Always one in the pasture

I hate fruit. Always have. Growing up 65 miles from a grocery store and living on canned pears and peaches will do that to a person I imagine. But here I was anxiously chewing on a bright red Macintosh apple, the kind with skin closer to plastic than actual food, trying to get it to a size that Buck could fit in his mouth.

The bellowing of cows searching for their calves echoed off the canyon walls filling the air with that familiar sound of moving the herd. This particular moment we were not driving the cattle but instead having a “picnic”, the first of probably 30 it would take to get me through the next 12 miles horseback. My body may have only had six years of experience on this earth, but in my head I was a full-grown ranch hand, I had a horse-my very own horse.

He was a magnificent creature, at least in the eyes of a girl who had grown tired of being left out of all the cowboy-ing. He was small in stature, maybe 14 hands. Buckskin in color with a white star on his forehead. He had a sway back and low ears and his neck was always held evenly with his withers. I know now he was an old, used up, retired rodeo horse that didn’t get out of a walk unless it was absolutely necessary but at the time, he was a steed. Although his journey was nearing its end, due to age and arthritis-through him, my journey was just beginning.

I looked down at the mauled apple and felt it was perfect, he could eat it now. I can’t tell you how much I delighted in watching that old horse eat apples. Although the cartoons and movies tell a different story, not many horses will snack on fruits and vegetables. At least not the ranch horses I was around up to that point.

I lay the apple flat in my hand, something my mother had taught me so that the horses won’t accidentally take a bit of your fingers in the process, and held it up to his soft black muzzle. After a few sniffs and some whiskered nibbles, he took the apple in his mouth and despite the bit, which was a mere formality, began chewing. A few white juicy chunks fell from his mouth but the majority was consumed by my little sidekick.

Ideally the first decade of a horse’s life is usually spent learning, growing, making mistakes, lots of mistakes, it’s quite an involved process. The second half of a horse’s life should be spent performing and doing all the things to the best of his ability that he had learned in the first decade. And the last few years, in my opinion, should be spent eating apples out of a child’s hand.

I like to think he enjoyed those apples and the feel of a small saddle on his back in his final years. He may not have enjoyed the entire tack set up of pink nylon, but he took it like a champ. The first two decades of Buck’s life was spent on the rodeo trail with another family, but the few years I had him made a profound impact, not for him, there was very little that could surprise him at that point, but for me. From Buck I learned that this was it-horses. I would never learn to love apples, although now I can choke one down daily if I have to, but I always knew from this point of my life on, you couldn’t have me without a horse. I’d always have one in the pasture.

My life through horses

Horses are important to God. The horse is mentioned in 188 verses from Genesis to Revelation-they come up. Men of war rode the horse, men of peace typically rode mules or donkeys, makes no difference. From the early days when the earth and man were new until the day when Jesus returns, the equine animal makes an impact.

There is no distance between our modern day life and the impact of the horse either. Conquest, expansion, construction are all stamped with hoofprints, North America herself would not be what she is today without this animal. Although the horse may not be carrying generals into battle or hauling supplies from coast to coast, the horse is still vital and ever present. If you don’t believe me I would love to introduce you to a multi billion dollar industry centered completely around this animal.

As for me, I don’t learn life lessons easily. Maybe I’m unique in the world with this trait but I doubt it. God knows this about me, He planned it that way. He also knows hindsight is my best vantage point, which is why horses don’t live that long. It’s no accident that God gave me a life full of horses, God doesn’t make accidents.

Horses are a common theme in my life and this blog is going to begin including some of these lessons I have learned through the horse. Some lessons were easy-Good horses buck, others were more difficult-who am I as a person and as a person in Christ. The stories may be through the horse, but like with all things in this life, the glory is with the Lord. Reflection of these periods of my life has allowed me to step back and realize God’s presence in my story, which is in truth His story and I hope others may be motivated to do the same.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the lord.

Proverbs 21:31

Silent mother

Large snowflakes began falling from the sky. The kind of peaceful snowflakes that melt instantly upon touching the ground. These snowflakes posed no real threat for accumulation and were more beautiful than functional. The air was cold, but still. The lack of Cheyenne wind made this December evening tolerable and almost delightful to be outside.

For a few moments she was caught up watching the snowflakes fall slowly from the sky, just taking in their beauty and being grateful for the forgiveness in the weather this particular evening. After watching one abnormally large snowflake touch down and disappear on the street car parked on the curb not too far in front of her, she turned her attention to the bundle in her arms. Lifting back her wool shawl exposing just enough of the sweet face swaddled in her arms she focused in on every detail of this baby boy. Gently touching his cheeks with the back of her fingers she could feel his warmth and knew he was comfortable.

