Cowgirl Sass & Savvy: The ‘country’ in country kitchens

Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.

Julie Carter

The farther the world gets into this new millennium, the more foreign country living becomes to the majority of the world.

This was brought home to me most recently when a group of women I know fulfilled the duty of answering a death in the family with a well-accepted process that occurs in ranch country.

When there is a death in a ranch family, the neighbor women rally at the home of the bereaved. They come bearing a casserole, water and toilet paper — all essentials for the crowds of people about to descend. They also come prepared to do cleaning duty.

It’s not that ranch homes are always in need of these merry maids, but because they exist amidst blowing dirt from pastures and corrals, are subject to a parade of muddy boots and a wide variety critters, there is almost never a time that at least the top layer of dust doesn’t need knocked off and a mop run over the kitchen floor.

However, the number of ranch wives available for the task has dwindled over the years and the cleaning crew is sometimes foreign to the everyday state of a country kitchen.

Asking of the only ranch woman present, “What is that doing here?”

“Oh that. It is a pair of wire pliers.”

“Should they stay on the desk?”

“Probably. She’ll need to find them where she left them.”

“Oh, that is a vaccine gun and yes it should stay in the kitchen window.”

“Don’t use too much water; all we’ve got is what we brought.”

“Don’t throw that away. You change pipeline valves with that. And, yes the valve core-getter goes back into the ash tray.”

If you browse the magazines such as “Country Woman,” please know that “country” has several different meanings. I not only have never had a ranch kitchen that comes even close to resembling those glossy page photographs, I don’t know anyone out here in the “country” who does. The ranch kitchens I am familiar with have a “lived-in” look to them.

The dining room, which usually means, “where the table resides,” is the heart of any country home. When company comes, it is where they sit and converse. That is solid country tradition.

And the ambiance and decor?  Several stacks of mail waiting to be sorted, livestock papers from four states and auction
notices for the next six months fill one corner. Those must be guarded and save for “just in case.”  Usually there is an envelope or a newspaper with phone numbers written on them that come with specific, “don’t throw these away” instructions.

Vaccine guns in various stages of cleaning and repair take up a small side table. The ever-important Rolodex serves as the centerpiece on the table right next to the toothpicks. Both are critical to the head cowboy’s moods. Having to look for them is not acceptable.

An assortment of boots and shoes guard the doorway. His, hers and a small-fry size make it an Olympic event to get in the door and not trip. The broom stands against the wall ready to shove out the chunks from the corrals that inevitably escape a heel or a pant leg bottom. And pet tracks, justified with, “Honest Mom, they just came in by themselves.”

Country is synonymous with warm, welcome hospitality. In the middle of nowhere, it means don’t mind your boots, I was going to clean later anyway. It means warm food and hot coffee and as my grandmother used to say, “Come on in, the latch string is always hangin’ out!”

Julie can be reached for comment at Visit her website at




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