I’m not sure my wife has forgiven me yet for a story I wrote a few years back which mentioned that she looked sexy in her coveralls, climbing down from the tractor and opening a gate for me. It was one of the few times she took the time to read something I wrote – but only because she had received numerous calls and emails from ex-friends (emphasis on “ex”), and ranchers who were thoughtful enough to bring it to her attention.

Like most operations I visit, our operation would fall apart almost overnight without my wife. I see a lot of operations like ours –a true partnership where the wife is fully committed, a 110% type of partner in the operation.

There is one notable exception to the full-partner rule but it only pertains to things like running the household, raising the kids and doing community activities like church, school and 4-H events. Here, instead of a 50/50 relationship, she shoulders at least 75% of the responsibility.

I’m not proud of this; it’s just the way it’s evolved, and it actually makes sense, as she can do all those things and well. Truth be known, I struggle with my limited responsibilities. Plus, I think I should get brownie points for having so much faith in her ability that I don’t let her other responsibilities diminish what she can contribute to our operation.

The reason I bring this up is that I was listening to a radio talk show the other day as I was on the road driving in my pickup. The host was talking about what a sexist world we live in. Of course, I consider myself an enlightened male (for you ladies out there, that is not an oxymoron). Yet, it did give me some pause having earlier read my wife’s email on my Blackberry detailing her plans for the day.

She had sent it at 5:30 a.m., before the kids got up. In my defense, I honestly hadn’t anticipated a subfreezing wind chill, 9 in. of snow, and 30 mph winds when I left her to do everything, along with her job that demands 80 hours a week. If I had anticipated those factors, I would have moved some cows closer to home and fixed that tire on the feed truck before I left.

Still, it was comforting to know that everything was in good hands. In and of itself, I probably could have overcome my guilt about leaving her there to do the work – after all it wasn’t like the first time I’d done that.

Then I started to think about an upcoming day I was scheduling when we ultrasound the bulls. I was hoping to do it on a day she wasn’t working so she could push the bulls and write down weights, disposition scores, scrotal circumferences and the like.

No, I didn’t feel guilty about her being in charge of taking down all the information, after all she was the one who had to get it all entered into the computer and sent off to the association. Plus, my penmanship lacks readability at times, which can create problems.

It just makes sense, as she’s in charge of getting the sale catalog put together, and she has to make all the reports so we can make decisions based on the data. Yep, I told myself it was just good management to have her collect the data, since she was entering it, and creating ways to use it and analyze it.

Still, I did begin to feel a little guilty about my attitude. I knew she’d have to leave us about half an hour before lunch to get ready to feed the crew. But it was her idea and she’s the one who bought the groceries and is a better cook than I am. Plus, she would have done most of the preparation early that morning anyway, and she could leave the dishes until later that night.

About that time, the talk show host was lamenting that despite all the added duties women shouldered these days, the ultimate irony was that men presented fewer flower bouquets to their women, opened fewer doors, etc. To that, I had to say “hogwash.” I get a lot of pride in taking my wife places; it always impresses people and makes me look good.

And I love to give my wife gifts, too. Like that hydraulic chute for Valentine’s Day and the feed truck for Christmas. In fact, it was when I realized that my wife actually appreciated those two gifts that it dawned on me that once calving season and the bull sale were over, and breeding season was wrapped up, I was going to take my wife somewhere where the conversation isn’t about cows and doesn’t involve a horse show. Maybe we’ll hit someplace with a beach and a dance floor. To tell you the truth, we haven’t danced since my old football injury started affecting my knees shortly after we were married.

After a few more miles of windshield contemplation, I realized I’m not sexist; my wife does twice as much as me because she is twice as smart and twice as capable. Just because I don’t pay her what she is actually worth doesn’t mean I’m sexist; it just means I’m a grateful opportunist with a healthy dose of realism. I could never pay her what she is worth.
-- Troy Marshall