Cat Urbigkit: Godsmack, Goatsmack

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

Let’s just get a few preliminaries out of the way. I love head-banging rock music, and I love pastoral systems involving the movement of people with their livestock. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Now for the more painful part: middle age. By painful I mean both the physical pain involved in learning I’m not as young as I once was, as well as the pain of realizing I’m middle-aged just in time to understand I can’t maintain that claim that for long.

When We Were Young

We eloped a few months after my 20th birthday. I picked Jim up from the rig where he was a derrick hand on a drilling rig in the Hoback, and we got married in the historic marble-floored courthouse in Idaho Falls before a magistrate judge who married hundreds of couples in such ceremonies, but probably expected few to remain together.

I was a waitress in the hometown café back then, and after finishing my last breakfast shift before my scheduled time off, I stepped outside to find that Jim’s Firebird sports car we called “the Firechicken” had been stuffed to the gills with gifts from my coworkers and regular patrons – everything from luxury and household items to bride-and-groom glasses with a bottle of champagne.

Since I had no interest in a traditional wedding, and Jim was always game for new adventures, we ignored the protests of friends and family and arranged for a civil ceremony in neighboring Idaho. We spent our honeymoon cruising around the mountains of Idaho, stopping to hike and rock climb. Ah, the joys (and flexibilities) of youth.

Fast-Forward A Few Decades

Our schedule is early to bed and early to rise alongside our domestic livestock, with plenty of adventures and misadventures in between. Since the pandemic disrupted our plans to visit Europe a few years ago, we’ve been waiting for the opportunity to reschedule the trip, and every few months I do an online search for cheap flights.

We’ve been fortunate to have made several international trips in the last few decades, all of which involved visiting sheepherders and drovers in other countries, reinforcing our kinship in a worldwide community of people who tend to animals.

A recent online search resulted in a deal with potential, and I had just seen an announcement that one of my favorite rock bands would be starting its European tour around that time.

A quick search revealed Godsmack would be performing on our anniversary in Munich, Germany. Within minutes I booked the flights, navigated a German-language website to score two tickets to the concert, and then broke the news to Jim. First, I told him I’d booked a good deal on flights to Germany.

Only after I could see he was pleased to learn that some time away was in our future did I mention the Godsmack part of the trip.


Video by Cat Urbigkit, October 18, 2022

My musical preferences favor screaming guitars, aggressive drums, and vocalists who can monster-yell. My phone’s ringtone has long been the opening of Disturbed’s Down with the Sickness. In contrast, Jim’s musical preference is more bluesy – but we both love the vibes and fun of live concerts featuring skilled musicians, no matter the genre.

With this difference in mind, my strategy has been to entice Jim to some rock concerts by incorporating them into a bigger adventure. A weekend in the Pacific Northwest to visit our grandkids concluded after an extra day spent at an outdoor rock festival on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation (shout out to Jell-O shots on that one). This time, it’s Germany and Godsmack … and cattle, sheep, and working dogs.

Jim has long been familiar with Godsmack because I roped him into attending one of their concerts about a decade ago, quenching my insistence to hear this song live and loud.

We call it our “Goatsmack” trip. Back then we took a few days away from the ranch to travel to the Devils Tower area to visit friends who run a domestic goat operation specializing in utilizing goats in controlling invasive weeds.

After a night camping with the goats under the stars, and sipping whiskey around a campfire with the goat tenders, we then traveled to Casper for the Godsmack concert – which was an absolute blast, with an exceptional drum duel. Thus, goats and Godsmack became Goatsmack.

Aging, But Not Maturing

With a barely middle-aged couple scheduled to fly to another continent to attend a rock concert, what could possibly go wrong? Apparently that whole aging thing.

It’s been nearly four decades since we eloped, so of course things that break and tear in our bodies don’t heal as fast as they used to, as our doctors keep telling us when one of us visits to get patched up from the latest mishap.

I revisited the lesson just a few weeks ahead of our departure when I managed to injure a hip joint. But a good doctor and modern medicine are earning their keep in patching me up enough to get by until we return.

While the concert in Germany is the launching point for our travels, we’ll be visiting several European countries to learn more about their varied pastoral systems, the herders and drovers tending to the livestock, and their animals. It’s part of a larger project I’ve been working on, aimed at celebrating pastoralists around the globe and how our vocation unites us in a global community.

This week as my column is published on our 37th anniversary, Jim and I plan to be drinking German beers and jamming to an American rock band in a foreign country before heading out to spend time with someone else’s livestock. We’ll have to report back on what to name this trip. Cattlesmack? Sheepsmack? Maybe Hipsmack.

Prost!

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

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