A follow-up to my previous post, which was written before the final episodes. The name of this entry has been changed in attempt to cut down on "referral" blogspam. Thank you
Oh the things I could say, the rantings I could go on with, the off-color comments about poor Mr. Cooke and his lack of, ahem, you know. (Guts. That's it.)
Texas Ranch House has ended, the experts have spoken, and the ranchers have come up short. Very short, if the truth be told. Hmm, let's see, at the end of their season, their house was a complete filth heap with a serious plague of flies, they had no hands left to work the ranch except their little lapdog Maura, they'd wasted an entire garden worth of vegetables ("We don't eat very many vegetables back home," youngest daughter Hannah sheepishly admitted when their expert visited before the program was over and discovered mounds and mounds of produce spoiling in the garden), but, by golly, they had cute little sayings they'd embroidered to make the house more homey, and they were pretty well-juiced on self-righteousness.
Ah. May I rant about the flies? Some hoards of flies are to be expected. But when you leave dirty dishes and wasted food sitting around for over a week because you're too flipping lazy to clean up after your big party to send off the cowhands on the cattle drive, you're going to have a serious problem.
Mrs. Cooke, keeper of supplies, withholding even surplus food, really showed her selfishness. The fact that the boys were starving while the Cooke family let the garden go to almost complete waste -- and sometimes traded away the produce for luxuries like milled soap -- is appalling. She was responsible for doling out food supplies, and never seemed to consider that the boys might like to have something out of the garden. [And when they were without a cook, and had to eat at the house, she treated them like they should be beholden to her for her magnanimity.]
The daughters were upset because not a one of the cowhands asked them to dance during the fandango. Perhaps the cowhands had been specifically told by their father from day one that they were to stay away from his family and leave his daughers alone... And when the hands were leaving (I wanted to cheer for them on that one, by the way), the girls whined and cried because the cowhands hadn't befriended them. Gee, wonder why. Talk to dad about that, girls.
The evaluators put the blame squarely on Mr. Cooke's shoulders for the fact that the ranch would not survive. But Mrs. Cooke, who could have been a unifying force for all the women -- and men -- on the ranch, is the one who ruined it for everyone. Instead of teaching her daughters (and girl-of-all-work) how to be true 19th-century women, instead of working to fulfill the duties of a ranch wife, she spent her time undermining her husband's authority, making rules, whining about how badly the hands were behaving (thank you, evaluators, for calling them sophomoric, which was true, but which seemed to be about the only real criticism they were given), and generally trying to run the ranch without doing any actual work.
And then there's Mr. Cooke, who couldn't go off on the cattle drive because he was "needed at the ranch". For what, for goodness' sake? (Well, because he couldn't stand to be that far away from his, ahem, guts, that were in Mrs. Cooke's pocket all this time.) Aside from the fact that he was completely useless on the cattle drive because he hadn't been out with his men at any other time, he was just too wrapped up in self to take part in the biggest work of the entire project. [And the fact that the fellow set up to "buy" the cattle from him agreed to buy the cattle they didn't want was just a way to smooth feelings and fix a situation that poor dumb Mr. Cooke didn't plan properly.]
I imagine my own participation in Texas Ranch House would leave me looking a bit daft and neurotic to a television audience, but I imagine I would do a few things a little better. I'd dress properly. I understand a corset and how to use it, and I'd wear mine. I would also wear clothes over my underwear (thank you writers for including comments on that in the narration), and I would wear my hair up to promote cleanliness and to cool myself off. I would understand the value of cleanliness, and would not leave dishes to sit around for days, drawing more and more flies until they swarmed so severely that even our dining porch was unfit for meals. That would mean washing the dishes promptly in the hottest water possible (lye soap does work when the water's hot enough). Of course, that means you don't plunge your hands into the water right away; you wash things using a knife or wooden spoon as a washrag holder/dipper until the water cools more. (This also cuts the grease, kids, and kills germs.) I would salt down all food preparation surfaces, probably daily. I never saw anyone do that at all. I would use the produce in the garden, and, since I was responsible for supplies, I would also share the produce with the hands! I would tell Tim (since he would apparently be the ranch owner, since I am the owner's wife) that it would be fine for him to go off on the cattle round-ups, and I would encourage him to get to know the hands better. I would try to do nice things for the hands sometimes, and not expect them to come to me and beg to kiss my feet in humble gratitude. Floors and windows would be scrubbed with regularity, so that no one had to complain that you couldn't see out the windows because of the fly specks (and smears). We'd wash those off. (Clear water with vinegar, gang.) I would support my husband in his decisions, and let him vent when he needed to without attempting to take it upon myself to solve the troubles (putting my vinson-ness aside). I would offer to help with the ledger, because my handwriting is a bit better than his (though he would have to do the adding). And I would keep my daughters and girl-of-all-work busy enough with these chores that they wouldn't have time to bellyache about the inequality of men and women. It's the 19th century here, girls, deal with it and thank God for those women who waged war for more equality for your 21st-century selves.
Perhaps if Mrs. Cooke had embraced the lifestyle for what it was -- 19th century -- and tried to take care of what needed done, the whole thing would have been more of a success.