This story has a happy ending…

The trouble with being an employee, as far as I can tell, is that employees have no decision-making power.  And I like making decisions.  I’ve always been pretty sure that I know the right thing to do in any situation that might arise, and that if everyone will just do exactly as I say, things will work out great.

But again, when you’re the low man on the totem pole, the big kahunas don’t really care what you want to do.  And if you’re the low man’s wife or daughter, not actually an employee… well, they care even less.

Such is the fate of a woman who was raised by a man on a ranch and whose husband now works for the same ranch and who has always pretended to be in charge but who in actuality isn’t even gainfully employed:  I have lots of ideas for greatness.  My ideas mostly go nowhere.

Part of the problem, of course, is that I’m a woman, always trying to take over and steer the men in my life into bog holes.  I’m working on this issue of mine.

The other part of the problem, I’ve decided, is that this is just how Life goes in this ol’ world where we are destined to toil until we return to dust.  The employee will gnash his teeth all the days of his life.  Doesn’t the Bible say so?  The fact is that there should only be one chief in any given situation (the rest of us are just varying levels of Indians.  But we Indians know what’s going on!  We have great ideas!  Why won’t anyone make our work-related dreams come true?).

The reality of it all seems magnified on a corporate ranch, a situation wherein the land is owned by a super wealthy man we never see; and under him is a man who manages all of the (many) ranch properties that belong to the wealthy man; and under him is my dad, who’s always thought that my ranching ideas were a little harebrained anyhow; and under him is my husband, who sometimes has to remind me that I’m not in charge of anything but the kids and my blog.  And the dishes.  (See?  I keep telling you, this is why I can’t have a real job:  because I have a hard time controlling my desire to be in charge.)

Sigh.  What happens is this:  we are only employees here at the PV, but we are on this property 365 days a year.  As a result of our being right in the thick of things, we not only have ideas for improvements which we would like for someone to listen to, but we also see absolute needs that must be met in order for the ranch to run more smoothly, safely, and efficiently.

But again, our ideas don’t always count for much because we don’t sign the checks around here.  (And if we did, maybe we would burn up all the profit with our Big Ideas.  Maybe there’s a reason we’re not in charge!)  Neither Beau nor I were born into money and the power that comes with it.  And we don’t seem to be getting rich quick now that we’re married.  So it looks like we are only Indians here in this life.  And I personally am only a squaw, in charge of the dishes and the kids (and my blog, of course).  Speaking of which, I think I will make some squaw bread before I do the dishes today.  Because fried bread dough dripping with butter and sugar might help me feel better about the unfairness of the power held by the wealthy and the condition of our nation’s economy, etc.

Now didn’t I tell you this story would have a happy ending?

Just wait, it gets even better than squaw bread.  Here’s what happened:  Beau had a Big Idea to alleviate some water issues here at the VX.  This plan involves a storage tank and a lengthy pipeline to distribute water more evenly to pastures, to bring drinkable water into our home, and to (hopefully, fingers crossed) solve the water troubles we have with the ranch that neighbors us to the south.

Beau did his research.  He put together his estimates.  He presented his idea through the correct hierarchy of decision-makers.  And… hallelujah!  They said YES!

Not only did the big boss and the others say yes, but they have supported Beau in his journey of arranging the project, and they are paying the bills that are being sent to the corporate office.  (We always hold our breaths about the bills when something that seems too good to be true is happening.)

So the project is getting underway.  And it’s like a dream come true for us.  As I’ve written before — check out Big Picture Stuff — great things don’t happen often around here.  We’re not a fancy ranch.  We’re a working ranch that is expected to make money.  We don’t get everything we little Indians want or think we need.  And many days we Indians feel like life sure would be easier for us if we had at our disposal a skid loader, or a panel wagon, or a garage, or a slab of cement, or a waterline, and on and on.  But then… then something like this project comes together, and it’s enough to keep a fella (and his nosy wife) happy for quite a while.

So, last week, the storage tank that will be at the top of the waterline came here to the VX.  Early in the day, Beau headed up to the northwest pasture to meet the crew from John Muggli Contracting out of Miles City, the folks who not only sold and delivered the tank but also buried it and prepared it to tie in to the well on one side and the pipeline on the other.

I cut across country in the Polaris Ranger to check out the project later in the day.  Our son, Asher, had gone with Beau, so these two were my sidekicks:

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God bless the people who invented side-by-sides, and God bless our boss for buying one for the VX.  It makes our life so much easier.  Being a bit of a self-serving traditionalist, I never dreamed I would feel comfortable driving a giant 4-wheeler all over the ranch.  But I do!  I can strap two carseats into it and go all kinds of places a pickup couldn’t go.  Makes me feel I can still be a part of things on the ranch, even though the kids and I are about five years out from being comfortably horseback.

Anyhow, the girls and I drove up to the storage tank site, checking water tanks along the way.  (I’ll have you know we even put two pair through a gate and back into the right pasture using our mad Polaris Ranger skills.)

(PS:  I keep hoping that if I mention the Polaris Ranger name often enough in my blog, the big kahunas at Polaris Ranger will send me my very own tricked-out Polaris Ranger.  Out of appreciation for my free promotion, of course.)

