Have I mentioned I live in “The West?” The home of cowboys, saloons, horses, boots, spurs and lots of different types of cowboy hats!
One of my main goals while here this summer was to ride a horse! Yes, I’ve been on a horse before – when I was 19 years old. At that time I fell-off and broke my tailbone when it bolted when it got a whiff of the garbage! Did I mention it was a Shetland pony and we realized, after-the-fact, that I had fallen off just before the 4-footed, garbage-loving menace ran me through a wire clothesline that was at just neck-height? Since that time I have had an aversion to horses – small or large. But I was determined to conquer this personal fear and ride!
The members of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center were invited, for a small fee, to spend the day at Crossed Sabers, a lovely dude ranch located just before the entrance to Yellowstone. Here we would take a trail ride in the morning, enjoy a delicious ‘chuck wagon lunch,’ and in the afternoon hike through the mountains with a naturalist. The first two events went off without a hitch under the first glorious sunshine we had seen after 11 straight days of precipitation. Unfortunately the hike was canceled when the blue skies turned black and once again rained down.
Upon arriving, I was introduced to Stonewall – a seemingly nice, 9-year old, 16-hand horse whom I was assured would just love for me to sit on his back while he hauled me up a steep mountain trail. After having my saddle settled, girth tightened and my stirrups fitted by the most adorable wangler in full trail-riding getup, off we went up and up a winding, very wet, slippery, muddy trail that lead along a babbling stream (think rushing river want-to-be) through portions of forest that had been burned to a cinder in one of last year’s fires. (FYI, there are 100’s of ‘little fires in-and-around Yellowstone every year. The one we traveled through burnt from the park’s East entrance all the way to Cody!)
Stonewall and I had several issues from the get-go. He was really big, smelly and rather dumb. He thought he should come to a dead-stop every time he found an edible flower in the middle of his path. And if he was interrupted and told move-along while chopping on his favorite flowers, he would shake his head, snort loudly and catch up with the horse in front by trotting at a brisk, bone-jarring pace. He and I spent the morning stopping and trotting and though I tried to cure him of this habit, he was bigger and he won!
Near the top of the mountain, I and the lead wrangler made it safely across what looked like a small rivulet of rushing water but the horse behind me slipped and slid and almost unseated the older gentleman he was carrying. The woman on the horse behind them had just had knee-replacement surgery and she balked at crossing this ever-widening stream in case her horse went down with her on it’s back. Ray, our snappily-dressed lead-wrangler agreed, but when he started to cross back over this water-logged area, the weight of his horse made the little rivulet become a huge, deep hole, and his horse sank all the way down to his back withers.
It was scary watching him manage to get himself and his horse out of such a suddenly-deep crevice. We all decided that we had had just about enough riding for the day and headed back ‘to the barn’ at a very slow, safe space. I must admit that I and Stonewall, were trilled for me to dismount and put my feet back on solid ground. My bottom and my thighs were aching and Advil was needed immediately! But all-in-all it was a great day and I have sorta overcome my fear of horses that I have harbored for many years. I just don’t think horseback riding is something I would enjoy doing on a regular basis – riding a golf cart is much more my style!
The other very ‘western’ thing on my agenda this weekend was attending the ‘gunfighter’s shoot-out’ which occurs every evening, except Sundays, at 6 p.m. on the street in front of the historic Irma Hotel in downtown Cody. Of course, Bill Cody is there, along with the ladies who work at the saloon, the local drunk, the Pinkerton man, the gunslingers – and everyone has a different type of hat! Though the performance is contrived, very commercial and loud (lots of blanks being fired in the air!), it’s fun to stand on the front porch of the Irma and realize that the ‘real’ Buffalo Bill did once walk these streets and so did the gunfighters and the saloon ladies. The beer served is cold (a local Montana dark beer named Moose Drool is my favorite) and the locals and tourists alike all enjoy cheering and booing their favorites.
Today is a day of recovery – and more Advil to get my aching body through the day. Because I have been asked so many times exactly what I’m doing and what work/camping is all about, I’ll use my next blog installment to tell you about my job and the others, from all over the world (including Russia) that I spend my working time with. And I’ll also tell you about the 2 offers I have already for the winter months – 2 great but totally different locations and 2 completely different jobs!
Until next time…..take care of each other!