(While this story is not about me, it is about a relative. We still speak of this incident...and laugh heartily when we do.)
She was a city girl, born and raised in the urbane Dallas metroplex, all glitz and high fashion. He was country through and through, running a South Texas ranch that had been in his family over five generations.
He was uncomfortable in the city, but a range management seminar in the Fort Worth Stockyards was enough to make him drive his 4x4 Ford long bed straight through, eight hours, to the city. After the seminar, his plan was to get a good steak at a well known watering hole and head home.
She was there, too, enjoying an after work outing with friends when he walked in, lean and tall in starched indigo Wranglers, brown boots, and tooled leather belt. His taut biceps flexed involuntarily at his unease in the midst of so many people. He took off his wide brimmed Stetson and placed it carefully upside down on the chair next to him, apparently oblivious to the flat line impressed in his hair by the hat.
She was hooked, she later told him, from that moment on. As wild love stories usually go, they rode ups and some downs until they married and she ended up a new bride on that 4,000 acre South Texas ranch.
She took a job as a teacher and put her all into learning rural life skills. She was determined to prove to everyone she could be a real ranch woman, just like those pioneer women she used to read about when she was a girl.
Her lessons came quickly.
She learned to keep a rock just inside the front door of the sprawling ranch house he'd built for them. With no one looking, she'd toss it out first before stepping out, to frighten away any snakes that might be lurking nearby. She learned to keep the rooster at bay in the chicken house with a small chair, like a matador with a cape as she plucked the warm eggs out of the nests.
She also learned quickly high heeled fashion boots weren't suitable for any length of time in a stirrup, and that thick but plain Levis were better protection in riding through barbed brush than the expensive designer ones she brought with her from the city.
When he told her of an overnight trip he needed to take to a cattle auction in West Texas, she assured him she'd be fine. She had the dogs with her, and she wasn't afraid at all, she told him, although inside, her heart did shiver a little.
He made sure everything was secure before he left her with a kiss. She got home from work that afternoon, fed the dogs near their cozy homes in the back yard, and settled in for the evening.
Her first clue something was not right was when the dogs began barking ferociously. Panic rose in her like steam in a tea kettle, but she forced herself to believe it was some small critter they were after. After all, pioneer women faced much worse, she told herself.
She was relieved the next morning when she tentatively stepped out and saw nothing, nothing that is until she veered into the back yard to check the dogs. They happily greeted her with yips and jumps and then she saw what had stirred them in the night.
It was a possum. A dead possum. A dead possum already bloated and in rigor mortis.
She sighed. If she left it there, the dogs would create an even bigger mess. She looked down at her pressed slacks and silk blouse and shook her head. She could do this. This wouldn't phase her, not in the least.
She trudged off to the barn and located an impossibly heavy shovel. Her plan was to scoop the possum onto the shovel and heave it over the fence into the pasture, away from the dogs.
She felt empowered as she lifted the distended carcass upwards. This was going to be a great story to tell her man when he got home! A regular pioneer woman, she was!
She used all her might to quickly swing the shovel around and upwards, to give it enough heft over the fence.
Her arms, though, lost a little lift, the tiniest bit of power, as she struggled to make the upwards arc with the shovel.
The possum flew off the end and reality swerved cruelly.
Instead of lofting easily over the fence, the tightly stretched, swollen cadaver hit the top rail, bounced awkwardly back and landed smack against her midsection.
Exploded would be more accurate. Exploded against her midsection.
And when the Pioneer Woman certificates are awarded, she will receive hers with an additional gold star.