To My Son

It seems that only a short time ago, you were the small boy curled up in my lap in the middle of the night because you couldn’t sleep; that you were that little boy tailing along with me on trail rides at the ranch talking with guests about the wildflowers; that you were packing alongside your Uncle Ralph in the mountains, following your dad anywhere on a snowmobile, pestering your sister and helping your grandma in the kitchen at the lodge.

Now, here you are, a grown young man getting ready to graduate high school. I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed, Jace Tyler. I felt like now was a good time for a letter addressed just to you; one to hold onto and keep; one to read for years to come so you can reflect back and know that I want all the best for you in this life. So, here it goes…

To My One & Only Son-

Life will be coming pretty hard at you these next few years. People will be expecting big things of you, big decisions, and bigger leaps of faith. All I can say to you is that you have what it takes inside you to be one amazing man- you’ve always had these qualities, and now is the time to put those qualities to use.

Life is one crazy ride, son- sorta like saddling up one of them broncs you like to watch. Sometimes it will be smooth, fluid, and rhythmic, and other times you will see a whole lotta daylight between your ass and the saddle. But when the going gets tough, the tougher get going, and I know you will always dig deep.

If I could give you any advice in this life, I would tell you to stay soft and kind- stay open minded, but strong willed. I would say, don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, but learn from them. Save your hard earned money for the bigger picture that the man upstairs has in store for you down the road. Always check your oil in your truck. Take time out from hard work, and listen to the stories your grandpas share and advice they give. Hunt and fish with your dad- cultivate the good in your relationships. Be a true friend- to your sister and those deserving of your time. Lend a hand up now and again, and know that sometimes it’s worth contributing to the greater good. Call your grandmas, buy a special girl flowers, hold out for a true and good love, and know there is nothing stronger than mine for you.

Ride new trails, and soak up every mile. Ride those horses, and be the cowboy you want to be, and do it with the heart of a strong, yet gentle man. Have patience with them, your dog, people, and most importantly, yourself. You’re not perfect, and you’re not meant to be. Know your words before you spit them out, and understand that not everyone will always get you, but speak your mind tactfully and straightforward. Don’t leave someone wondering what side of the fence you’re on. Work hard; not for the money, but for yourself, and know what it means to be a “good tired” at the end of the day.

My son, I know you’re made or great things. You’ve already shown that you are, and I couldn’t be prouder of the man you’re becoming. Stay humble and kind; earn respect through your actions and be a man of your word, always.

I will always love you for the boy you were and the man you are becoming, and I am with you every step of the way in this life. My love knows no bounds. Go get this one life you have- embrace the traditions and values you were raised on, and blaze your own trail proudly and boldly. You’ve got what it takes- so sink spur and ride, kid! I love you and am proud of you.

Love,

Mom

{Cowboy} Girl

She stares at her reflection, thinking how the time has passed, remembering days of long ago when she was but a lass.

A young thing, sitting tall in the saddle next to dad, listening to him spin his stories about the life he once had.

He taught her about ponies and trails and wildflowers in bloom, and talked to her sternly about avoiding boys and such doom.

Gathering the big herd, & loping across meadows of green, on matched black & white paints, she was just sweet sixteen.

She rode straight and true, right beside her old dad, all the while he thought, “that girl sure is a hand”.

He knew life would one day call her away to raise babies and a family with love, but in this moment, she was still his little dove.

Love did call, so she made a life of her own, raising babies and gardens and she watched her pony grow old.

She rode now and again, when she could find the time, between dishes and laundry and working full time.

She taught her kids to ride, just as her daddy had done, and told them stories of the buckles their Papa had won.

Life changed her from a horse crazy young girl to a woman with little time, and she felt she lost her edge; she had no rhythm or rhyme.

But deep down inside of her, that young cowgirl lived on, and she remembered who she was, and those days weren’t so long gone.

She pulled on her boots, braided her back from her face, while walking to the corral at a hastened pace.

