Around the Water Cooler

The weather here, like much of the country right now, is hot. Our hottest temps so far, I do believe, this summer. Mid 90’s all week with no sign of rain in the forecast. The local pool is closed until next year with kids back in school. Although .. many this week are on early release due to the fact there is no air conditioning in their classrooms. A pool would be nice.

Here on the acreage ..

Water cooler

Lengthy Morning Meeting Around the Water Cooler ..

.. the herd seems to be weathering it all just fine. Other than, rightfully so, they’re thirsty. One indication of just how thirsty – these 5 seldom if ever make room for each other at the trough. I had to grab this shot this morning because this is a rare sight.

Drink up.

Waiting on spring ..

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
― Percy Bysshe ShelleyOde to the West Wind

Another Day of Heavy Fog

Another Day of Heavy Fog

The weather has been quite a topic of conversation lately .. most people sick of the cold and snow.  And while I’m ready for spring myself, today there were just some incredibly beautiful scenes to be soaked up.

Gracie

Gracie

Blanketed in Frost

Blanketed in Frost

 

Storm Blowing In ..

The snow hadn’t yet started to fly this afternoon but the wind had kicked up something fierce once again on the Great Plains by late this afternoon and there was a damp chill in the air.

The grove of trees the herd was lined up against the other day was facing the wrong direction to help with tonight’s howling winds.  So a few of them cozied up behind one of the loafing sheds this latest go round with Mother Nature.

The huddle.

The huddle.

As I ran out to snap a few photos, they all turned and looked at me, I think wanting to come over and say hello like they usually do.  But all stood their ground, not wanting to give up the wind break for any other in the herd.

I smiled at them.  And as the cold, bitter air sent a sharp pain through my front teeth, I scurried back inside, seeking warmth and shelter again myself.

Wind Break

Today’s snow came early, was heavy, wet and fell fast.  The Interstate is closed to our north, to the west and throughout much of the state, officials are asking people not to travel.

Break From the Wind

Break From the Wind

We made it home just before noon and are bunkered down for the day.  But I had to run and grab a few pics when we pulled back into the drive.  It’s the first time I’ve seen the herd all lined up along the tree and fence line in an effort to get relief from the South Dakota winds.  Beautiful.

DSC01917

February Snowstorm

Frozen Nose Hair ..

Yes.  That is how cold it remains.

You know those days, don’t you?  Days where all you have to do is step outside the door and instantaneously, eyelashes have icicles and nose hair is frozen.

If not, I’d say consider yourself lucky.  But, we live where we do because we love weather like this, don’t we?  It’s dinner in the crock pot weather.  Good stout beer weather.  Make a fire weather.  Bundle up on the couch with the kids in a big blanket and watch a movie weather.  Those are good things about it being too cold to do much else.  Either way, as the snow moves in this fine February day, here’s to hoping this is the last day of this bitter cold snap for 2013 .. we’re waiting on spring!

DSC01287

(Thought a shot of Gracie’s whiskers was better any day, than a shot up any of our noses.)

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

 

Foothills Rodeo ..

His old roping partner called him up about three weeks ago ..

Foothills Rodeo.

He was going to be back in town and thought it would be fun to enter.

The Cowboy didn’t want to do it.  Doesn’t like the thought of ‘doing something half-assed,’ he always tells me.  Or putting money up to rope when he hasn’t been working at it.

The Cowboy hasn’t been doing much rodeoing for a couple years now.. since the divorce and especially this past year.  Many weekends are spent on the road between South Dakota and Wisconsin.  To which I am grateful for, but I know they have put a serious dent in what used to be his lifestyle.

He told me about the call.

“C’mon,” I said.  “It’ll be fun .. plus, I’ve seen you teach others how to do it, I’d love to go watch you actually rope.  And I’ll be at the ranch that weekend.”

Reluctantly, I believe, he agreed to go.

…………………

We all piled into one of the Cowboy’s best buddies trucks just before noon Sunday, me, the Cowboy, Scuba Steve and his pregnant wife, and Little Brother Trucker ( .. his partner.  They’re going to kill me for the names.) yesterday, horses in tow and headed for the Foothills Rodeo.

“You’re on the hot and dusty now,” said the Cowboy.  Laughing.

It wasn’t long .. stories started flying about their history together.  Their travels.  Their friendships.  And all the things they would do to one another while on the road.  The Cowboy says these are among the best friends he has in the whole world.  He’s spent a lot of time with them over the years and he laughs as he tells me, you really get to know someone after spending 48 hours together in the same vehicle, sleeping in same bed, living in 5×5 quarters.  You have to learn a lot of coping skills on how to get along.

