Does this happen to you?

I’m pretty sure our cows can count.

If my husband, Steve, and I drive through the gate with the truck and horse-trailer together, the cows stay where they are supposed to be, calmly grazing and chewing their cud. Even if we are gone overnight, the animals manage to take care of themselves.

But, if Steve leaves by himself in the truck and horse-trailer, chaos reigns. The cows raise their heads to watch the truck pass, and then beeline for trouble. They find the hole in the fence that I should have fixed a week ago. Or they find a way into the spring that provides our drinking water.

The sheep know when Steve leaves, too. That’s when grizzly bears find them. Or an old ewe gets stuck in the mud at the edge of the reservoir. Or they somehow bait the coyotes in.

The horses manage to find trouble on a regular basis, but when Steve leaves, they all either start limping or disappear completely.

No doubt, the dog will find a porcupine.

Sans Steve mayhem does not limit itself to living beings at the Graham Ranch. A pipe that has survived numerous winters freezes. Or the tractor gets buried in a mud hole that I’ve driven through at least 100 times.

I might become paranoid and begin to take this phenomenon personally, but I’m not alone. My married friends experience parallel incidents.

One friend encouraged her husband to go hunting for a week, only to discover three days into his trip that her breeding groups of sheep had mixed. Believe me, sorting sheep alone is close to impossible. And her bucks didn’t stop what they were doing while she found some helpful labor.

Another friend’s husband had been gone for about a week when she found her horse cut up after tangling itself in wire. No doubt, the horse would have tangled itself whether my friend’s husband had been home or not, but the timing certainly seemed more than coincidental.

Of course, when I leave for a few days, Steve assures me that everything goes along just fine. The kids are still standing when I return, and the horses, cattle, sheep and milk cow are all accounted for so I see no evidence of strife. Little hints might appear: Steve tells me that the dishwasher does not work very well so he washed the dishes by hand — the dishwasher works just fine for me — but most aspects of our life are in order.

However, my 12-year-old spy has yet to learn all the lessons of manhood. He still fills me in on the details.

“Mom, the weekend was utter chaos.”

Those six words tell me all I need to know. Steve and I need each other and the ranch needs both of us.

Lisa Schmidt and her husband, Steve Hutton, raise natural, grassfed beef and lamb at the Graham Ranch near Conrad.
She has two children; Will, 12, and Abby, 4.

Lisa Schmidt