Thank You

Wow! I am completely blown away from the amount of visitors to my page this last month! I just wanted to say thank you to all of you that have dropped in on my blog, taken the time to read my ramblings, and comment. I hope you have found something to relate to in the content, laughed a little, or connected with it in some way. I am relatively new to blogging, so I am always looking for help, thoughts, constructive criticism, and advice. If you have suggestions, please comment. In the meantime, I am composing new posts, so please stay tuned!
Thanks Again!
Heather Anne

Little Joe

For my daughter and her Little Joe…
When I look out in the corral of horses and mules, I admire each and every one; their honesty, strength, and individuality. But there is one horse in particular whom owns a big piece of my heart… Little Joe.  One of the most difficult things about teaching your children to ride is finding that horse that helps to build their skill sets and confidence simultaneously. It is even tougher when you, the adult, struggles to find that confidence within horses and yourself, to help your child find theirs. Sometimes, you realize that YOU can not teach your child. Sometimes, they simply learn better on their own. And sometimes, well sometimes, it is the animal that teaches them best…

Little Joe came to the ranch at the age of 4 years old, green broke and full of spook and snort. He stood all of 14.3 hands and was about as wide as he was tall. Part Percheron and part Paint, he had stout legs, wide back, and crested neck; he was solid-built, and black & white in color. His face was honest; unsure but kind. Little Joe was full of quirks, but my brother, Cory, loved Joe from the first day. A young boy developing his skills, and a horse developing his, together for several years, they traveled many a mountain trail. They lead strings of pack mules, gathered in horses in the mornings, played around in the corrals, rode bareback, and were pals. They had a strong bond. But as boys do, Cory grew, passing on Little Joe to the next generation. For a couple years, we used him in the string of guest horses. Sometimes he worked well, and other times his quirks would cause people to shy away from him. It left me wondering where Little Joe would fit in the operation from here.
My daughter had a desire to ride horses, to love them, and to braid their manes and tails, but she was intimidated and fearful. Finding a horse that fits your child’s personality is difficult. Sometimes, you have to let the horse find you. Little Joe found Kiley. From the first day, Kiley and Little Joe fell in stride together, and just like an old pair of comfortable boots, it was a fit. Starting slow, they rode trails and played in the arena. He carried her over steep mountain passes and streams flooded with spring snowmelt. He built her belief in herself and him, slow and steady. They became inseparable. I could see Kiley’s confidence blooming in her horsemanship skills, and that flowed over into other corners of her life. It did my heart wonders, and I knew that he would take care of her. I had no doubts. She spent time grooming and bathing him, riding bareback, and learning to gallop. He tested her when she needed it. Gathering in horses from the meadow, he would frequently crow-hop, causing her boots to occasionally fall off. Anything more than a jog trot, was a waste of energy for Joe. But nothing deterred her from loving Little Joe. 

Even now, years later, with age showing in his sway back and a little gray in his face, her smile is never so bright as when she greets him in the mist of the summer mornings. She calls his name from across the barnyard, and he lifts his head in recognition. I look at the young lady growing in front of me, and I know without Joe, we would be in a different place. Little Joe did more than build her strength and confidence, he made unforgettable memories for me with Kiley. I got to watch her go from a little girl in a big hat, braiding daisies in his mane, to helping guide trail rides and lead guests with the poise of a young woman. There will undoubtedly be other horses that come along, but none will fill the space made for Joe. Little Joe, thank you. You are the best…

Pictures from Home

I love summertime in the high country of Montana. My family owns a guest ranch and outfitting business for whom I work in the summertime. Here are some pictures from this past summer. Hope you enjoy!

Leading the pack string, my brother Ralph
On top of Jumbo Lookout

After the storm
Dead snag tree with Arrow-leaf Balsam-root
View from above the ranch
Manure spreader… You can take a lot of crap in life and keep going!
Sunset from a camp in the Bob Marshall Wilderness
Pyramid Peak…Headed over the pass into the wilderness

North Fork of the Blackfoot River

Weathered Hands of an Old Cowboy

*Quick reference: For those of you non-horse people that may read this, a hackamore is an old Spanish bridle used for starting young colts. The reins are called a mecate (me-ca-tee).

This is for my grandpa…

Many thoughts come to mind when I think of my grandpa C.B.  Poet, philosopher, World War II veteran, husband, father, grandfather, and outfitter. But the one that describes him best? Cowboy. He was a hard man, but romantic and nostalgic. He didn’t often come into your world, but if you made the effort to know him on his ground, he openly shared his wealth of knowledge on many topics. My memories of my grandpa stem from time in the barn, photos of him on his favored black & white paints, many a road trip looking at old nags and possible prospects, livestock sale rings & auctions, gatherings in the tack room teaching us to tie knots, repair tack, how to medicate horses, and breaking many an ornery colt stories.  But my favorite memory of all time? That would be when he passed on to me his training hackamore.

