I was assigned a story my first summer working as a reporter in Missoula, Montana:
Head to an area about 3 1/2 hours southeast of town, called the Big Hole Valley and catch up with a group of riders on that particular year’s leg of the Chief Joseph trail ride.
http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_2a8c9da8-cc3b-11e0-8016-001cc4c002e0.html (Photo above courtesy: West Yellowstone News)
And since I was going that far away, yet it was still in our viewing area, I was to come up with a couple additional stories to film while there.
“I’m looking for Sheila,” I called and asked for the woman I had been reading about was a famous hatter from that area.
“Hang on just a minute,” I remember a woman’s voice on the other end of the line. I heard the woman call for her.
“This is Sheila,” I’ll never forget the deep, slow and deliberate, sweet yet strong voice that answered a few moments later.
“Sheila, my name is .. ” and I went on to explain who I was and that I was coming to her area to film another series of stories. I knew she had made the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her cowboy hat making. Would she allow me to film a piece on her? She happily obliged. We agreed on a time and day to meet. And I believe from the moment I walked in the door to the hat shop that day, we have been friends.
Well, actually it was probably more over beer later that night and some dancing at the Antler Saloon..
And then it somehow, quickly become more than that. She and her husband at the time, and her daughters took me in, as family. Not uncommon for Sheila. The woman has wrapped her arms around many besides her own children, and made them feel like one of her own. We have visited as often as possible, since. Spending a lot of weeks and weekends together, a few holidays, moves, weddings, deaths, a graduation, nights around the fire, new babies, a divorce, another wedding ..
You know what I mean, just life.
A lot of life.
And while I’m not sure what Sheila has ever gleaned from me .. I have at times, besides just enjoying every single moment I’m able to spend with her, leaned on her hard. Even lately. She has always been there for me, usually giving me the straight shoot, calling me out on anything necessary, helping me set upright again and always move forward with a better perspective for having spent any time with her. Teaching me new things. And some old things I need to be reminded of, like, sometimes it’s important to slow down and appreciate this life. I tell her, usually in-between laughs, I try and appreciate it too much, which is why I’m always so busy.
She also let’s me know when she thinks I’m doing a few things right. And she’s been telling me since meeting him last fall when we were in town for a visit and the 4H Rodeo ..
.. that the Cowboy in our lives is one of those things. And, she mentioned she’s been saving up for a trip she hopes (and now knows), is coming soon.
Even when my own mother was still alive, I was so incredibly grateful for Sheila in our lives… but over the years, I have grown to appreciate the woman she is, the examples she sets and the time and love extended us all the more.