The old paint nickered as she threw the saddle on. She tightened the leather and gave it a tug, grabbed a hunk of mane and swung right on.

Back in the saddle, she came to life. Air filled her lungs and the sun beamed on her face, letting the sound of hooves drum out the strife.

And she remembered her dad’s words while a tear trickled down her face : you’re the best cowboy girl that I’ve ever known, and you do it all with such grace.

Don’t ever forget who you are or where you come from. You’re made of mountains big and true, and may you always have a field of horses to bring out the cowboy girl in you.

{Storm}

She came to when the rain hit her face. The loud thunder cracked above jolting her back to life. She could taste blood and her tongue went to the chipped corner of front tooth. She coughed and sucked for air. She caught movement from the corner of the barnyard where that damn buckskin stood sprawled and wide eyed with one side of the bristly horse hair mecate swinging. Bastard. She cussed the horse and cussed herself more. She’d hit the ground hard.

And somewhere in the echo of the alley of the old barn, she felt the presence of her grandad, long since passed, swore she could see him lighting his roll your own, one leg crossed over the other, and saying to her, “You’re gonna ruin a good horse getting off that way.” She missed that old Pops of hers.

The rain started coming down with more force. She pulled herself to her knees, sucked another breath of air back into her burning lungs, and wiped the mud and dirt from hands, backside and face.

She watched lighting light up the dark clouds. Timing in life felt a little off and out of sorts lately. She reached a quiet hand out to the snorty colt, talked quietly and reassuringly to him, spun his head around to her knee, gathered the rein and a hunk of black mane, and swung back on. She eased him back out to go gather the rest of the herd spread across the green bunch grass meadow.

Life served her best this way… uncertain, edgy, a little bloody, a little broken, and tough. And she didn’t want to change one damn thing about it. So, she nudged the buckskin on into an easy lope while the rain showered down and the storm raged above.

Her fingertips traced the crystal decanter set neatly on the mirrored settee and stopped atop the glass knob and pulled the top off gently. She noted the black dirt underneath her nails and overturned her palms and took in the filth between the lines and callouses. She glanced at her favored turquoise and silver band- the one her grandmother found in the little stream high in the mountains of their hunting camp. Her gran would’ve said, “those aren’t a lady’s hands”.

She reached for a bucket glass and poured a shot of rye, lifted it to her eyes and swirled it around mesmerized by the amber colors colliding against each other inside. She put the whiskey to her lips and shot it back with vigor, letting the burn reach her empty belly. She sighed, poured another, and held it close to her denim shirt clad breast, and peered over the rim at the giant rock fireplace in front of her.

She picked out her granddaddy’s brand placement in the rocks above the cedar mantle. She read the formation aloud, “H Bar R”. The fire flickered and she watched the flame lick the charred logs. For an instant, it lit her grey green eyes against the dark wood paneled room, caught the silver conch hair tie at the end of her long dark braid.

The giant room started to warm against the onset of winter breaching its way across the sierra slope behind her. The wind rattled the shutter slightly, bringing her attention back to the present.

Tomorrow’s gather would be the first without her granddad by her side. She ached at the thought of his absence; at the thought of looking over expecting to see him swinging his old, hand braided reata at a straying filly and longing to hear him bark a gruff order her way. Nothing would feel quite the same when she swung in the saddle the next morning peering out over the herd of wily, young mustangs readying to be shipped to new homes. Loneliness was setting in, threatening to take hold of her heart strings. She choked back the lump forming in her throat and the wetness forming against her burning eyes. She shot back another round of whiskey, and set the glass down harshly and walked upstairs to her room where a sleepless night await her.

When the {Bones} are Good

I pulled in the drive this afternoon, feeling frustrated with the day, and thoughts heavy on my mind and heart. It’s difficult to work at something and see no physical result, no monetary reward for your efforts, and have it result in a void of emotional fulfillment.