Sleep came so peacefully to this little being as his lips curled in a small O shape as he dreamed of baby things without a care in the world. For a moment that familiar feeling of taking him back to the house she was boarding in and raising him herself came over her. She knew she possessed enough love to see him to adulthood and beyond. But reality knew that she had struggled to keep herself fed properly over the last year, let alone another human being. She closed her eyes tight and tried to shake that fairy tale from her mind. She was doing this BECAUSE she loved him she reminded herself. If there was help to be found she didn’t know of it, and this seemed like the most logical solution to her circumstance.

Opening her eyes again she began drinking in this little person, trying to remember every detail of his face and breathing in his scent hoping it could somehow, someway last her a lifetime. He had black hair like hers, for which she was thankful that it was not the coppery red of his fathers. No, she wasn’t going to think about him either, he wasn’t here nor would he ever be so she might as well put that thought furthest from her mind. The baby’s cheeks were full and rosy and she hoped that wasn’t from him being too warm, or having a fever or any other number of problems new babies might encounter.

How she wished she could ask her mother. Her mother was as close to a saint as she had ever known. Having given birth to six babies herself and raised them up to be plump and happy all while growing accustomed to her new surroundings in America, there weren’t many problems her mother couldn’t solve. The young girl never could remember a time when her mother wasn’t working herself to the bone, all while smiling and teaching her children along the way. But what had started as a small cough had taken this feisty, brave European woman to an early grave in a matter of months leaving behind all six children and a husband with no reason to go on, and no food in the cupboards.

Now this new mother, holding this small beautiful baby that she could never take care of was angry, and if the truth was known she had been angry for a long time. Anger had first presented upon her mother’s death, and continued into her father’s drunkenness. The anger did not leave when she had to leave the only home she had ever known to find work in Cheyenne to support her family back home. In Cheyenne she had found work, but the anger hadn’t left. In fact the anger intensified when she realized that she was expecting. A truly devastating blow to an already dire situation.

Covering the sleeping baby with her shawl again she looked towards the sky. She wasn’t really sure who she was looking for but she knew she needed answers. Maybe she was looking for an angelic figure of her mother, or of the God her mother had spent countless hours reading to her children about and praying to in her thick foreign accent. Yes it was Him she was mad at.

“Why have you let all this happen?” she thought “What plan do you have for all of this heartache?”

Lowering her head she began rocking back and fourth to sooth the already sleeping baby. She may have been angry with God for a long time, but she knew this anger, really hadn’t gotten her anywhere. Now she needed help. More than she had ever needed it in her life. She needed someone else to raise this baby. She looked towards what she assumed were the heavens again and simply said “Please” in a whisper, not even sure if He could hear whispers or what exactly she was asking for. Unable to finish her attempt at prayer she was interrupted by the sound of doors opening.

Snapping back into reality she knew she must act quickly if she was going to carry out this plan. Panic overtook her and she began walking towards the line of parked cars and at random, picked one that was very nice looking on the outside. This must belong to a nice family that will surely take this baby and raise him the way he deserves to be raised. Hurriedly she opened the front driver’s side door with a free hand, taking a moment to glance around making sure she wasn’t seen. She took the baby out from under her shawl and placed him gently on the front seat of the car as to not disturb his sleep. Tucking the blanket around him again to maintain his warmth she paused only for a moment to gaze at his face one last time before standing up and gently closing the car door with him on the inside.

She could hear the sound of people coming down the stone steps out of the church as she made her way quickly back to the hedge she had been standing behind just a few moments earlier. She knelt down and tried to slow her breathing as she could hear chatting and laughter of people approaching. Peering from behind the thin leafless bush she fixed her eyes on the car that contained her son. Soon a family with warm coats and good shoes would come to the car, discover the baby and swoon over him taking him in as one of their own living happily ever after-at least that’s how she had played out the scenario in her head all day.

But a family didn’t approach. Instead much to her disbelief a single man came to that particular car. He was a very tall, handsome black man, and he was alone. No woman with him, no mother figure to cradle him in her arms and reassure him that everything was going to be fine!! What had she done!! Before she could react the man peered in the window of his vehicle and immediately registered the fact that there was a baby in there. He ripped the car door open and swooped up the little baby who all but disappeared in his giant arms. Hesitating a moment the man began checking the baby’s face and began talking to him, something like ‘there, there little fella’.

