Craig I've always had fun teasing my sister-in-law, Florence Van Tassel, about her purse.
For one thing, she often misplaces it when she's out and about. But for another, her purse is filled with interesting things, and watching Florence search through it for something is entertaining, indeed.
Mostly, it happens at restaurants when a number of family members go out to eat. When it's time to pay the bill, Florence volunteers to figure out who owes what. That's when she starts digging through her purse to find a piece of paper and a pen, and the fun begins.
Among other things, Florence carries lots of paper items in her purse, such as uncashed checks, receipts, papers with Cowbelle information on them, banquet programs, and pamphlets that she got at meetings concerned about ag-related issues.
As Florence takes each paper from her purse, she studies it thoughtfully.
"So that's where it went!" she says.
Some papers prompt stories, and a single phone number on the back of an envelope has Florence guessing whose it is.
All of this until Florence finds a suitable piece of paper on which to figure the bill.
Paper isn't all that Florence has in her purse, either. One of the more fascinating items she once dragged out was a cupcake, wrapped in a 4-H napkin, left from Achievement Night.
Florence is a ranch woman, and her purse got me to wondering what other ranch women carry in their purses. So, I made some calls.
Jackie Goodnow, whose girls show livestock, says she carries hair ties for emergencies. She also carries goat ear tags and (always) hand sanitizer.
Marjorie Forces, of Morapos Creek, laughed when I asked about her purse. It's huge, and Marjorie says, "If anyone tried to mug me, I'd hit them with my purse."
Years ago, Marjorie drove the Morapos school bus, so then she carried a wrench and pliers in her purse, in case she had to put on chains.
Marjorie went through the items in her purse for me, one by one. It's quite a list, but some of them include: crackers, "a tiny Leatherman," coupons, car wash tickets, and the hinge off a toilet lid that broke (so she can get another one).
An important thing about ranch women's purses, says Marjorie, is that they have to be big enough to carry their husband's stuff, too.
Take Evelyn Ott, for example. (She and husband Richard ranch south of Craig). She says it isn't unusual for her to have a carriage bolt (usually broken off) or a washer in her purse because Richard says to "buy five more just like this."
Evelyn says she used to have a great big purse that she "carried everything in but the kitchen sink."
However, that all ended when she and Richard went on a trip and her kids bought her a tiny purse because the big one "wasn't cool."
Other things that Evelyn might carry in her purse include a tire pressure gauge, a blue-handled knife used for cutting bale twine, and once even the television remote that she mistakened for the cell phone.
Donna Deakins, who ranches with husband Tom, herds cows mostly on horseback so doesn't carry a purse much of the time. However, she does carry wire cutters in her purse.
She also carries two items that she thinks should be in every ranch woman's purse. The first is cologne. That's so if she's branding and has to run to town, Donna can use it to mask the branding smoke on her clothes. The second is Off Repellent that can be used to lubricate a jack in case of a flat tire (no joke).
Of course, the cologne could also be used for the jack, but Donna doesn't recommend using Off to mask the branding smoke.
Mary Kihistrom, who ranches north of Craig with husband Gary, has lots of band-aids and butterfly bandages in her purse, in case the grandchildren get hurt while riding. She also has a flexible little yardstick that curls up if she needs to measure something.
Also in her purse is the 2007 calf tally book - right along with the 2001 tally book.
Georgia Mclntyre of Maybell also carries Band-Aids in her purse, along with safety pins and a "Tim Tool," a Leatherman tool she's named for Tim the Toolman.
Matches are another thing Georgia carries in her purse, but not for the usual reason.
She uses them to "take the bad odor away from stinky toilets."
Recently, Florence Van Tassel was fiddling with her purse while riding with me in the car. She pulled out a sock, looked at it, and shoved it back in her purse.
"Oh, no!" she said. "Oh, well, it's just one more thing for your story."
Copyright Diane Prather, 2007. All rights reserved.