Under This Big Sky

I’ve often found it easy to wax poetic about the mountains of home in western Montana. I’ve always referred to them as the supermodel of landscapes, so easy to admire with their grandiose perfection in almost every season, the clearest of streams that flow with force and clarity revealing colorful stones that tell of it’s geological history and beauty, high alpine basins that offer refuge to an abundance of wildlife, and coniferous trees of every variety. The mountains of Montana always seem easy to love and admire and to put on a pedestal.

But Montana has a hidden gem and a rare beauty in her sunlit plains and prairies. Spring on the prairies is tough to beat. And it’s never prettier than during branding season. Maybe it’s the sight of cattle dotted across the greening landscape and rolling hills. Maybe it’s the people that gather to work and lend a hand. Maybe it’s fresh backed horses. Maybe it’s the culmination of it all. It’s romantic and darned beautiful.

Because there’s something to be said for a place that doesn’t have all the rough ridden off it yet, or a horse with a little edge left to him. There’s something to be said for old saddles and pick up trucks and trailers with rust and dents. There’s something to be said where life ain’t always shiny and everything is brand new. There’s something to be said for the cowboy running irons and working stock, and old corrals that need mending. There’s something to be said for the hands that work in a place just like this. A place where you can look for miles upon sagebrush miles of coulees and breaks, and not see another soul. A place where the sky is so big and blue and wide, where a man can cuss and air out both lungs, but can talk to God and thank him for the things he has. A place where life just makes a little more sense; in it’s simplest and purest form dressed down in hard work and sweat. There’s something to be said for a place that doesn’t have all the rough ridden off it yet.

May your spring be filled with new adventures and happy hearts.


Happy Trails~

Heather 

Horse Tradin’ With Siri

Every spring, we embark on long, arduous adventures crammed in a truck in search of replacement horses and mules for the ranch.  This is a family tradition, and one we ALL do  together. It’s an opportunity to shake off the winter blues and pass along a little knowledge to the next generation; even if that only means knowing what kind of licorice to buy Grandpa at the one convenient store stop we get along the way.  This spring was no different, as my folks ventured east of the divide to Havre, thanks to a promising horse for sale Craig’s List ad my mom came across in Glasgow, Montana.  Horse trailer in tow, they headed east.

One small factoid that shouldn’t be overlooked, is that my dad recently became a “smart” phone owner of the iPhone variety at the ripe, young age of 69.  May. the. good. Lord. help. us. all.  Now, I’ve always looked up to my dad.  The man is a wealth of knowledge on vehicles, tractors, chainsaws, horses, cattle, the mountain terrain, and the Bible. But when it comes to him sorting out technology, it’s about like trying to pick up a horse turd by the clean end. It’s darn near impossible.  So, needless to say, it’s been a steeper-than-a-cow’s-face learning curve.  That is, until a new woman came into his life…THE Mistress Siri.

Now, Dad is about as old-fashioned as any man can be in this day and age.  The kind where the men are the head of the household, and all decisions and consultations on such decisions, are run by Dad first. Then Mom usually does it how she darn well wants to after she fluffs Pop’s feathers with said consultation.   Anywhooo…back to Siri. I have never seen my Dad consult with a woman for directions of any sort, until this satellite wonder. Surely, Siri had to be invented by a feminist woman, just to get men like my father to actually have to consult a female on something as important as say….directions; directions to the said Craig’s List ad destination in Big Flat Eastern Montana.  BFE for short. (If you want the real definition for BFE, consult Siri)

So, with Siri in tow, perched on her fancy dashboard holder as if she were Dad’s new right hand man, we set east in search of horses. Somehow, Dad and Siri had managed, without too much assistance, to strike up quite the relationship, because anytime one of us piped up from the passenger seat about the distance to our destination stating it should only be about 2 and 1/2 hours, Dad informed us that according to Siri, it was in fact 2 hours, 43 minutes and 12 seconds to our final destination. He’s always been one for the meticulous details. Great. There we had it. Captain Auto Correct and his Co-Pilot, Ms. Siri.  The epitome of knowledge at the helm headed east on Highway 2.

We laughed and shared stories along the drive, discussing weather and upcoming plans for summer, until Siri piped up about needing to make an upcoming left turn.  According to the man’s directions from the Craig’s List ad, Siri had to be off a road, but when it came down to choosing between my Mom’s hand-scribbled directions on a post it note, or the smooth, cooing of Siri caressing my Dad’s ears with her lies, Dad chose Siri.

