It’s budgeting time at the Graham Ranch. I’ve been calculating costs, predicting what I think the market will do this year and setting my prices for beef, lamb and wool products. It’s been cold and windy so I have only worked on the most necessary of the outside work. I feed the cattle and sheep every day and fix the corral wires where the livestock use hard-packed snow drifts as escalators. But most of the fencing is going to wait until the snow drifts sink. Shearing has yet to start and calving is still a few days away.
So my daughter’s piano teacher surprised me the other day.
As we walked out the door after Abby’s lesson, she handed a jar of nice face cream to me.
“This cream works wonders for me,” she said.
I hadn’t noticed before, but yes, her skin is beautiful, with few wrinkles and it looks soft.
A couple of days later, I walked into a school board meeting. Conrad is implementing some innovative, yet controversial, teaching methods so I expected parents to want to visit.
I didn’t expect one of them to exclaim “Oh your poor face!’
Had my eyes taken on a panicky, beady presence, searching out a clean place to lay down hay without getting the tractor stuck again? Had my nose turned bulbous from alternating between breathing and avoiding frostbit? Or maybe my ears have grown all winter, nice and warm tucked under my wool cap?
My mind raced to a time many years before when I went back to college at Utah State University.
I had been working on a ranch on Utah’s West Desert for several years so I’d been in the sun.
But when I pulled into Logan, one of my first activities was to set up a bunch of clipping plots to measure how much cattle grazed. The spring sun was hot and I must have had my head turned toward the ground much more.
One of the secretaries in the range department had some paperwork for me, but she didn’t recognize the new student’s name.
“She’s the girl with the fried ears,” offered another employee.
I didn’t think my peeling skin was that noticeable, but the secretary had no problem finding me.
And then there was the time my odd appearance worked to my benefit. I think.
It was early spring and I was planning to offer a trail ride near Great Basin National Park. My route followed a couple of old logging roads across BLM and Forest Service land so I needed permits from both agencies.
About that time, I got thoroughly disgusted with the time and effort I took every day to comb my hair. I took the horse trimmers and shaved my head. I had a bit of trouble making my hair even. I finally just left the bare spots alone before I cut my head open. Maybe the slightly longer spikes would cover them.
Then the Forest Service ranger asked me to come to his office.
He managed to maintain his composure, but he asked his secretary to attend our meeting and bring her legal pad. He only asked once whether I belonged to any organizations or white supremist groups.
I received my permit in the mail.
But apparently one of his over-zealous employees decided I was using my trail ride business as a cover for some type of illicit political revolution or something. By the third weekend of my summer business, he pulled in and asked to take a two-hour ride. He was the worst liar I had ever pinned down – an unemployed son on his way to visit a sick mother would not venture six hours from his direct route to ride a horse through the sandy pinyon-juniper hills -- but we made it through the ride. Later that afternoon, I noticed him staked out on a distant ridge. I peered through my binoculars to watch him watch me.
I chuckled to myself the next day. I watched a thunder boomer float over his camp and dump a deluge on top of him while I gave kids pony rides in the bright sunshine – and on private property.
My hair grew out, but apparently my face needs some help.
I like the face cream, but I have a better solution.
In fact, my solution solves my big nose and beady eye problems, too.
I never, ever look in the mirror.