Ranch Rule No. 3: “Tink Time”

Tracy Wortman

Recently, while attending an Art Business Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I needed a ride to the Albuquerque airport. As with most Uber or cabdrivers, friendly chitchat ensues. Whenever I tell a random stranger that I live in Montana, I get varying degrees of admiration for our fair state, and many remarks about unpopulated and wide-open spaces. I smile benignly, nod and admit it is pretty great. Most of the time, the random stranger knows only what has been on TV maybe in a movie or on the news when West Yellowstone is again the coldest place in the nation.

However, even some Montanans do not have an appreciation for the seriously isolated areas where 45 miles of gravel will get you to the edge of civilization. Such is the reality of our family homestead -- a place where the Missouri River Breaks and the Bear’s Paw Mountains wrestle for topographical control. As a kid, I recall going days, even weeks without seeing a vehicle on the county road a mile north of our house. Circumstances have changed since, of course, but we still live a darn long way from town.

It was a long way when my grandparents first homesteaded there because the roads were literally wagon tracks. Neighbors were close though, and were the only social contact available. My grandmother would always add a potato to the pot for the rider just over the hill. She knew there might be an extra for supper. My grandfather would share too. His goodies were often of the liquid variety: home brewed beer, whisky, or wine. Dad grew up enjoying that old world custom, and so became a fan of the cocktail hour. He liked a crystal glass that had some weight in the hand. He liked Lord Calvert and 7-Up. The older he became, the earlier came the cocktail hour. Dad called it “tink time” because of the sound ice makes in the crystal glasses. As the neighbors soon came to discover, tink time served better than the nearest bar – since that was 35 miles away – and would cost almost nothing.

Dad, shy and unpresuming, generous with his whisky, generally appreciated his guests at tink time to be equally amiable. He did not embrace the “bartenders are good listeners” maxim. As he poured himself, a neighbor, a grandson, or a daughter, another drink he would remark, “You may as well be drunk as the way you are.”

Now I know some people may be offended by that remark and load it with all manner of implications. Dad was not suggesting alcohol would fix problems, or that anyone should become a drunk, but he did not care much for folks who liked to whine or complain. He had lived long enough to know that no matter what personal load you carried, there were always others who carried one heavier. Dumping personal problems on Dad’s social hour would get the whisky bottle put discreetly away when the whiner drove into the yard.

Dad could not help most folks with their problems anyway, so I suppose it was better than saying “here, have another drink and shut the hell up.” It was a uniquely Dad kind of saying and became Ranch Rule Number 3.


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