Do you ever question your path? Choices? Do you question your why? Do you question how you got just where you are? I do and am, and it’s one of the worst cycles I get into. I think we all want to matter, and I want to make a difference. I’m tired of closed doors and ‘no thank yous’ and ‘not for mes’. I want to remain true to my cowboy boot wearing, ball cap sporting self and still push myself. I don’t want to wear office clothes and drive to the big city everyday, stare at computers, answer endless emails, and talk on a phone that weighs a hundred pounds. We all want to pursuit passions and have it reward us in all the right ways, but is there such thing when the “bones of your soul” aren’t good?

When I start feeling this way, I default to feeling like I’m failing. I see uncomfortable and similar patterns. I want to run away. I lack patience, and I want to throw in the towel. I want there to be reward for my effort and know that I’m not throwing that effort after foolishness for something that might never be. I want to go back to what was, my comfort zones, and my safe places and familiar faces. The problem, for me, is in the waiting, the patience, and the lack of faith.

I don’t have a cure for these overwhelming feelings other than to gut it out and get through the moment. I don’t know how not to let tears of frustration well up, and I don’t know how to fight back the lump in my throat. I don’t know how to overcome the palpable silence in the big, empty room.

So, I pick up my camera and go for a walk. I walk and think and wipe away tears. Today, I walked until I crested the ridge and found myself smack dab in the middle of a bunch of feral horses. I sat down in the sage, breathed deep, and pulled my camera up, and snapped picture after picture.

I thought about the “bones” of my foundation, and I realized it will never matter what job I work if I don’t get right with myself, if I don’t continue to try, if I don’t find ways to cure the restlessness, if I don’t learn to trust the process, and in turn, trust myself and the path the good Lord has put me on.

So, in the meantime, I do familiar things that act as a salve to a rough day. I pet the happy puppy faces that greet me at the door. I catch my wily and fat ponies, nuzzle them, brush out the gnarled manes and tails, enjoy the cool fall air on my face, crack a beer, crank the tunes, and strengthen the bones of my foundation. I get back to being the old me for five minutes.

Tomorrow is another day to try again, and all it takes is one foot in front of the other. When the bones of your soul are good, the rest won’t matter, and the best will come. I want to be ready when it does.

Happy Trails~

Heather

A Life By Design

What would it mean to you to create a life by design and not a life by default?  Maybe some of you have, but I am betting the majority of us are the latter of the two scenarios.  What does it mean to live on purpose, live with intention, or live to commit to goals and not just to create them?

These last few weeks, I’ve been attending a weekly coaching class talking about such topics, giving me tools to implement in my real estate career, and  to create a life by design and not just default.  To say that it has opened my eyes is such an understatement.  I’ve learned about the impact of my mindset, the way my heart and head communicate and have become ardently aware of wasted time and my own nonsense.

I can’t tell you exactly what brought me to choose real estate as a career at 42, other than I hoped to make some money; but I’ve had to dig deeper than that. I’ve had to really find my “why”. My “why” is my family, my loved ones, and wanting to give back to something bigger than me.  That particular thought alone caused a ton of reflection.  Suddenly, it’s like I feel the blood of my ancestors pulsing through my veins, and I think of my family ranching roots.

It wasn’t easy leaving the ranch a year ago.  I never saw myself doing anything but riding down mountain trails on my horse hosting people, walking side by side my folks as they grow older, and working with extended family and keeping family traditions alive.  But there is one thing I felt was lacking and have always known I wanted, and that was to live with purpose on purpose.  I wanted what I did to be transcendental, reaching past just my own selfish wants and needs; I wanted it to last for the sole purpose of leaving this world a little something good.