Quickly he turned toward some other people down the street and began hollering at them for help. A family rushed over and looked at the baby assessing the situation with great concern. The next few minutes seemed to slow down in her mind. Her cheeks became hot, her breathing labored and there was a ringing in her ears. The moments events were simply too overwhelming. In an instant another man jumped in the driver’s side of the car and the tall man still holding her baby made his way to the passenger side. The engine of the car roared and tires spun as the men pulled out in the street heading the opposite way from which it was parked and drove off in the direction of the hospital.

She lay there breathless and motionless until the commotion on the street had cleared and all the bystanders had returned to their cars and driven away. It took several minutes for her body to start working again, but she was eventually able to stand and make her way to the middle of the street, staring in the direction they had taken the baby. That was it. Motherhood was over for her she thought to herself.

She had told no one about her pregnancy-she couldn’t. For nine long months she had not let herself fall in love with the baby growing inside her, not relished in his kicking or dreaming of what he would look like. She had been too busy simply trying to live, to get by. But upon his rather fast and furious arrival she couldn’t help herself. The minute the small baby was placed in her arms she knew she loved him, and always would. In another lifetime she could see herself being the mother he deserved. She could picture the dinners she would feed him and the clothes she would dress him in. He would have new shoes every year and train sets and blocks to play with. She could picture him running to the door shouting “daddy, daddy!” at five thirty every evening when her devoted husband came home to them. All of these things she wanted so badly for him, but knew that in this lifetime, it just wasn’t possible.

What she could give him in addition to life, was a chance. A chance that somewhere, some young couple could provide all the comforts he deserved and more. For the first time in a long time she felt the urge to pray. Not a prayer for herself, not a prayer that the sweet baby boy would remember her, but only that he would know that she loved him. ‘Please God let him know I have done all I can for him, I know the rest is up to you’.

The next thing she feared would happen finally did. Tears. They began streaming down her face and she knew there would be no stopping them. She had no more strength to hold them in. The tears continued filling her eyes and warming her face as she turned from the middle of the street and began walking home. Deep in her heart she realized motherhood though it may have been fleating and silent, would in fact never be over for her.

The Crapper

Without a doubt in my mind, indoor plumbing is one of the major necessities in our lives that we take for granted in this country. I mean how much would our lives change if we were suddenly no longer able to simply flush our “troubles” away. I unfortunately know all too well how to live without this luxury. It’s not exactly a badge of honor, or something I put on my resume but it is a little tid bit about me.

Growing up on the ranch, the actual homestead was located too far from a power line of any kind. This of course meant getting creative with your energy source. As a young child power came from a giant diesel generator located at the back of our house. Literally 30 feet from my bedroom window (I still require a lot of noise to sleep properly). Although the generator was good, and exponentially cheaper to operate then than it would be nowadays, it was a machine, and like all machines they break down. Unless you have been through a major disaster or had a power outage of any kind in your home, for a length of time, you don’t realize that although it’s annoying to not have lights and microwaves, it’s down right a pain to be without plumbing.

That’s where ol’ reliable came in, the outhouse. The outhouse really doesn’t get enough credit. It’s one of the most hated buildings that we dread going in to, but when the chips are down, boy are we glad to see it. The outhouse buildings on my family’s ranch, mimic the progression of the other buildings on the ranch. The ranch is divided into two sections, the old part of the ranch and the new part with a seires of corrals dividing up the two. The older part of the ranch has a few old houses, where my parents lived in the early days, my grandparents house and a bunkhouse that was part of the original homestead as well as some other out buildings that have been there since God was a boy.

Among this section of aged buildings is the original outhouse. The crapper OG if you will. This outhouse is of the deluxe edition, it’s a 2 seater. Today the modern married couple has date nights, but in those days they enjoyed doing their business side by side. What better way to escape the children and visit about your day. This outhouse was painted bright red and looks like an outhouse right out of a home decor catalog asthetically pleasing, from the outside anyways.

The second outhouse among the older section of the ranch was a later addition to the ranch that was constructed out of a metal building purchased from the oilfield. It’s only a one seater but very spacious on the inside. The seat is porcelain which is fine in the summer and somewhat of a pucker-inducer in the winter.

The third outhouse is located in the newer section of the ranch because it just doesn’t feel like home without one. And it saves a very lengthy walk to the old outhouses during desperate times. The newer outhouse is pink. Yes pink. Not a bright fun pink, but more of a bridesmaid dress pink. It has less room and is a one seater but has a nice ventilation system near the roof-finally someone had thought of that.