After bumping along for about six miles, me mildly worrying about the damage the bumps might be causing to the girls’ young and undeveloped brainstems, we finally hit a smooth road from which we could see construction in progress.  See?  Up there on the skyline?

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How about now?

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We drove up on the ridge and found Beau and Asher and the John Muggli boys almost finished with their work.  The John Muggli boys are very handy with the big equipment they’d brought along for digging the hole, for moving the huge tank into the hole, and for covering the tank with dirt.  (We love their big excavator!  We want one here at the VX!  But… do we really need one?)

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Just look at the backdrop in this picture below:  our backyard.  This.  This is why we work here.

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Our boy Asher thinks he is large and in charge here at the VX.  He loves being a part of a bunch of men working together.  Everyone is always so good to include him and encourage him in the various projects we undertake from day to day.  So far this summer, he’s had future job offers from the John Muggli boys and also from the Rosebud County Fire Chief.

This physical, pure work we do.  The chance to raise our kids up working alongside us.  Come to think of it, that is why we work here.

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His khaki pants make me smile.  He likes to wear them for ranch work.  This is significant because when we were first married, Beau also wore khakis for ranch work.  Where I come from, cowboys wear jeans and khakis are for weddings.  Yet Beau insisted that the old-timers down in the Deep South, from which he hails, wore khakis for work because they are lighter and cooler.

I made fun of Beau about it for a few years, and finally he wore out the last of his khakis.  I keep him well-supplied in jeans now so he won’t be tempted to wear khakis for work, because a fella just ought not do that in my mind.  But I only won the game to lose the match:  now we have this little boy who in the depths of his soul, I swear, is a Southerner — not a learned Southerner but a natural Southerner — and he likes to wear his khakis for work.

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He is also a wonderful big brother.  Sometimes he squeezes her too hard.  But she loves him for the most part.

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The dirt that came out of the hole for the tank was mostly sand, and the kids had a great time playing in it:

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Here we have Emi looking into the man hole at the top of the tank.  Of all my motherly worries, one of my kids falling into a hole like this is probably No. 2 on the list.  (Choking being No. 1; see my recent post Mommin’ Ain’t Easy.)  I’m holding both girls’ right arms with my left hand while taking this picture with my right hand.

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PS:  The yucca is about to bloom!

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One final note on Life and Time:  I used to wonder why my parents weren’t interested in getting right to work on some of my Big Ideas.  Why weren’t we accomplishing Big Projects and fixing things up and making everything look right smart?

Now that I’m a grown-up, I know:  because Time just gets away from you.  Beau and I are starting to feel it too.  We have great intentions.  We know how things should go.  We know what would look nice.  We know what would improve the matter.  And we honestly intend to pursue all those good and lofty goals eventually.  It’s just that… we wake up and we are really busy putting out whatever fires need to be put out to keep everyone alive for today, and before we know it it’s bedtime.  And then we do it all over again.  We’ve discovered it’s hard for grown-ups to accomplish much more than everyday survival.  Which makes a finished project like this storage tank seem all the sweeter.

Now that I’m a grown-up, I am also blessed with a little boy who is a lot like I used to be.  He is full of ideas, and he is ready to head up a crew and get a few things done around here, by golly.  I just smile, because I know what he doesn’t know yet, and I do what my parents used to do with me:  I tune out a lot of his ideas.  To keep my sanity.

Oh, and one more thing, just so you don’t think I’m a total racist jerk.  Let me assure you that squaw bread is a real thing which my family really eats.  You’ll find it sold at a lot of social events on and near the Crow and Cheyenne Reservations to the south of us; some folks call it fry bread.  It truly is bread dough fried in hot oil.  You can top it with taco fixings or with butter and honey or sugar or jelly.  Any way you do it, it’s delicious, and squaw bread has always been a wonderful treat that my mom makes on special days.  I’ve always known it as squaw bread.  I love it as squaw bread.  Now, I’m not taking any sides here on whether or not Squaw Creek should be renamed Native Lady Creek or Tawny Woman Creek.  (What’s in a name anyhow?  I mean, my name is Tami, and I’ve learned to deal with it.)

(By the way, for the record, when I was little I wished I was a Native myself… and now I have a son who thinks he actually is Native.)

Oh, never mind.  Just enjoy the recipe.  If you choose to make it.  Because it’s your choice, not mine.  You will have to take your own checkbook to get the groceries needed to make it, and I’m not telling you how to spend your money.  I’m not telling anybody what to do here.  I just had the idea that you might like the recipe.  I just had the idea… I just had the… I just… whatever.

Squaw Bread Recipe

Melt 3 T. butter in 2 c. boiling water in a large bowl.  Let cool to warm.  Add 2 pkg. yeast and 3 T. sugar and let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 T. salt, 1 c. dry milk, and 2 c. flour.  Beat until smooth.  Work in 3 to 3-1/2 c. more flour.  Knead until satiny.  Cover and let rise in a buttered bowl until double in size.  Turn out, work down, and let rest 15 minutes.  Roll to 1-inch thickness and cut into rectangles and triangles about palm-size.  Cover and let rise until puffy.  Heat shortening in a large skillet or a deep frier.  Fry bread until golden brown on both sides.  Yum!

© Tami Blake

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