I had just purchased my first young colt with the help and advice of my mom. I brought him home, and my grandpa, aged but still carrying the spark, came to the barn and looked him over. With a smile on his face, he congratulated me on being the proud owner of  a cow-hocked, split-eared, unbroke 2 year old Quarter Horse gelding, and promptly told me I had my work cut out for me. In my arrogant, nineteen-year-old opinion, the old man didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, and this horse would turn out just fine. So, for the next month, day in and day out, I set out to prove him wrong.  I read every horse training book and magazine article that mentioned how to start a young colt, but I struggled understanding methods and putting them into practice. My stubborn pride would not allow me to walk the distance of the barnyard and ask Grandpa as he  watched from a distance, what was I doing wrong. I feared his criticism and feeling stupid. I had trouble getting the horse to bend, flex, and give. The more I pulled, yanked, and beat, the more resistance I met. Still, Grandpa never said a word and gave no advice. Finally, ready to give up on it all, my head hung, I started  to lead the horse away from the arena back to the barn, when my grandpa called out to me from across the fence. He shuffled his way over to me carrying something. In his outstretched hand, he handed me his training hackamore. It had a perfectly knotted fiador, mecate, and the bosal was of medium thickness. I quietly slipped it on over my horse’s nose and ears, and he began to show me how to hold the mecate, how to ask my horse to give to the pressure, and to bend. For the next two hours, my grandpa shared with me his thoughts on colts, training methods, and how to get him started. For the rest of the summer, he met me at the arena every evening after work, and together we worked my colt. Now, I don’t profess him to be the best trained horse, (probably mostly due to my help), but the time spent with my grandfather was priceless.  Little did I know that would be the last summer we would spend together, because later that fall, he passed on.

The next spring, it was time for starting the ranch horses, and at the top of my list was my horse, whom sat most of the winter due to heavy snowfalls.  I strongly felt my grandpa’s absence, and as I headed out to ride, tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t remember his words. I couldn’t hear his voice. Everything was jumbled in my mind, and I felt as if I was back to square one. Sadness filled my heart, and I yearned to see him standing there next to me, encouraging me, patting me on the back, or telling me I was wrong. At that moment, I longed for any of it. I dropped my head, sat on my horse and looked at my hands holding the reins, wondering how I could have forgotten. Now, the rest may sound a bit cliche, but just when I was about to dismount, I started to feel strange. Do you ever have those moments when you know you are not alone, or you feel someone with you? I felt that. Strongly. As I looked down at my horse’s neck and my hands, I could see my grandpa’s weathered hands over the top of mine helping me grip the mecate just so. I swear I heard his gentle voice, and felt the warmth of his smile.

I still feel him every time I mount a fresh horse, climb a mountain pass, or ride a winding trail. He is with me, and I miss him like hell everyday…

My Grandpa, Clarence Rich on the last horse he owned and trained, Teton

The Things a Cowboy’s Got

Why do you do it ? somebody asked.
The money doesn’t pay.
The work is hard the hours are long.
How can you live this way?

What makes you chose the  cowboy life,
A life of dust and heat.
A life of sittin’ on a horse
In cold and wind and sleet?

I pondered on it for a spell,
Then answered that I thought.
I did it cause the things I like
Are the things a cowboy’s got.

I like the way a saddle smells.
The way the leather feels
I like the ringin’ jingle of
The spurs behind my heels.

I’m kinda fond of wide-brimmed hats.
I like a pair of chaps.
I like to patch up worn-out gear
With saved up leather scraps.

I like a brand new pair of boots.
I like old sheepskin coats.
I like the sound my horse makes when
He’s munchin’ on his oats.

I really like tight leather gloves.
And ridin’ in the spring.
I’d rather hear a bugelin’ bull
Than hear a choir sing.

What cowboys are is what I am.
It’s all I care to be.
And all the things a cowboy has
Are good enough for me.

Cosmopolitan or Western Horseman?