For them, and I would assume many others in their shoes, it’s meant a lot of pranks and joking around.

And it literally didn’t take long for the sh*t to start flying yesterday.  We no more than parked on rodeo grounds.  They get the horses out and the Cowboy goes back into the horse part of the trailer to take .. um, use the facilities.  Just number one for the record.  (If the horses can do it, why can’t they?  Had never thought of that.)  The trucker locks him in.  Apparently this is a regular thing they do, or did in the past .. to each other.

The Cowboy says, “Remember what I did to your brother the last time he did that to me?”

“N …” says the Trucker.

But before he could even finish that one small word, a wad of horse sh*t schmucked his shoulder and face.  We all bust out laughing and immediately starting wondering, worrying a bit actually what the Trucker would do now, to get him back.

Thankfully he had brought another shirt.

The rodeo came and went.  None of them did as well as they had hoped.  But where they may have taken it hard in the past, life has them all in some very different places now.  And it seemed …

.. they were just happy to be back together.

Win or lose.

Even locked in with the horses again.

You would have thought the bathroom at the restaurant where we stopped for dinner on the way home would have been as easy to use as the back of the trailer .. but Scuba Steve’s pregnant wife, who was about fed up with the teasing, decided it was too easy two of them were standing in there bonding with the horses, again.  She locked em in.  Said to the rest of us, get in the truck.  And away we drove ….

Looking forward to the next rodeo.

Holding onto my thumbs, for now .. (catch up post from the weekend)

I love learning something new each day.  I love getting my hands dirty, getting involved, putting myself in situations that challenge me and make me think about who I really am and what I am capable of or able to do.

But there are also many times where I thoroughly appreciate learning something through the eyes of others and sharing their stories.

……………

The owner of the ranch hosting the Cowboy’s roping clinic had this past Sunday asked if I wanted to ride as they were all roping in the arena, and said it’d be a favor to him if I’d run one of his.

So I did.  A little bit.

And it didn’t take long for the Cowboy to ask a question I knew would be coming.

“Want to chase a steer?” he says to me.

He’s been after me to give roping a try .. which I’d love to.  And I’ve tried my hand at it, very meagerly, on the ground, a few times.

But I’m thinking I need like a year or two, where I can take off of work entirely and do nothing more than rope, to have all that much fun with it.  And more importantly, not injure anyone including myself.

It’s an incredibly acquired skill.  And while I consider myself blessed to be able to pick up most things quite easily…

This is one sport where I’m concerned I might lose a thumb.  (Which isn’t all that uncommon, apparently.)  Get completely tossed and break a limb.  Maim or plow over the steer because I didn’t better ‘steer’ my horse.  Or quite possibly, severely injure the person I would otherwise be roping with.  Like throw the rope around them .. and pull.

That .. would .. be .. bad.

“No thanks,” I replied to the Cowboy kind of chuckling under my breath.

The horse I was on would have loved nothing more than to rope that day, too and he was trying to let me know in no uncertain terms he was ancy to get to work doing what all his buddies were.  All he wanted to do is run.  Fast.  And chase more than the air I was giving him up and down the other side of the arena in-between the guys running the steers.

(All my own horse ever wants to do is walk, maybe trot.  She fights me to get her to lope.  But we’re working on that.  It would help if I would get out to ride her more often.  That’s a whole other story.)

“C’mon,” said the Cowboy.  “Just chase one out, see what it feels like, you don’t have to even have a rope” he added, as he walked me over and into the ‘box’.  I tried backing Roper in, kind of.  Didn’t feel good about it.  And walked him out.

“Not ready for that,” I nervously smiled and said to the Cowboy.  He laughed.

…………….

‘What is it, about roping that has so many people seemingly addicted to it,’ I asked the Cowboy Sunday night after we had both returned home, my daughter was asleep in bed and I had originally sat down to write this.

“It’s competitive,” he replied.  “And it’s kind of addicting.  Rodeo is addicting.  The people, the competition.  The gambling.  It’s like gambling, only you have some control over it.”

He laughed.

“Well, in theory you do.  Have control over it.  You put the money up and you win if you do well.  But you have two horses, two cowboys and one steer.  A lot can go wrong with that.  But if it goes right, it’s great.”

The Cowboy used to practice two to three hours a day .. and have a ranking most others strive for, I believe.

While he’s removed himself the past couple years through life changes from the rodeo circuit for the most part .. and says he doesn’t miss the 10 hour drive to get somewhere, the money it takes on gas and to enter, having to win and knowing if he didn’t the truck payment wouldn’t get made that month ..

He still loves the sport.

And says one of his favorite things now, is helping others learn.

Learn how to get along better with their horse .. how to use their rope better .. how to win more when they do enter.

