When I was writing about the cost of owning horses, (I’ll give you the quick answer, they cost your soul) I started thinking about how much my life has changed since relocating to Texas. Not all of the changes are due to the horses, but the majority of the changes can somehow be related to them.
I’m originally from a small rural area in West Virginia (not that everywhere in WV isn’t rural comparatively). My family has farmed, raised cattle, and had horses long before they even thought about having me. There are pictures of my dad on a fat little paint pony, dressed up Roy Rogers style when he was a child (I’m guessing around 5 or 6 years old). After high school and college, I relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee for a job. I originally planned on keeping horses in Knoxville, but jump starting my career to a point I could afford them on my terms took a few years. Then I took a job that required extensive travel (which was awesome for a while). I did continue to ride at a few barns with lesson and sale horses that needed exercise, but it’s not the same as developing a partnership with your own animals.
So when a recruiter called me about relocating to Texas for a new job, I was all in! Fast forward four years, my current life does not even remotely resemble my old life. Here are just a few ways everything has changed.
Admittedly, I’m not the most stylish, trendy, or fashionable, but I did at least make an effort when going out to dress it up a bit. My closet was full of five inch heels, cute dresses, tops with bling, and jeans with sparkles on the back pockets. I wore heels with everything, jeans, shorts, dresses, you name it. If you saw me out on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, I had given it my best to look cute.
In the good ole days when I was out running errands, meeting friends for lunch, or afternoon drinks I would put on a cute top. I at least made sure my clothes were clean and matched. Now running around in a feed store T-shirt and boots with the spurs still attached (they serve dual function, more subtle cues for the horses, and keep my jeans from dragging the ground) is commonplace. I’ve walked into a restaurant with dried cow$hit splattered on my jeans after working cattle, without giving it a second thought. In this area, I’m not the first or last patron that stopped for a margarita before continuing on their way home after ranching.
Going through my closet last night, packing for a trip to Florida, I realized I don’t own clothes for life outside of Texas or that doesn’t involve rodeo. My Knoxville “going out” clothes, found their way to Goodwill two years ago. When I’m not dressed in my professional wear aka “monkey suits,” I live in blue jeans and cowboy boots ALL YEAR LONG. Fancy black cowboy boots have been incorporated into my work wardrobe to replace the majority of my heels. Heels are now reserved for only the most important corporate meetings on the east coast or weddings.
Even in triple digit temps, I’ll have boots and jeans on because I’m working with or for livestock. Fire ants seem to love the way I taste for some reason. I rarely wear sandals or these insects of Satan eat me alive. My perfect tan was replaced with a heinous farmer’s tan, and my legs in summer will blind you. If you see me out on a weekend night, chances are I’m in one of my nicer button up western shirts, wranglers, and not yet barn boots. The only bling I wear now is my belt buckle. I know, cliche. My friends in the east have made fun of me after seeing my pictures on Facebook. I donated most of my butt bling jeans because I don’t want to scratch my saddles, and I’m not wasting closet space on jeans I can’t wear when I ride. On weekends I will have a hat on (cowboy or baseball) because I’m now too lazy or only had a few minutes to get ready after working horses. I have energy and time for hair or make-up, but not both.
In addition to buying the farm and horses, I also gave birth to Offspring. The lack of a social life cannot entirely be blamed on the farm, because, Toddler! However, our little town in Central Texas wasn’t exactly known for it’s night life in the first place. On the upside, not only will no one judge you for bringing your child to a bar, it’s practically expected here. Thanks to a serious lack of open container laws and a love of country line dancing, all drinking events are accompanied by a huge convoy of strollers containing kids aging from 1 month to 3 years old. Once they are older than 3, kids run around at out door events and establishments like a pack of wild hyenas, and everyone is cool with that.
Living in a conservative state has it perks for entertainment. Every charity organization knows the best way to raise money for your church, school, youth program etc is to sell event tickets for free food, beer, and margaritas, then raffle off firearms while a live band plays George Strait’s greatest hits. Gone are the days of overpriced, watered down drinks at the newest town hot spot with nothing to show for it but a hangover. The Knights of Columbus know how to throw a party. In addition to the hangover, you may be coming home with a new AR-15 or 40 caliber.
Of course, you just can’t beat the rodeo for a good time. Who doesn’t want to see cowgirls starfish (inside equestrian humor) around the barrels, watch four year olds try to ride a sheep, or cowboys with more balls than brains make a full eight second ride all while enjoying a cold beer? If you had asked me my first week in Texas if I missed the social scene in Knoxville, I was practically ready to move back. Four years later, you will have to drag my dead body out of this state.
I look forward to horse shows, because they are one of the few times I get to hang out with other people that have been working toward the same goals as me. It’s an opportunity to swap war stories while you and your horse look your best. I seriously put more time and effort into show appearance (at least for my horse and tack) than I do for almost any other social occasion.
In addition to the rodeo, horse shows, and the charity gun raffle scene, you see most of your friends while completing your farm chores. Darling Husband was surprised that the local auction regulars kept tabs on him, and asked where he had been after missing a few Fridays at the auction barn. Some of the non-coworkers that I see most frequently are apparently on the same feed store schedule I operate on. I spent my last birthday with Darling Husband at the auction shopping for calves. There are no more days spent getting a tan on the lake while hanging out with friends. Hanging out now consists of a few beers in between bouts of manual labor, with the largest body of water being the nearest stock pond. Actually Lake Belton is literally an eighth of a mile from my driveway, but it might as well be fifty miles for all the time I’ve spent there.
It’s funny how quickly life changes. I know I wouldn’t trade any of it for the life before. I miss my friends in the east, but I love my lifestyle here. I’m fairly confident Darling Husband would say the same.