Today’s tale occured during a time in my life when the chips were down, or so I thought. I thought life had dealt me a pretty bad hand at the time. I was 20 years old, newly married, my childhood home had burned down in a fire the previous fall right as my husband and I were making the transition to create our lives on the ranch which meant we lived in a borrowed camper with no electricity in the old part of the ranch. No electricity meant no plumbing so we were back to the outhouse way of life. But since we were newly married and had no children we weren’t quite ready for the two seater. So the old silver building with the cheek-shrinker was our new ‘place of business’. My parents didn’t have it much better, they lived in a larger camper in the newer part of the ranch and had to reacquaint themselves with the pink crapper.

One January day I was feeling particularly picked on by the world. A few months ago my entire childhood had gone up in flames, I had no real place to live, I was going on who knows how long without a shower and was making my way to no other than the outhouse. Do you know what all my friends were doing at this time? It wasn’t this, I guarantee it. All consumed in my self pity I had been keeping to myself all morning and had decided to make this trip without my cell phone, I mean who was going to call me anyways (cue the violin music).

The old metal outhouse had some perks, but definetaly had some draw backs as well. Because it faced the west it recieved the most amount of weather head on. Having metal door handles and hinges, the elements had played a big role in making the door less than easy to open and close and stay that way. In order to keep the door from swinging open during the Wyoming wind and filling with snow and dirt we had been propping a T post against the door when it was unoccupied. Pretty fancy. This hadn’t posed any problems, until today. So on this particular day I drudged along in my muck boots wearing layer upon layer of carhart clothing options, reaching the door I moved the t post off to the side, propping it up against the outer wall next to the door and went in closing the door behind me. As I began to peel away layers of clothing I heard a thud on the outer wall and a sliding noise that stopped right about where the door handle was. Uh oh.

Its funny how God has a way of really opening our eyes to our surroundings, if you think you’ve got it rough just wait a minute. Five seconds prior I really didn’t think my situation could become any more dire. Turns out that was a completely inaccurate train of thought. I honestly couldn’t have dreamed up this situation if I had tried. I was locked in the crapper. I had no means of communication, no one knew I was here, I hadn’t brought my phone, how long would it be before they came looking for me, and who would even think to look here!! All these thoughts raced through my head as I wiggled the door handle, shook the building, begged and pleaded, looked around for options. Unbelievable!!

There are levels of panic brought on by being trapped. The first level is called petty panic. This occurs when a man is trapped in a room or car or some other situation with all females. Daughters, sisters, grandmothers, or heaven forbid wife and her friends. I mean one of them could break into a conversation about pms or hair care products at any moment! The second level comes about from being in a loveless or lifeless relationship, like an animal caught in a snare. Either situation could possibly require the chewing off of one’s limb to escape. Thirdly there is the level where the prison door slams shut behind you and you find yourself in a Pakistani prison after trying to smuggle heroin out of the country in the lining of your suitcase. Just above that horrible situation is where being trapped in the outhouse reads on the radar. Talk about being trapped in a room filled with your past “experiences”, and I mean it’s not as if you can tunnel your way out.

As humans we are only alotted so many “Praise Jesus” moments that are felt with the intensity I said it with on that day. Because this outhouse was an old oilfield builiding it had a small window just to the right of the door. Not a window I could crawl out but one I could maybe open the door handle from the outside with, or at least yell for help. The catch of course being this window had no way of opening from the inside-of course not. That’s it I would have to break the window. I searched around for something to use as a blunt force object. Somehow I didn’t feel the roll of cottonelle would suffice so I decided I would have to kick the window out.

If you have never kicked a window out let me be the first to explain to you that Bruce Willis movies don’t exactly prepare you for this task. It’s tricky and requires some knowledge of physics and not to mention fewer layers of clothes, and some training in the art of Jujitsu wouldn’t hurt. After approximately 45 attempts I heard the crash of glass and felt my leg give way. Sweet freedom. Reaching my hand through the freshly broken window I moved the t post, which had wedged itself behind the door latch in a very sturdy and secure way and opened the door. Stumbling outside I felt like kissing the cold ground, oh the warmth of the sun on my face, the scent of frest winter air. And no I don’t feel I was being over dramatic. I picked the t post up and threw it way off in the distance. That’ll teach you, you son of a …

I began a brisk walk up to my parent’s house, I had to tell someone of my near death experience and how I had escaped, not to mention expain to my husband that we would have to dust snow off the toilet seat the rest of the winter. Halfway to my destination an old familiar feeling crept up on me adding insult to injury. In all the excitment I had forgotten to take care of the matter I had gone to the outhouse for in the first place…I still had to pee.