This past weekend must have been a win for everyone .. because there’s already an invite for next year’s clinic.  Same time .. same place ..

Next clinic:  next weekend in Wisconsin.

(And I’m thinking I might put down the camera long enough to try a little ground work with the rope, get going on that yearlong or lifelong project to learn this sport, myself.)

A True Cowgirl …

Let me just start by saying, I will never pretend to be a True Cowgirl.

cow·girl  n.  A hired woman, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of her duties on horseback.

I love the life, the lifestyle and am incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to do more things considered Cowgirl since meeting the Cowboy.  But despite the fact I’ve worn cowboy boots since earning enough to buy my first pair as a teen, love country music and all it stands for and have always wanted to live at the end of a dirt road .. I’ve never called myself a cowgirl and know it’ll take awhile to earn the stripes associated with the title, if ever.

Especially after the events of this week.

………..

We have worked a lot around the Cowboy’s ranch this week.

We’ve also ridden each day.  For hours.  Down dirt roads, through fields, in arenas …

Learning the flag race ..

Around barrels.

And unfortunately for me .. I also rode this week, into a barrel.

It’s happened only once out of all the runs we’ve ever taken.  But I took a pretty good chunk of skin out of my shin.

(Apparently real cowgirls, some of them anyway.. the Cowboy says ones who have horses who like to ‘dive at the barrel’ wear shin guards because they have the gift of that experience.  But I’m thinking most don’t, because true cowboys would most likely make fun of a cowgirl who wears shinguards.)

Anyway, days later the leg still smarts.

But not as much as it did before.   Because I now have a few new aches and pains to help take my mind off a sore leg.

………..

We no more than got Ol Joe saddled up yesterday (the Cowboy’s roping horse, who I have been riding all week and every time we’ve been to the ranch), and into the arena with the girls on their horses ..

And he threw me.

It was a valiant effort to stay on, mind you.  I’m sure of it .. (lmao)

But I ended up on the ground.

While I have prepared mentally for that moment for years .. until it happens, I’m pretty sure you can’t really appreciate how little control you have over how you fall.  Unless like bronc riders for instance, you practice .. A LOT.

Regardless, it was the first time I’ve ever been thrown.  And as I lay there in the dirt having hit my tailbone a couple times on the saddle and then my head on the ground after bracing the fall with my arm .. I assessed just what really hurt.

And then the thoughts creeped in .. that a true cowgirl both would know how to ride through something like that .. and that she would also probably get up faster than I was.

I hear crying over to my left ..

I’m still laying there.  “I’m fine,” I say.

The girls, both now standing nearby on their own horses, were upset and worried.

“Are you okay?” says the Cowboys daughter .. mine saying in unison,  “Mom, are you okay?”

I hear more crying.

I start laughing to reassure them that I am, or will be shortly, just fine.

“Really,” I say.  “Just give me a minute.”

I’m still laying in the dirt.  I laugh some more.  And think, that’s about how my own mother would have handled it.  Laugh through the pain.

I got up .. slowly.  Dusted myself off.  And went to help them get Ol Joe back into the arena.

The Cowboy rode him for a few minutes.

And then I got back on.  I wasn’t sure my body was ready for it.  But the Cowboy made me.  Which in hindsight, I appreciate.

…………

“You haven’t ridden enough if you haven’t been bucked off at least once,” the Cowboy tells me.

So .. this was a good thing, I guess.

I may not be a true cowgirl.  But I’m on my way perhaps to better understanding what it takes to be one ..

And as we talk this morning about saddling Joe and the other horses back up ..

I’m enjoying every painful step of walking around, getting ready to head back out again, to ride.

Staying put …

I was kind of sick to my stomach yesterday.. thinking about making a decision I knew was best to make for so many reasons.

But one that I just didn’t want to do.

We cold decide to stay put in South Dakota .. where we have settled in nicely these first few days of spring break.

Or .. we could head out, leaving the Cowboy’s like we had planned, for a few days in Montana.

……….

We go to Montana every year at least once if not twice. And that’s just the two of us. My 10 year old then goes one if not two more times with her father. I don’t ever feel I can speak on his behalf nor would I want to, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say, we all love it. The state. The state of mind. Being there moves me and I think all of us, like few other places.. something I never expected when I moved there so many years ago for my first job. It is where my ex and I met. I’m not sure a day has gone by that my ex doesn’t wish he had ever left. His entire family now lives there, without him. That’s a whole other story.

Regardless .. If we don’t go to visit family, we go to visit all the friends who are like family to us.

The annual roadtrip usually has us swinging a big loop to see friends in Big Sky country, The Bitterroot, Missoula, Ninemile, the Flathead Valley and back toward home .. it’s a lot of driving. And never enough time with any of them.