All women want to feel beautiful, strong, witty, and at times, glamorous.  Whether you work indoors and wear a tailored suit with 3 inch heels all day, teach snot-nosed children and wear a jumper, or like me, your days are spent in blue jeans, t-shirts, ball cap, and boots, all women want to feel feminine. Well, most women. (Maybe not the FED EX driver that just delivered my package. She did resemble a full back and apparently doesn’t own tweezers.)  But most of us like to feel pretty.   I’ll admit, while waiting in the line at the grocery store, I do get drawn in by the glamorous covers of Cosmo, and their “5 Tips To Finding Your Inner Goddess”. (Or maybe it is the “8 New Sex Positions All Women Should Beg For” article. But that is another story for another day. Beauty first!) Between the two above mentioned articles, I purchase the magazine, thinking, “Maybe it’s time to step it up a notch. This old girl ain’t dead yet, and maybe my spouse will want to watch me instead of the Outdoor Channel.”  I take it home, hide it from my husband, and think about putting these tips into action.  Flipping open the page….

Beauty Tip #1:  Waxing away unwanted or unneeded hair always leaves you feeling soft and silky to the touch. 

Heather’s Thought: Waxing? Have you noticed that I am a thick haired brunette? Besides, how do you determine the difference between unwanted and unneeded? The wiry, pig whiskers that attack your chin after 30, and the upper lip hair thick enough to give your man a run for his money, definitely qualify as unwanted. Unneeded hair…hmmm…bikini lines and etc… Just thinking about a full Monty wax makes me cringe, not to mention the irritation that comes after. That would be fun riding in a saddle all day with the third day itch coming on, sweating your ass off in the July heat. Skipping #1…

Beauty Tip #2:  Purchasing a beautiful pair of strappy high heels will make your legs look long and elegant.

Heather’s Thought: HA! High heels. Shit. I can’t walk in regular shoes on a good day! Adding 3 inches to my clumsy ass would surely leave me falling head over heels, literally. Moving on to #3

Beauty Tip #3:  Spoil yourself with a luxurious pedicure.

Heather’s Thought:  Hmmm… the last time I showed my toes to anybody on purpose for a pedi, I was laughed out of the salon by the little Asian lady. “You have hairy toes! You feet ugly! You need pedicure!” Me, “Well no shit lady! Why do you think I am here?”  Forget it… Not going back.

Beauty Tip #4:  Treat yourself to a relaxing Swedish massage.

Heather’s Thought: I don’t get naked in front of my husband at home with the lights on. Do you really think I am going to expose myself to some hot Swedish guy named Bjorn? Or worse, Olga whose size rivals the Green Bay Packers Center? Besides, I didn’t adhere to Beauty Tip #1: Waxing. Hot showers will have to do.

Beauty Tip #5:  Every goddess should own a divine red lipstick.

Heather’s Thought:  Oh, RED lipstick. Well, since I did not wax, I am face first on the floor because of my strappy high heels, my toes are still hairy and unpainted, and I am not relaxed because of lack of massage, I’m sure that RED lipstick will do the trick in making me feel beautiful.

Why in the heck did I buy this stupid magazine? Oh yeah, it was for the sex article. Maybe next time I should just stick with the Western Horseman instead.

Splittin’ the Seams

I am a what’s comfortable and functional kind of shopper.  I detest shopping for jeans; not as much as bras or swimming suits, but it definitely ranks right up there with waxing, doing dishes, and talking to my mother-in-law.  But, much to my dismay, I do occasionally have to buy them.  Don’t get me wrong; I am definitely a jeans, sweatshirt or t-shirt kind of girl, but the trying on process makes me… how shall I put this?  Uh, well, just bitchy.  I prefer to do my shopping at stores that sell clothing, tack, dog food, footwear, feed, and beer (one- stop shop) so the selection tends to run toward functional. Until lately…

Recently, I was in my favorite store, and a bedazzled pair of ripped out jeans caught my eye.  I thought, “What on God’s green earth possesses a woman to want to draw attention to her ass with goth crosses and sparklies?”  Maybe they were comfortable, so I thought before I get too judgmental, perhaps there was something to these jeans that seem to grace the hind parts of just about every girl and woman these days.  Most didn’t look terrible, and maybe, just maybe, my ass would look fabulous in these.  So, I grabbed a pair to try on, all the while my stomach turning at the sight of the price tag.  I moseyed around the store a bit more, perusing boots, halters, & dishware, and finally made it to the dressing room.  Shinnying out of my boots and jeans, I pulled on the pants.  Well, I tried to pull on the pants.  What the hell?  Now, I know that fat tends to rearrange itself from time to time, and I did eat ice cream the night before, drank 3 beers, and had sour cream on my potato, but I refused to blame my gluttony on the fact the pants were snug. I had the right size, right?  Tug. Pull. Squat. Thrust. Tug. Wow, who knew it could be such a workout trying on jeans?  Damn things better look hot!  Upon reaching for the button and zipper, (it was there somewhere) it came to mind that not only was my crack hanging out the backside, I might also need to wax the front in order to wear these babies. Really? A 2 inch, no, make that 1 1/2 inch zipper, is supposed to cover the nether region? I think not!  Not only were they “short waisted”, the thighs were tight, you could see every dimple, dip, and crevice, and what the heck was that junk hanging out over the top?  I don’t think “muffin top” would qualify!  Oh no!  In fact, the idea of removing these pants quickly brought to mind opening a can of Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits. You know, the “PPPAAA” sound you get when you beat the tube against the counter?  Yeah.  It wasn’t going to be pretty.  Well, I couldn’t get out of them fast enough! I was reminded this is exactly the reason why I don’t like shopping for jeans, and to stick with what works!  I might not be in fashion, but I don’t think my horse really cares!