Siri took us on a detour. A teeth-jarring, in need of a new sports bra, jaunt across eastern Montana.  The truck and horse trailer rattled and clamored over the dirt road as my mom and I exchanged eye rolls.  We rolled along until we came to a crossroads waiting for Siri to steer us in the right direction.  But, Siri went haywire and lost all signal.  Siri got us lost somewhere between Hiway 2 north of Glasgow and the Canadian border.

To say Siri lost all rights as co-pilot that day is being nice.  We did make it to our destination, which was about like you’d expect from a horse for sale craig’s list ad.  Nothing there was worth a plug nickel, no matter how much Cowboy Bob tried to convince us otherwise. We left with an empty horse trailer, and headed back home.  A different route.

As for Siri, I hope to all that is holy and good she is never consulted with for directions through the mountains with my Dad.  May he rely on his own instinct and knowledge….or at least learn to listen to my mother now and then.

 

Happy Trails,

 

Heather

 

Fix

We all go through crap. Life sometimes rolls it out in epic proportions. This post isn’t meant to be directly about me,or someone in particular, but it’s something I do happen to see in others’ daily lives, and at times, my own. You stick out ‘shituations’ as I like to call them, because it seems easier, or you fear disappointment. You stay status quo, tread water, muck shit out of stalls; whatever analogy you need to use to refer to your life, or status, or relationship. People stay stuck and become accustomed to longing for something or someone to fill a “you” void. And eventually you talk about it, and confess your feelings, and someone else feels they need to finally fix all the holes they see in you. And you know they really can’t. And it comes down to someone telling you they wished they’d have loved you better back then, and you have a colossal epiphany that that’s not what the missing link even was. Because you suddenly realize that above all else, you wish you’d have just loved yourself better. It’s not about someone else’s wrongs or rights that have lead you to the point you are. It’s yours. Some of it innocent and unaware, but some completely intentional. Wherever you’re looking to go from here, just do it by honoring yourself a little more. If something or someone is sucking the life out of you, stop it. End it. Change it. Don’t put all your stock in someone else. Be the kind of person that drives others crazy only by doing nothing but being just your true and real self. And lastly, don’t give up on the person you’re becoming. You did that once. Don’t do it again. Step out in faith and confidence. Happiness awaits.❤️

Happiest of New Trails,

Heather ©

She Walked Beside the Wagon

Pictured Above: Lizzie Kate Longstreet (Hunter)Rich and Frank Rich
Guardian angels. I believe we all have one. And currently mine is looking down on me with rolled eyes, and her head shaking saying, “Heather, the good Lord thinks this would be a grand day for you to finally get your s*** together.” (I’m sure she’s cussed a time or two in her day, or I wouldn’t be feeling so kindred).

I believe 5′ tall Lizzie  Kate Longstreet (Hunter) Rich, my great, great grandmother, with her dark, raven hair is my guardian angel. Here’s why…

The stories of Grandma Lizzie have always intrigued me. She came west with her family on an oxen train in 1864 from Missouri, and settled in Montana, where she met her husband, Frank Rich. It was always said Lizzie was a crack shot and a helluva horsewoman, breaking her last colt at age 76 while riding side saddle.

 One of the stories my grandpa C.B. used to tell was of a feisty pony that kept bucking him off and running back to the barn leaving him afoot. He said Grandma Lizzie had had enough of the ornery pony and told him to go saddle him up because she was taking him berry picking that day. Well, the day went on, and Grandma Lizzie was nowhere to be found until later that evening.  When she returned, her basket was plum full of berries and the pony was worked over in a lather. Whatever transpired while berry-picking later caught up with the poor cuss, as it met its demise that night in the barn. She’d literally ridden him in the ground. Grandpa always said, he never crossed Grandma Lizzie and that story was proof why. 

Whether it was the lifestyle, or her raising, or a combination of consequences, Grandma Lizzie always seemed like the toughest lady, and in that strength of character, from listening to timeless story after story, I found something as a young woman I could grasp onto. 

I often listen to music, usually of the country variety, and I once came across a song sung by Lorrie Morgan called “She Walked Beside the Wagon”. I was fresh out on my own and unsure of everything. There I was, navigating life to the best of my ability, and struggling with decisions and choices, and now faced with raising a child. I felt lost, worried, and alone. I really had no inkling of where to go in life when I heard this song. It goes…

“She felt the cold and dreary wind chill her to the bone. Through the Oklahoma dust before there was a road. Determination on her face and aching in her feet. With all hope gone, she still walked on, into history. She walked beside the wagon, and she held her head up high. If she walked beside the wagon, so can I. So can I.”

