Ree Drummond: The Pioneer Woman Tells All
How It All Started
Better known as "The Pioneer Woman," Ree Drummond has captured the imaginations of millions of readers through her award-winning blog, ThePioneerWoman.com. Devoted readers log on daily to check out her latest photos, recipes, and musings about life on the Oklahoma prairie with her hunky cowboy husband (whom she calls Marlboro Man) and their four children.
Drummond's unlikely transformation from Starbucks-loving urbanite to rural wife and mother began in the mid-1990s, when she broke off a long-term relationship and moved from Los Angeles (where she'd gone to college) back to her Oklahoma hometown. It was to be a pit stop on the road to an exciting new life in Chicago. Then, unexpectedly, she met the man who would turn her world upside down.
It had been four months since I'd locked eyes with the Marlboro Man in a bar over Christmas, since he'd made my knees turn to overcooked noodles. And since he'd failed to call the next day. Throughout that time, whenever I allowed myself to remember his steely-blue eyes, his prematurely gray hair, his quiet manner that was so drastically unlike all the silly city boys I'd known, a salty wave of disappointment would wash over me. But it didn't matter, I told myself. I was moving to Chicago in a few weeks. I had zero business getting attached to anyone around here, least of all some Wrangler-wearing cowboy.
So when the phone rang one Saturday afternoon in April, I assumed it was a friend I'd seen the previous night. "Ree?" said a deep voice. "We met at the J-Bar last Christmas."
Twenty-six hours later he was on my parents' doorstep, his starched blue denim shirt illuminating his equally blue eyes.
"Hello," I said, smiling. I was wearing sleek black pants, a violet sweater, and spike-heeled boots. Fashion-wise, we were hilariously mismatched.
We talked through dinner. About my upbringing on the grounds of a country club; about his childhood on his family's cattle ranch. About my passion for ballet; about his for football. About my brother, Mike, who's developmentally disabled; about his brother, Todd, who died as a teenager. By the end of the evening, I had no idea what I'd eaten or said. All I knew was that I was riding in a Ford F250 diesel pickup with a cowboy -- and there was nowhere else on earth I wanted to be.
After two weeks, Ree was madly in love and decided to stay in Oklahoma. Following a courtship involving quiet dinners, starlit evenings on his porch, and more than a few awkward encounters with ranch animals, Ree enthusiastically accepted Marlboro Man's marriage proposal.
Word of our engagement spread through my hometown of 35,000. The fact that I would now be hanging up my black pumps to move to a ranch in the middle of nowhere -- Marlboro Man lived 20 miles from the nearest town -- raised a few eyebrows. I could almost hear the whispers through the grapevine.
"I just can't picture Ree riding a horse."
"She's the last person I would ever imagine in the country."
"Seriously? Ree? Marrying a cattle rancher?"
But Marlboro Man was no country bumpkin: He was poised, gentlemanly, and intelligent. And oddly, over time, I'd found that the prairie suited me. We loved taking drives together, and Marlboro Man showed me everything, pointing out pastures and signs and lakes and giving me the story behind all of them. The land made sense to him: He saw it not as one wide-open, never-ending space but as neatly organized parcels, each with its own purpose and history. For him, it pulsated with the heartbeats of all who'd lived here before.
I began to realize just how complementary our differences were. Where I'd always been quick to fill a conversational void, I now let the silence between us work its magic. Where I used to end dinner by calling friends to meet for a drink, now I'd sit on Marlboro Man's porch and listen to coyotes howl. He offered me a slower pace and permission to be comfortable in the absence of exciting plans. I, in turn, gave him a little something. I was likely the first girl he'd dated who didn't know how to saddle a horse.