Undergarments & Such

Whomever invented bras should be gut shot and left for the coyotes. (Undoubtedly a man!)  I’ve always felt there would never be true equality for women until men have to wear boxers or jockey shorts with an underwire that lifts and separates, comes apart and pokes the underside.   Bras, booby traps, “sports” bras, underwire, no wire, padded, unpadded, water stuffed, cotton stuffed, barely there, over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, or eyepatches. Although the naked option doesn’t sound so appealing, there ain’t a one of them that does the job efficiently!  Especially when it comes to equestrian activities.  There have been times when I was certain I blackened both eyes just by my horse stumbling. It doesn’t matter if you have fried eggs or watermelons, smooth horse or rough-gated, there is NOTHING comfortable about the jog trot. All riding bras promise to offer compression and restriction of vertical motion. (Refer to above photo) Now tell me that looks attractive and comfortable?! Besides giving you the uniboob (both tatas compacted into one sausage casing that gives the appearance of one, big breast), the sports/riding bra looks tight and difficult to maneuver.  Just look at the 75 cast iron hooks that I am sure entails a good 20 minutes of pulling, stuffing, and rearranging!  Not to mention, what happens when one of those puppies blows?  It may throw you completely off balance, put you out of stride with your horse, and well, the rest ain’t such a pretty picture. Flop, flop, flop.  So in short, I am not sure what the answer is for women of any shape and size, when it comes to riding apparel and undergarments.  I prefer to take my chance on Victoria’s Secret, with the hopes that at least it looks pretty when standing still.

Dirty House = Clean Barn

I envy domestic goddesses.  Usually most women envy what they are not.  I am NOT domestic, and unfortunately my husband and children know this all too well by the piles of unfolded laundry, unmatched socks, stacks of dirty dishes, and a freezer full of frozen entrees guaranteed to gag a buzzard.  I think I had to refer to a science manual to learn to boil water.  Needless to say, the domestic gene does not flow through my veins.  I don’t swap recipes, attend social functions, shop at the mall, and I frequently forget birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.  I admire my mother, and her mother before, my sister, aunts, and cousins, all of whom at some point, even being ranch-raised, still find their domestic/nesting side.  My sister often points out that I may have more than my allotment of testosterone in my blood, but what can I say?  I like the out-of-doors, the thrill of the hunt, the smell of two-stroke exhaust, big trucks, horse trailers, & Muck boots.  Truth is, this is when I am in my element.  But at some point, I have to come to terms with that word: DOMESTIC.  And Lord knows I’m trying.  Hell, just last week I turned on my oven to actually bake a pie.  Granted… it said Marie Calendar’s on the box, but I didn’t burn the dang thing!  I also figured out that you have to occasionally change a vacuum’s bag in order for it to actually suck. (If they are supposed to suck, why don’t they anyway? Can’t get the damn thing to suck dirt right in front of you, but God forbid if there happens to be shoelace close by!)  The washing machine and I frequently argue.  To me, an extra large load of laundry means 10 pairs of jeans, 4 sweatshirts, 1 bra (that’s all I own), wool socks and white socks, the sheets off my bed, my chap stick with barnyard mung, 13 bath towels, plus the dog’s collar, and my Carhartt jacket caked with horse sweat and trail dust.  The dryer then takes 4 hours to dry anything!  (Which reminds, I need to call the Sears repair man…)  So this is why I figure I am more productive outside.  I can muck stalls, drive a tractor, shoot a rifle, vet a horse, dog, or kid with the same medicine, and cuss like a sailor.  The barn is clean, the horses are fed, and my life is full! So, who needs that stupid word: DOMESTIC.  I’ll learn to bake someday…

The Mountains of Time

This is one of my all time favorite poems, so I thought I would share it with all of you. Enjoy the beautiful fall day!