This song brought Grandma Lizzie to life for me. I could picture her struggling and working hard to raise a family in the wilds of untamed Montana. And I could feel her blood pulsing through my veins and her picking me up and saying to me, “Keep a going, girl. A little hard work never did a body harm.” Knowing I had to be strong, I let her presence settle in my soul. And I’ve kept her tucked away to draw strength from on occasion, then and now.  Because if she could walk beside the wagon, so could I.

Strength. We all have it. I see it in women everywhere. I saw it in my Grandma Helen raising a family full of love, and loving one man her whole life, waiting out a war a half a world away for him to come home safely. I’ve seen it in my own mama nursing my brother during leukemia, and still finding it in herself to selflessly give of her time and love to the rest of us. I’ve seen that woman hit the ground hard off a wily colt and get back on the son of a gun for another go round.  I see it in girlfriends, my sister, my cousins, and most recently, my Aunt Sharon, who just lost her childhood love and husband this last fall. The grace with which she pushes on is nothing short of amazing.  And I see it in my own daughter, Kiley, as she now finds her way. 

Ladies, we’ve got this. We’re made of tough stuff. Because if she walked beside the wagon, we can too. No words ring truer for me. Grandma Lizzie, wherever you are, thank you for reminding me to always pull myself up by the bootstraps and to carry on. Because we all have this one life to live. It’s up to us to live it well, no matter how tough it gets. And that is a beautiful thing. 

Happy Trails~


Heather 

A Story Worth Tellin’

The following post is dedicated to and written for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.

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“The idea is not to live forever. It is to create something that will.” ~Andy Worhol

As I was driving home yesterday, we passed our neighbor’s teams of black percherons standing together in the corral.  It was said to me, “that is something I could never get into or find the fun in.”  And I thought about that, and it hit me hard how much the world has changed into a fast and so-called improved pace of life.  And I slowed down, and I smiled to myself thinking, “I could.”

I hear it often. The “I don’t get it. I don’t understand why you hitch a team to feed cows when you have a perfectly good motorized vehicle at your disposal?  Why don’t you use a 4-wheeler instead of that cold-backed colt to night check those heifers? Who cares about seeing the Bob Marshall Wilderness from the back of a horse leading a string of mules?  What is the point of climbing on that bronc just to hit the dirt short of eight seconds?  I don’t get your ways.”

Here’s my answer to that…

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I say iron sharpens iron.  Sociologists may label the cowboy’s choices a lifestyle.  Psychologists may see it as obsessive to worry over critters and hay crops and good horses.  Economists just say it’s damn pointless to throw your money and effort after foolishness.  But as for the cowboy, well, he just calls it living.

What you get out of life is just what you put into it.  And the benefits of being a cowboy, well, words don’t suffice.  It’s a life well lived and even harder earned, but it’s tradition and knowledge and heritage. It’s a legacy made of generations of hard living, hard working men and women before that carved a life out of the coulees and mountains and sagebrush seas.  It’s fixing old, worn saddles and harness, not buying new.  It’s the satisfaction of a well-aimed heel loop on a wily calf to drag them to the branding fire. It’s knowing that young colt is gonna test your mettle, but if you gentle him right, you’ve got a good dancing partner. It’s knowing nothing is going to be handed down to you on a silver platter, and you wouldn’t want it to be anyway.  Because the grit in your gut and the try in your soul is what makes the man.

It’s honoring traditions, and taking time to listen to the old men that talk about the days of long ago.  It’s considering yourself lucky to look out over a herd of well-matched and bred angus in the heat of summer grazing. It’s blazing new backcountry trails on a fine mountain pony.  It’s helping your neighbor come branding time whether the cooking is any good or not.  It’s teaching the younger generation the meaning of a little hard work while getting dirt under their fingernails; it’s responsibility and knowing their roots. It’s about having a story worth telling at the end of the day.  It’s a legacy.

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So, I believe in the old cowboy ways.  The things a cowboy has are simple. It’s work ethic, appreciation for land, good stock, a hard-working partner, and good neighbors.  These traditions deserve to be preserved and honored.  Take the time to visit with an old cowboy or cowgirl. Look around at this Big Sky country with its Charlie Russell sunsets, and be grateful for the cowboy, the Native American, and the land that made them. Is your story worth tellin’?



