Change happens. Shit happens. Sometimes they are one and the same. This has been on my mind, heavily this past year. Events that have taken loved ones from friends and family, events that have shifted the tide for my family, events that are always taking place and always bringing change have grabbed my attention more often.
Life is about change. Nothing ever stays the same. There are some things, we hold most dear, we take advantage of, we never dream they will go away. But, alas, they do...and what we are left with are memories. These are just some of the memories I've been reliving lately. I cope by sharing and I cry...like a big baby...time will ease the pain, I know, but for now, I'm sharing what I remember...
I grew up there…
The dirt road is still long and rough and dusty and the trees along the river still change with the seasons.
The mountain still looms in the distance like a guardian, watching over the road, the river, the range land.
But much has changed.
Cattle no longer dot the desert, grazing between the sage. The meadows that once grew alfalfa have long ago returned to dirt. Houses where families lived, sometimes just months, sometimes for years, are host to just the memories.
Footsteps would echo now, off the bare walls of the empty tack shed, where now only cobwebs hang.
The corral where horses were wrangled, caught, trained is just a series of shapes. An old horseshoe lies abandoned in the dirt; a testament to the activity that once took place.
Hidden in the shadows are the ghosts of the ranch that was this place.
And I grew up there.
My memories run together now; a blend of days spent on a pony, and days on the trail following cows, mornings and nights on a school bus or driving myself to and from school for sports; my brother and I riding, building forts, playing in the yard with Breyer horses and John Deere toy tractors.
There was the ditch in the field my brother and I played in when Dad was irrigating.
That same field was host to the fallen trees on trails through willows, where I would jump logs with Hippie.
The river flowed below our house and my brother and I spent one summer riding Roannie and Hippie up and down, splashing, laughing, yelling and soaking wet.
The field behind the house was home to the orchard where we rode, built forts, and hiked the hills. Many of those old trees are gone now…
The sandy canyon, behind the house was my race track. Pappy knew it well. When he would run, so would my eyes. His speed was addicting, so was our routine. We were champions in our own minds.
My first real memories always begin with my pony. As often as I could, I rode Rinky Bee in the back pasture. The orchard was host to many versions of my imagination. As I got older he became my brother’s trusty steed. I remember my first “real” horse. I was told if I could catch him I could ride him. I went to the pasture with a description in mind and I caught who I thought was Hippie. When I led him to the house, Dad laughed. I had caught Poison instead. He was the other black horse with a white dot on his head. Once I had the right one identified, there were many miles and hours spent with my brother and me and Hippie and Rinky Bee.
As the years went by there were other horses; Roller, Tony, Roannie, Stretch, Amos, Woody, Pappy, Tigger, Earl…the list goes on. Amos and Pappy are still around, but the rest are gone, held close in my memories.
As I got older I was able to ride with the cows more often. There were early mornings starting from either direction, headed south for the summer or north for the fall and winter. Brandings were great entertainment for us kids. The adults did all the work and the after party on the lawn was the show. As a teenager, they became a classroom where I learned to rope.
And I grew up there.
In later years I would leave for college, sick of early mornings that meant horses had to be ridden, sick of time spent in a swather cutting hay, tired of cold days in the corrals working or sorting cattle.
But I would grow to miss it. And the day came when college ended and all I wanted was to go home. I had come to miss the sage, the cows, the slower pace, the horses. At that time, the cowboy crew was mostly gone and there was a spot to fill. Dad let me fill it.
My summer was spent camping out, moving cows from one pasture to another, pumping water and trips to town. I loved it. I learned new places I hadn’t been able to explore as a kid. I rode new horses and took on new responsibilities.
I grew up a little more, there.
I have since moved on and only visited from time to time. The dirt road that heads south, still speaks to me of going home. I still look for my favorite horses in the corral and my mind still goes back to the adventures and games we had in the back pasture. The mountains in the distance stand as a reminder to that summer I spent there and the memories I made.
Those horses are gone now. There’s a sacred spot where my favorite pony and favorite dog are laid to rest. That back bedroom in that red and white house isn’t mine anymore. There’s a slab of concrete with my hand print in it; proof that the little girl that I was, grew up there.
I’ll say goodbye to those mountains one last time and let my mind wander back to what was. And when I head north on that dirt road for the last time, the dust will carry my memories on the whisper of the breeze.
I grew up there…