The {Old} Man

The sun was making its way into the morning, cloud-covered sky. She stood there in the pasture calling the horses in before leaving for work, feeling anxious about the day ahead, needing to get going. Annoyed, she called again, as she saw two of the three head slowly descend down the hill making their way to the corral. Whistling one more time, the two pick up their pace to a trot, but the old man’s silhouette yet remained to meet her eyesight on the horizon.

“Damnit. I don’t have time for this. Why can’t he just come in with the rest of them?” she muttered as she hiked her dress slacks up and tiptoed her way through the dewy grass and mud in her wedges. She rolled her eyes at the inappropriateness of her attire, and much preferring her boots and jeans to this business casual look she had to wear. Truth be told, her annoyance wasn’t at the old horse that wouldn’t come in, or the fact she was late, or even at the clothes she was wearing; she wanted to stay home, to take in a much needed day with her equine pals doing a whole lot of nothing except just being. But she refocused on the task at hand…

Pausing to call again and catch her breath, she waited, and looked up at the orange and pink hues of the sunrise. It was honestly breathtaking. But still no sight of her old paint friend.

Worry started to set in and formed a tight knot in her gut. He’d been awful slow these days, taking his time grazing his way to the barn, his arthritis showing more and more. But she loved the old horse, and wasn’t quite ready to part with tangible moments and be left with only the memories they’d forged over the years. He’d taught her so much, listened to her, been patient with her when she wasn’t with herself, been brave when she couldn’t, stacked her in the dirt when she’d needed it, humbled her, and given her confidence to try again. His love stitched together her heart and soul. Selfishly, letting go wasn’t something she was prepared for yet.

As she crested the knob, she held her hand up to her brow blocking the blaring sun and searching for him. The sweet smell of the bright, purple lupine patch greeted her nose, and she took in her surroundings- the crisp and clean mountain air- the sound of the little irrigation ditch rumbling its way through the high field- and finally, she saw him.

He lifted his head at the sight of her approaching and nickered his low, muffled sound. The knot in her stomach turned to slight tears of relief threatening the corners of her squinted eyes. She walked up to him and he took two slow steps toward her. She met his neck with her hand and bowed her head against his.

“Hey old man… it’s time to come in.” She slipped her arm over his neck, dropping her pant legs to the wet grass, no longer tiptoeing on her wedges, which were now muddy and ruined, and they walked to the barn together with the morning sun at their backs.

She smiled. He always had a way of making her stop and take all of life in, in the moment. The day ahead of her no longer mattered, because right here, right now is what mattered most to both of their hearts.

The rest of the world could wait…

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Thanks for the {Ride}

It’s been a ride here, friends. A good one… I’ve decided to hang up the reins for now on my column, Cowgirl Ramblings- turn the page on this chapter of my book. My life is a little busy, my words are feeling a bit redundant, and things have changed enough for me over the last couple of years, that I just feel it’s time…. time for new beginnings, fresh ideas, and untried goals.

Seeley Lake and the surrounding communities- Ovando, Condon, Potomac-will always be home- the place where the mountains touch the sky, the place where people know me by my first name, and smile when they see me pass through- my schools, my friends, and lastly, my family- all of you have been supportive and kind and open to my heartfelt, and sometimes, silly, ramblings.

Thank you to Nathan and Andi Bourne for giving me a platform and a place to share my words. There’s something rewarding about seeing my words in print- bold black and white- tangible, real and staring back at me from my small, hometown paper.

I will continue writing here and there, and you can still find me on my new blog on WordPress, Facebook and Instagram under a new name- The Wayfaring Cowgirl.

It’s been a good and happy trail to ride with all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your acceptance. May your trails and trials ahead be filled with so much beauty and grace and goodness, it fills you up. Tip your hat for me to that beautiful Swan Range, explore a new trail, help your neighbor, forgive your enemies, wave at a passing car, give all you can and give some more, support the kids in sports, log some trees, share the land, lend a hand, and continue to make the Seeley Swan Valley a place that all can live, love and enjoy-

Happy Trails my friends~ Thanks for the ride and ramble on…

Heather

{Mustang}

She watched a scorpion scamper from underneath the corner of the porch to a patch of sage smattered with orange and red paintbrush. It was her favorite wildflower. It always had been. She’d seen it blooming in June in her hometown mountains in western Montana; the vibrant, deep red always caught her attention riding along the trails. But here, in the sagebrush steppe of Nevada, the color appeared more orange in tone, and the way it looked against the greener, spring tones of sage, subtly yet strongly standing out, made her love it all that much more.

She rested her folded hands on the railing of the rickety porch, squinting into the late afternoon sun, her green eyes creased at the corners showing crow’s lines. She grabbed the end of her black, platted hair, and fondled with the handmade silver concho securing it in place. Her fingers were adorned with old silversmith rings and donned her favorite shades of jade and turquoise and her veins traced and bulged under her copper bracelets at her wrists. Her style was eclectic; from her weathered, old high top, custom buckaroo boots, pant legs tucked, to her braided horsehair belt and old pearl snap thinly worn shirt with the sleeves rolled. She was naturally beautiful and never fussed with maintaining her appearance. Her mid sized frame showed the hard work she’d put in outdoors fixing fence, working cows, and riding young colts.

She’d made a trip to Wadsworth to bring her Gran some horsehair for hitching. Gran. She was something. Jade looked back over her shoulder at the old Paiute woman with so much love and admiration. Gran was what everyone called her. She’d loved and raised and mothered more strays than anyone, and she’d taken a liking to Jade when she first expressed interest in wanting to learn beading and braiding. Gran had learned how to hitch hair and braid from her husband, an old vaquero from from California, selling her pieces to make ends meet.

Gran’s gnarled hands gently worked the gray horse hair. “This is a good color, Jade girl. You got a good one. A good bbooggoo.”

Jade smiled at Gran’s Native tongue. Bbooggoo was simply horse in Northern Paiute. She’d seen the steely gray colored stud not far from her shack early this morning when she’d been out gathering in the yearling colts, and heard the yips and howls of a pack of coyotes trying to move in on him. He had a busted shoulder; no doubt the recipient of a life ending blow dealt by another stud scrapping over mares. He’d hobbled up the hill and was struggling to get away. She knew the kind thing to do was put him down.

She pulled up her lever action .30-30, lined up drawing an x from each ear to eye and pulled the trigger. Her heart sunk along with the gray’s body to the ground. She fought back the bile in her gut looking to make an exit. She hated to do it, but hated even more the suffering. The coyotes scattered at the shot, and Jade made her way to the carcass. It was obvious he’d been struggling for a while, ribs showing, his appearance shrunken, and his hide covered in ticks.

She reached down and touched the neck, closed her eyes, and muttered a blessing over the horse. It was something Gran taught her, to always give thanks to the horse for his existence. Only then could you harvest any of the mane or tail hair. The mane was preferred for hitching and braiding because it was more soft and supple, and it also made the best mecates. It was only fitting that a wild horse that lived here, also met his fate here in the rocky sagebrush patch. She took in the toughness of his muscle, the shape of his hooves with the prominent frog, the square jaw, wide set eyes, small ears and short back. She stroked him one last time before she took what she needed of the hair, closed the eyes on the dead stud with her palms, tipped her hat and walked home.

It was a way of life here, and not one easily understood, but she embraced it fully. Jade turned around and found a chair next to Gran on the porch. Gran reached over, patted her hand, and smiled. She was missing teeth, her skin weathered, but her deep brown eyes always sparkled and spoke of her youth.

“Stay for supper, girl?”

“Sure thing, Gran,” Jade said, reaching over and clasping the old woman’s hand.