My hands gripped the metal frame of the stall door, the only thing keeping me from embracing the ground. Black was all I could see from squeezing my eyes shut, trying to erase the image of what I had just seen. Breath in, breath out. I felt as if someone had hit me, hard, in the stomach.

“No, no, no” was all I could repeat in my head. I forced my eyes open and released my grip on the icy stall door. It had happened. The thing I feared most, had dreaded and prayed would not happen, had finally come. Somewhere deep in my soul I knew this could happen, but I forced that thought out of my mind. We were going to be a come back story. He was going to recover. We were going to get past this.

I turned and faced the little sorrel horse standing behind me completely unhindered by my reaction. He felt only relief. Relief from the pain and awkwardness he had been suffering for the last two weeks. I felt only the sting of knowing this was it. This was the last time I would ever see him. We had won our last buckle, gathered our last cow, ridden across our last sagebrush plain. I tried to recall our last rides together. Why hadn’t I known those would be the last? I would have stayed longer. Lingered enjoying my surroundings and being in his presence.

“We weren’t done” I whispered with tears streaming down my face.

He shook his head back and forth beckoning his morning alfalfa from me. He wasn’t afraid and for that I was relieved. He was simply glad to see me, he was enjoying these final moments together. Slowly I gathered up enough internal strength to walk toward him, ignoring the evidence of his impending doom that lay on the stall floor.

Intertwining my fingers in his thin red mane like I had done so many times before I knelt down and breathed him in. There is nothing comparable to the smell of a horse, but when it is the last time you know you will breath that scent you inhale until it reaches the tips of your toes. I pulled on his mane, almost upset with him. Upset that he would be leaving me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I stopped breathing in because the feeling of actually breathing was proving more difficult.

I wrapped my arms around his neck. Oh the amount of times I had done this, him always letting me. He knew when I needed him and he was always there. I couldn’t have survived these last two years without him, now I felt a deep loss knowing I would have to go on without him.

I took out my pocket knife and cut a long strand of hair from his tail for me to keep. I spent the next few minutes telling him how much I cherished all he had done for me, how much I loved him, how much I had tried to save his life.

“Thank you for saving mine, mi Rojito.” I fed him extra that morning. I walked slowly away from the stall door pulling out my cell phone to call my dad. Before I reached my car I turned to look at him one last time, he looked out the stall door at me. Memorising the star on his face, the softness in his eyes and the whiskers on his nose. I heard my dad answer the phone.

I nearly choked on my word as I asked my dad for the favour I knew he dreaded almost as much as I dreaded asking for it.

“It’s over. He’s not going to make it. Please come take him home.”

The first

First steps. First day. First love. First adventure. First broken heart. Everything starts with a first, there’s no avoiding that. Some firsts are memorable, staying with us throughout our lives. Often times a scent, a voice can trigger a memory bringing back that first experience and all the emotions that followed with it. Other firsts are so mundane or commonplace that they get shelved among all the other memories not to stand out on their own.

However that “first” is categorized one thing for sure is that it is different from the rest. Unrefined, new, infantile sometimes. The most powerful thing about the first is that as simple and inexperienced it may be, it is the bedrock for everything that follows.

A foal’s first steps are undoubtedly the most wobbly and insecure steps the animal will ever take in it’s life, but they are the most vital. Life itself literally depends on that baby taking those first steps. Without those steps he cannot reach food both from mama and his environment. Proper bone structure and blood flow will not be achieved without those steps. The finished reining horse sliding to a stop with arena dirt flying up from his hocks, mane billowing with the motion and those fierce strong muscles engaged in this atheletic manuver would be nothing without those first steps.

These words are my first steps. First day. First journaling attempt to put thoughts that have stemmed from years of watching, waiting, witnessing turn into words. I have imagined and mentally recited the things I would say given a chance to journal/blog my thoughts, but all of that is a hollow shell without action.

This post could very well be my weakest, most full of errors but it is the foundation of my goals for everything that follows. With my grandma’s quilt on my lap, sun shining through the window to my right, babies and dogs napping in the other room, tv playing quietly in the background, the smell of coffee in the air are my surroundings as I write this first post. Maybe this setting will be easily recalled in the future when I think back on this first post and maybe they won’t. One thing is for certain, all posts following this are dependent on this first and will never be quite the same.