowboys work hard. They work long hours and work in all types of weather. They are not ones to complain. They are trustworthy, and without them ranching would not be the same. Therefore, cowboys deserve a nice meal. They deserve a few moments to sit under a shade tree and enjoy a big plate of food and maybe even some cobbler or pie for dessert. They deserve a few moments to rest their horses, who have been working equally as hard.