Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lessons in Ranch Living for City Girls, Redux.

Well friends, it's been a while.  Much has changed in my Montana ex-pat world, and I've sorely neglected the time I give myself to update friends, family and the random rubberneckers who view my upside down life with something resembling shock, benign pity or maybe a little envy.  Life has changed, evolved, and grown into something I hadn't anticipated but am embracing.

Since about a year has passed since my last update, I'll give you a quick review:  most importantly, the Horseman and I were married on August 31, 2013, on our ranch in northwestern Montana, a lovely end to a summer of ups and downs, successes and failures, more than a few tears but more smiles and laughter than tears.  The love I feel for this complex and smart man is boundless and I am proud and happy to spend my life at his side. It was a perfect late summer Montana afternoon, warm and sunny after days of not so nice weather.  Surrounded by family and friends who had cooked wonderful comfort foods and donned their Western best, we vowed to spend our lives together, for better or for worse.  I was blessed to be able to have my mama, sister, brother-in-law and my dear nephew, James, there to sit on my side of the aisle as well as some dear, dear friends present to make the day even more special.  The glaring absence of some of our dearest was felt, too... Bill's amazing sons, mother and sister were simply too far away to be able to make it, but we know they were there with us anyway.  That leap of faith for love that I took when I first started on this adventure has resulted in a life I never in a million years dreamed of with someone I couldn't possibly love more.  It's a soft place to fall.

So what have I learned this year?  That when you have a bad knee, it's not a good idea to get off your unfamiliar horse to walk him down a hill (when his buddies have gone on ahead) and then remount to ride the rest of the way. When your horse is frantic to get to his equine friends and back in the herd, spinning and rearing on a downward sloping path, you end up dismounting (rather than being forcefully and soundly ejected from your saddle) and walking the rest of the way anyway, under the staring eyes of many concerned cowboys. All street cred is lost in a limping, wild haired decent in slippery soled cowboy boots, with one kind hearted and tolerant cowboy by your side.  I'm sure there was more than a little pity for my husband-to-be at his choice of city girl...  Just as I'm sure he just smiled sheepishly, rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders before walking out to meet me.

I've learned to pay attention to the non-ADA compliant stairs to our bedroom when descending with a full laundry basket lest one slip down a few steps, landing on one's tailbone.  Where one sits for a few minutes to catch one's breath and blink away the tears before continuing to the more public areas of the house. Orthopedically speaking, Montana has not been good to me.  Knees and tailbones tend to take a very long time to heal.  Clumsy, I am.  Clumsy, limpy and bent.

I've learned that chipmunks aren't smart and tend to have a Jim Jones Kool-aid drinking mentality when it comes to mass suicide in a horse trough.  They're actually more like lemmings.  Or little failed lifeguards. And they turn odd colors and lose their hair in water and the image remains in your brain long after they've been buried (in case Bayley, who has tried to drag a large SPINE of unknown origin home from a trail ride, finds them) and the trough emptied and cleaned and turned upside down - not to be used by traumatized horses.  Ugh.  And sorry for the visual.

Bayley, the Wonder Dog, beloved by all.  Except little dogs.
I've learned that Bayley the Wonder Dog will always be by my side unless there's a nearby living chipmunk or squirrel in need of chasing.  Mostly because her belly is not going to pet itself.  I've also learned that Bayley isn't terribly fond of small, yapping dogs. Happily though, she hasn't tasted a little terrier/rat dog/chihuahua morsel and we haven't had to bail her out of doggie jail!  Have also learned that Bayley, Ranch Dog Extraordinaire, is a fine travel companion on 5 day road trips!  She travels like a boss, winning friends and influencing people! But not little dogs.
Ponygirl, jonesing for beer from Emma

I've learned that the loss of one great horse can be devastating and heartbreaking.  Truman was a beauty, inside and outside.  His mother was one of Bill's mares and he was born on the ranch, raised and trained by the beloved.  A big, brown, strikingly beautiful, kind and gentle soul.  His loss was a sad and terrible thing, but he's pain free at last.  I've also learned that a little throwaway pony can worm her way into your heart, even though she doesn't earn her keep, breaks into the barn to steal cookies, will take down a guest's tailgate and a beautiful singer for beer (photographic evidence to the left) and squeezes herself through the fence to get to the lawn grass. Ponygirl is too stinkin' cute for words and has become a naughty, but beloved member (by me, anyway) of our equine family.

I've learned that you can get through anything that life throws at you as long as you reach down deep to find your strength.  And that the strength you find is only in yourself and cannot be found anywhere else.  But that you can give that strength to another when they need it most.  It would be nice, though, if everything bad didn't happen at one time!

I've learned that sometimes you lose those that you never thought you'd lose and that no amount of apology is ever enough.  And that sometimes, you have to stop trying when there is no desire to try from the other side. And that forgiveness may never come, but it's OK.  Sad, but OK.  And that expecting an apology for harsh words and actions sometimes means that you lower your expectations because "I'm sorry I hurt you" will never come. But I've also learned that most times, those who truly love you unconditionally, and whom you love equally in return, will accept your apology and the friendship deepens and grows in spite of your failings - maybe because of them.  See Julie at left.

I've learned that moving back to Oklahoma for the winter to work in my chosen profession and to get the Horseman out of the snow, may not work well for either.  It snows in Oklahoma (some) and my chosen profession has moved on without me. Three months spent in Tulsa has been wonderful in that it's allowed time with my family and friends, which has been priceless and rejuvenating for me.  Not so wonderful in that time in Tulsa is time away from the ranch and that hasn't been so great.  The Horseman gets his strength from the land at mile marker 192 (it is his Tara) and I find that I do, too.  I miss it.  The mountains and vast plains, the snow, the people, the space. No sirens, no traffic, no threats.  The peace of the place can't be measured, but it is palpable.

There are innumerable lessons that I've learned this year.  Mostly good, some bad, but all necessary.

So we'll be headed back to our little piece of paradise in a few weeks.  And although I'll be so, so sad to leave my Tulsa home, I'll also be glad to return to my chosen home.  My big beautiful Tulsa, sweet and curious Guthrie, stoic and reliable Two Medicine and the other horses will be coming home soon, too, and I miss them dearly.  It'll be good to see them and put my hands on them.  It'll be good to be back under that Montana sky.  It'll be good to sit by the creek and walk the pasture with the unhaltered, trusting horses, Bayley at my side always.  The ranch may be under 27,000 feet of snow now, but summer is just around the corner!