The day my father-in-law Chuck passed away, I found myself in his closet with Ladd and my brother-in-law, Tim. The two brothers had things to discuss and decisions to make, and I was there to help. Instead of being helpful, though, I found myself getting emotional over how much his closet spoke not just to Pa-Pa’s daily life, but his way of life.

I don’t know why I took these photos that afternoon, except that standing in that closet, I felt more in Chuck’s presence than anywhere else in his house, and I wanted to remember it. I asked Ladd if he thought it would be weird for me to share them here, and he said he’s pretty sure Chuck would love showing off how organized he was.

Ree Drummond

Long sleeve shirts: A few white, a small handful of miscellaneous checks and stripes…but mostly blue. (And his PJ’s handing on a hook on the left! Chuck always wore PJ’s to bed. Unlike his younger son, Ladd, who wears…well, never mind.)

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Short sleeve shirts, mostly blue. I’m getting a Steve Jobs vibe here. 😂 Some are newer, some are a little frayed, all are starched and pressed. They’re hanging and ready to go…just like Chuck was always ready to go. His whole life, he was never content to sit in the house. There was always work to do on the ranch, and besides that, he said, “The human body really only requires ninety minutes of sleep per night.” That was my sister’s favorite Chuck quote.

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Did Chuck take lessons from Steve Jobs or did Steve Jobs take lessons from Chuck? Hard to say. But I can see that a workaholic like my father-in-law would have derived plenty of benefit from a lack of choices when it came to his daily wardrobe. Why spend more than three seconds of mental energy selecting a shirt? On the rack above, the decision was light blue, white, or denim? (I personally loved Chuck in the denim. His eyes were incredibly blue!)

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The sign of an old-time cowboy is starched jeans. Ladd has tried to wear starched jeans and failed; he finds them uncomfortable, and, considering how much both of us hate ironing, a waste of time and happiness. But not Chuck. Jeans were part of his business suit, and he always wanted them to start out crisp and sharp. (Never mind that by the end of the day, they were covered in manure, blood, dirt, and grass.) The jeans caused a tear to roll down my face, both because they were such a fixture for Chuck and because they speak to a different time…a different era…a different kind of cowboy. And for our family, anyway, that era has come to an end.

Actually, scratch that. I just realized my brother-in-law Tim wears starched jeans when he goes out on the town. I guess I can tease him that he’s an old-time cowboy, too.

Ree Drummond

If the jeans wouldn’t have gotten me, the jackets would have. I like to think about what factors made Chuck choose which jacket. Was it all about utility and level of warmth? Or was he attached to certain ones? I know Ladd tends to grab the same jacket as a default day after day, even when I sometimes wish he’d pick another one. Cowboys love their horses, their boots, and their particular jacket.

Okay, I’m crying now. I knew I would if I looked at these photos. I’m going to miss my father-in-law and his always-starched light blue shirts and jeans.

I might even take up ironing in his honor. (“Might” being the operative word…)

I’m a desperate housewife, I live in the country, and I’m obsessed with butter, Basset Hounds, and Ethel Merman. Welcome to my frontier! 

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