But this trip, I really wanted and quite honestly, felt I needed time with a woman who is like a second mom to me. The Hat Maker and her family. One stop. One stop I have been looking forward to for a very long time. We had scheduled three days there .. to fall in-between two very long, wonderful weekends at the Cowboy’s.

I didn’t want to back out… but my gut was telling me I should.

The Cowboy and I have had some much needed time together and conversations we just can’t seem to have in earnest otherwise .. since we have been here. All good things.

But until my daughter asked the other night.. “Mom, can’t we stay one more day here?” .. I hadn’t really considered simply staying put for an entire week.

Not only because I’d be changing loosely set plans .. (which I’m typically and all too often, good with)

Or missing out on an opportunity to spend time in a place and with people that feed my soul ..

But because it would mean I would actually stay put, in one place, with little to do other than rest .. regroup .. think .. and have absolute down time with people I love and adore and appreciate here as well. My daughter being one. The Cowboy another.

………..

Downtime is not something I give myself permission to have very often. And I hate to generalize but, I believe it’s actually something we, as a society have gotten so far away from. Many of us, anyway. The Cowboy has been good for me in that regard.

The Hat Maker agrees .. as she adores the Cowboy and what he’s meant for us. She told me on the phone as we were talking about the possible change of plans last night, that it was probably good for us to stay put for awhile. Stop running from here to there and everywhere inbetween because often it never gets us where we want to go anyway.

We woke this morning …

And instead of getting in the car for the twelve hour drive ..

We are enjoying staying put.. heading outside where there are two horses saddled, ready for my daughter and I to ride out in the South Dakota sun .. While we wait for the Cowboy to return home.

Setting fear aside ..

“I can’t believe she doesn’t know how to ride a bike..”

That is the reaction we would get from just about everyone who happened to come across the little tidbit of information that my 10 year old didn’t know how to ride a bike.  Not only did she not know, but she absolutely refused to learn.

“That’s just crazy,” they would say.  “Why doesn’t she want to learn?”

It’s been this way for years now.

She will go 40 mph down a mountainside on skiis despite having rammed head on into a tree when she was probably 4 years old.  No fear to get back up.  She will ride on a scooter.  A skateboard.  She will get on any horse and enjoys not just a leisurely walk.  But an all out run.

Yet she won’t get on a bike.

I don’t know if it was the 4th of July neighborhood parade incident years ago that scarred her when she fell and the decorative red, white and blue pipecleaner on the handlebar went clear through her hand ..

Or if she .. for some reason .. has just truly not wanted to learn.

“C’mon…” I used to say.  “Everyone knows how to ride a bike.  It’s just something you do.  It will be fun!  We can go together.  You have to learn.”

“Not me,” she would reply.  “Not unless it’s the law.  Is it a law?” she used to ask.

I was getting ready to call the Governor’s office.  Who I knew perpiherally through work and who used to live in our modest little neighborhood. I was certain would help me out.

“It is a law, my law.. ” and would say, laughing.  “Would it help to have a call from the Governor?”

“No.  I’m NOT RIDING A BIKE.

………..

The Cowboy and I were determined with some lovely downtime for us this week .. that she would learn.  And she’s been softening to the idea more and more .. especially since the handsome young boy she often hangs out with now and who lives next door to us rides his bike all the time.

“What do you want to do today,” we asked as she woke on Saturday.

“I want to ride,” she replied.

“Well, if you want to ride the horses later today, you’ve got to first try to ride a bike,” the Cowboy and I said, united.

“Ok.”

………

She didn’t want either of us to help, at least not at first.

The Cowboy tried.

She got off, came back to the porch and said, “I want to do this alone.”

“And two minutes.  I’m only going to try for two minutes.”

We left her alone.  For awhile.  Two minutes came and went and she was down at the end of the Cowboy’s gravel drive still trying.  I went to see if I could help.

We went down the road and back.  A couple times.  The dog in tow ..

“You can do this,” I said.  “You just need some momentum.  It’s hard to start from a dead stop.”

She actually listened.  Didn’t get mad.  Didn’t fuss.  She tried.  And after a few more attempts ..was up and pedaling.

For about 15 feet.

Next try, just a little bit more.  And a little bit more.  By this time, we were coming back up the drive and nearing the porch.

“Ok.”  I tried.  “Can we ride the horses now?”

………

The Cowboy asked if I could see the smile on her face.

I couldn’t.  But knowing that made my heart smile.

So did the fact that Sunday morning, when we came back in the house after returning from town, she wasn’t behind us.  The Cowboy looked out the window …

“She’s on the bike,” he said.