Monday, August 23, 2010

Ode to an in-law unit: Cowboy poetry

Murphy Ranch hands getting ready for the 1936 Olympics
There's never enough room in a book to include everything you'd like. So when it came time to edit In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats, one of the first casualties was an honest-to-God piece of cowboy poetry--and about an in-law unit, no less! Fortunately, the Internet has no such constraints, so here is an excerpt from “A Quiet Day on the Murphy Ranch,” written about 1940 by one of the ranch hands, Olaf P. Olsen. The Murphy Ranch, built in 1857, has the oldest in-law unit in book. Here's Olsen's ode to the bunkhouse:

The ancient bunk house still may know
The many men who come and go.
But it’s no longer weatherproof,
Rain floods in torrents through the roof,
And chilling winds and drenching rains
Blow through the broken window panes.
To keep dry in his room, a “fella”
Would have to park ‘neath an umbrella,
Be careful when he planked his seat,
And wear galoshes on his feet.
Indoors, he’s fully clothed and cloaked,
And lest his bed be water soaked,
A heavy tarp protects his quilts
And all his gear’s stashed high, on stilts.

The bunkhouse, its repairs complete, in 2010
Before we leave Olaf and the leaky in-law, one more aside. Modest though the bunkhouse was, living in it was a job perk conferred on ranch hands who had proven their worth. New arrivals and unproven hands slept in a barn or an outbuilding and a surprising number of them were foreign born: waves of Swiss Italians or Irish farmers fleeing famine or Chinese who’d come to work on the railroad. Anyhow, as farm lodgings went, the bunkhouse was pretty cushy. Partitioned into tiny rooms, it offered each man a modicum of privacy and a bed. And because one doorway opened into the dining annex of the main house, bunkhouse inhabitants generally got to the breakfast table first. It also had its own woodstove that cowboys could sit around and shoot the breeze if they weren’t too exhausted from working dawn to dusk.  

No comments:

Post a Comment