When old pony’s hair starts getting long,
and the leaves turn golden and red.
When the fox squirrel buries his winter’s feed,
and the geese fly south overhead.

When the  evening sun sets west-southwest
in a sky that’s the color of wine.
I climb in old memories saddle,
and ride up through the mountains of time.

When the springtime of yesteryear comes into view
with its freshness all green-stemmed, hip deep.
I can still smell the breath of the earth as she woke
from the harshness of past winter’s sleep.

I recall each heart-lifting happening,
like each new calf’s or colt’s dancing rhyme.
But old memories and me, we must get along,
we’re still up in the mountains of time.

A shadow of last summer is still lurking up here,
though the flames of old Sol are now dim.
I remember his heat that made my sweat boil
and gave thanks daily when he knelt at earth’s rim.

The long endless days are growing faint, through a haze,
their shapes getting hard to define.
And old memories and me, we’ve slow-loped through the rough
while up in these mountains of time.

Old man winter’s still waitin’ with icy white teeth
and winds that sing death with a gasp.
But he can slow nature’s dance only for a short time
a snow blanket warms her while she naps.

So if memories don’t fail and I keep a tight seat
we’ll look back on what we’ve left behind.
Up a trail that we cut, just as true as we could,
me and old memories, through the mountains of time.

By Joe Mingus

Don’t Call ‘Em Cowboy, ‘Til You See Their Underwear

Ranch hands and “cowboys”. They’re a dime a dozen.  Every summer, some new guy wet behind the ears and all new hat, tight wranglers, and Copenhagen shows up wanting to fulfill his dreams of becoming a cowboy, wrangler, or guide for the ranch.  Some are genuine. Others, well, others take a while to fit, and some never do.  Some are all swag, and are there to draw attention from the ladies. This guy in particular….

Growing up, I worked during the summer helping out around the ranch, taking trail rides, being a youth horsemanship camp counselor, and back country cook.  It left little time for socializing with high school friends or boys.  While girls my age were working on their tan lines at the beach, I worked on mine in the barnyard and on the trails. Only mine consisted of a t-shirt line halfway around the bicep, wristwatch mark, and bronzed neck.  The stark contrast of tanned arms and white chicken legs was startling, but so it went.  Since my social life suffered in the summer because of my busy schedule, it became easy to fall for the guys that wanted to play cowboy.  (Well, that AND being 17 years old!) This summer’s guy came with tight jeans, (should have been the first clue), a fancy truck, new hat, and rounded out the picture with a horse, brand new saddle, chaps, and horse trailer. They usually didn’t come THIS prepared, so… I was smitten.  Just knew this had to be love, and boy was I in luck this time. He was a REAL cowboy.  At least I thought…until he mounted his horse for the first time.

We were at the barn getting ready for a trail ride one morning, this guy showed up donning extra tight wranglers, a crisply ironed shirt, and hat creased just so, ready for a day of sweaty work.  The horses were caught and saddled, awaiting the guests at the hitch rack.  While waiting for the ride, I cleaned the barn, swept the tack rooms, and mucked stalls, while the Marlboro man, complete with a stem of grass between his pearly whites, held up the hitch rack, let me go busily about the barnyard without so much as lifting a finger.  Well, the guests finally arrived, and wouldn’t you know it, it was a bunch of city girls on a manhunt for a Montana cowboy.  Marlboro man was in luck!  He put on his shit-eating grin, and greeted the ladies, paying extra special attention the blond with the perky boobs.  Rolling my eyes, I put the broom away and went out to help adjust the saddles.  Finally, everybody was mounted and ready for the ride except him.  He goes to the barn for his horse, leads him out, checks his cinch, and tries to stab the stirrup with spurred boot.  Now, to give the guy a little credit, his horse was rather tall; about 16 1/2 hands, and cowboy stood all of 5’7″.  You can imagine the combination of skin tight jeans, short legs, and tall horse, and the outcome was going to be anything but successful.  So pretty boy misses his stirrup for the 3rd time, and finally makes it the 4th, reaches for the saddle horn to pull himself up and over, when the last little squat-thrust caused the butt of his snug jeans to ripout right across the cheek, exposing BRIGHT red underwear. (I was beginning to wonder if there was any room in those pants for breathing, let alone underwear.)  A gasp was heard from the girls, and Mr. Cowboy’s face matched his jockey shorts.  Then and there was the end of infatuation with him, realizing that real cowboys didn’t come in a package so neat and tidy.  Thanks be to Jesus for the creation of horses, giving a girl all she’d ever really need anyway.