Quick tanning, or at least a light shade of pink

It’s not straw hat season for cowboys in North Dakota, but I’m digging my straw cowboy hat out of storage this week as I travel to a warmer clime. 


As it turns out, my presence in Mexico has been requested by someone I don’t like to deny — my mother-in-law.


She’s not requesting I travel to Mexico to arrange a hit on me so as to free up her daughter for someone better. Rather, she wants a vacation with her children, grandchildren and even her in-law children on the sunny beaches near Cancun.


I agreed to the idea long ago when the tickets had to be booked. But when the mercury hit -30 C on the ranch and the diesel fuel in my tractor turned to jelly, the excitement for it cranked up a notch. 


I found myself chanting with frosty breath, “when do we leave, when do we leave?” as I changed the fuel filters on my tractor barehanded out on the tundra. 


I did, however, ungel the tractor for our friend who agreed to feed the cows while we were gone.


The place we are going will likely require fewer clothes than what I wear in North Dakota in the winter. 


My wife bought me some shorts and short-sleeved shirts to help me blend in with the other tourists.


Then, upon further inspection of the tan lines extending as far down as my neck and up to my wrists, she suggested it might be a good idea for me to have a couple of tanning sessions before I head closer to the equator in my new skin-revealing wardrobe.


It was true, my legs and torso haven’t seen a lot of sun in the 43 years I’ve walked the earth. They have seen even fewer, like zero, tanning booths. But I’m afraid of nothing, man nor beast nor fluorescent tubes of artificial light, so I agreed to the challenge.


Certainly, I know the warnings about artificial tanning. Believe me, I’m not making a habit of it, but I figured it would be OK to do a few sessions if for no other reason than to have material for this week’s column.


I opted for the speedy tan system where you stand up in a phone-booth-sized booth and get a real quick zap, kind of the convection oven of tanning booths. Honestly, I’m in a hurry. I’ve got tractors to ungel, fuel filters to change, things to do. I can’t be lying around for minutes on end in a slow baking booth. For one, I’m trying to get in and out of this joint quickly before somebody sees me sneaking through the swinging doors of the sun tannery. 


A cowboy would almost rather be caught going in to a yoga class or a lingerie store. Wait a minute, I guess I’ve done those things too and written columns about them. Amazing what a guy will do to have something to write with a biweekly column deadline and a scarcity of ideas.


Three sessions and $13.20 later, I guess I’m ready to head south and walk the beach bare chested in my shorts and sandals. 


However, upon mirrored inspection and my wife’s once over glance, it doesn’t seem like I got much for my money.


However, after running through the routine with my wife about my disrobing, my stance and the minutes on the quick bake timer, we discovered the problem. Next time, I need to re-member to take off my long johns when I head into the booth. 


Adios, amigos. 


Ryan Taylor is a rancher, writer and senator in the state legislature from Towner, North Dakota.

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