I was so fortunate growing up on the ranch in Montana; fortunate beyond measure.  I don’t mean in monetary terms, but more so in what really matters- the matters of the heart.  I’ve seen more mountain splendor than most will see in a lifetime atop the best horses God ever made. I’ve watched my grandparents dance at their 50th anniversary like two young school kids still madly in love until the day they passed. I’ve seen the sunlit wheat fields in central Montana aglow with the prettiest sunset built in orange and pink hues that stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve watched a cutthroat trout rise to a fly cast with art from the skilled hands of my uncle.  I’ve witnessed the bugle of the bull elk, and rattled in a whitetail buck for harvest. I’ve heard my daughter’s beautiful voice sing its song to a crowd that listened intently and with awe as her words floated on a summer night’s breeze.  I’ve seen my son learn to hunt, fish and trap and develop a deep love and respect for the outdoors.  I’ve shared days in the saddle with tough cowboys while we worked a herd as they willingly shared their knowledge. I’ve watched my mom turn a fresh colt into a steady steed.  I’ve seen my dad’s hands labor and mechanic on intricate motors and turn the pages of a worn Bible to share scripture. I’ve seen wild horses run through the sage, smelled the desert after a rain, and have known the tremendous love and respect of a good man.

Tangible moments. Heart moments.  Intimate transmission of memories from heart to head and back to heart all for the purpose of creating a life by design, not by default.  His design.

Real estate may not have been a choice I saw coming, but this last month has given me more purpose than perhaps I’ve ever felt, all while not yet making a dime. I thought I wasn’t living with purpose if I wasn’t witnessing and doing all the previously mentioned things, but I now see that it doesn’t matter what profession I’m in, but the purpose in which I’m living, and knowing my big “why”.

I refuse to be distracted by comparison.  I want to be captivated by the purpose.  So, learn to appreciate where you are in your journey, even if it’s not exactly where you want to be.  Whatever you do, do with your whole heart, whether that is a 9-5er, a fireman, a writer, a mill worker, a waitress, a coach, teacher, doctor, or a cowgirl.  There truly is a reason to every one of your seasons under the sun.  Appreciate it. Relish in it. Do it. And grow with it.

Happy Trails~

Heather

 

 

 

Last Call for the {Blues}

She looked around one last time at the now barren four walls she’d called home for the last nineteen years feeling nothing. Ironically, she’d pictured this moment in her mind a million times over the course of the last year, secretly picturing her things and herself gone; had felt the giant lump welling in her throat that had threatened to choke her down so many times before. The off white walls held casted shadows where pictures once hung, nail holes showing, dust settled on window sills, and his favorite worn leather recliner now sat alone in the corner next to a small table with a empty glass stained with bourbon from the night before.

She pulled her ball cap on over her unwashed, braided, dark hair, slid her aviators over her swollen and dry eyes, bent to pick up her last bag on the floor, slid the hand written letter to him on the entry table next to the house key, and turned and walked out the door, gravel crunching under her hastened stride. She felt like running, wanting to make this moment speed by. She wasn’t uncertain of this choice, but the guilt of the moment threatened her soft heart with indecision. She knew if she could make it to her old Ford, where her border collie anxiously awaited her in the front seat, she’d be in the clear. She could get in, put the truck in drive and leave everything behind her.

She checked her horses in the little two horse trailer, securing the door latch, took one last look at the tires, and set herself behind the wheel and fired up the ’76. Her pup looked over at her with questioning eyes, and settled down resting his head on her thigh. She lit a cigarette, put the truck in gear, and pulled out of the drive.

Her mind mulled over the memories that lead her to this point; the breaking. She found herself empty hearted and her soul longing to live in color again. She’d soul searched, paid a therapist, rode miles on horses, taken solo vacations, journaled, begged and pleaded with her heart and mind to fall back in love just one more time with him, but there was too much water under the half burned bridge. And life wasn’t waiting around, and neither was she. She wanted to steal some freedom while there was still a chance. She wanted to take the whole world in.

Because behind all the blue she’d been feeling lately, there was still a fire and light that burned inside of her. She didn’t want the emptiness she felt to skew her point of view any longer. She looked through the cracked windshield, seeing a red tailed hawk glide effortlessly on the breeze overhead. Signs. She believed in them. She knew one day there would be solace again. She took a deep breath, gripped the wheel tight and let her feelings go with that hawk on the wind.

And she pointed the truck north to Big Sky country.

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…

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.