Happy Trails,

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Heather

 

 

My Sister

“She stands firmly on her own two feet; and I just behind her should she ever need me.”~J. Iron Word

My sister. Jamie Kay. I just knew the day we brought her home from the hospital, we had the wrong package. I was supposed to be a big sister to a little brother, Joshua. I even confessed that to the local pharmacist in town at three and a half years old. I told him we brought Jamie home and left Joshua at the hospital. But, here she was, my little sister. And I didn’t think much of her for a while.

But then our parents split up when we were young. And we were weekend warriors between households. And I thought more of her then. Little did I realize at that moment, the best gift our parents would ever gave us was each other.

And she made me mad. She  irrititated me. She was in my way. She beat me at Monopoly. And she was an amazing reader. And she was smart, so smart. And she looked cute in dresses and had sandy brown, curly hair and dimples. But she irritated me.

As teens, life turned a little upside down as life tends to do from time to time. And there was a moment it felt like she was all I had. I wasn’t always nice, and I wasn’t always able to look outside myself to see what she needed from her big sister. But she hung on. She graciously, quietly grew excelling at school. And carried burdens and buried pain and smiled all the way through.

And I graduated from high school while she entered her first year. I stayed close to home and fixed her hair and did her make-up for homecoming. I drove her around and talked boys and went to movies and drank wine one crazy night, because that’s what big sisters do.  And our relationship grew. A new appreciation came about for the young lady that I grew up annoyed with, yet wanting to protect from every injustice this world could muster up.

And life grew another step. I had a baby and I watched her love my little girl and sing her lullabies and snuggle her tight. She drove me home on nights I had one too many. And I got married and she moved away to college. And joined a sorority. And met a boy that broke her heart. And moved on and met someone else. And she smiled again. Like all the way to her toes. She got engaged and I was cautiously happy. Then life turned upside down for her. And he was gone just like that. And I couldn’t bring him back. And no amount of being her big sister could change life for her when she desperately needed it to. But she hung on. She stood strong.

And she met her husband, a really great man. And a wedding came. And babies came. And we got through awful parenting days together, sharing stories and drying tears and laughing until our sides hurt, validating each other’s crazy.

There’s an honesty about my sister that’s a rarity these days. She’s pretty damn admirable. And every time I’m around her, I draw strength. I see unconditional love. I see the authenticity she emotes.  She has fire in her soul and grace in her heart. She’s my favorite soul to laugh with. I can’t imagine this life without my sister. My best friend. She’s my reality check. She’s my honest jeans and swimsuit shopping partner. She tells it like it is. She calls me out on my bullshit and lifts me up. And tells me when my haircut sucks. Nobody will ever be as entertained by us as we are. She is my kind of kindred crazy.


Together we are dreamers and doers. We are secret sharers and each other’s support system. We follow our hearts bound by similar beliefs and inspired by dreams. My sister. How lucky I am to be hers.

May today be the happiest of birthdays, Jamie Kay. I am proud of everything you are, and I thank God every day he chose me to be your sister. I love you. Yes. To the moon and back!

Love ~

Me

It Will Come

•The Answer Will Come•


A new year, a new day, a new page in your novel of 365 pages. If you’re feeling like you’ve got to have a plan in place, a road mapped out in front of you to follow, to not lose track, to stay the course, but damn, you’re just not sure…Not sure of one blessed thing other than knowing you just can’t stay where you’re at, you’re not alone in the fog and the wonder. I feel you. I’m right there with you. I have no idea which tack to take. And it feels helpless and useless. But guess what? You have a desire in your heart, and that is in the process of coming into expression. It may not yet be tangible, but it will come. It will come. Don’t dwell on the appearances that make that desire feel hindered. Give yourself over to the conviction that you don’t have to have it all figured out today, January 1st, 2017. Just tell yourself, “It will come.” Healing of your heart will come. The right place and space will come. The right time will come. Harmony and understanding will come. Peace will come and strength will persevere. Faith and trust will come. There is an appointed time when your desire and your faith meet in the deepest part of your heart and they agree that now is the time. So, my friend, you may want to ask yourself for definition and clarity on your desires and wishes. Ask if this is the best you can imagine? Is this your truest and deepest wish for yourself? And you may want to pray and lean into faith and clean out the emotional closet, declutter and simplify anything that obstructs that desire. Because it will come. That answer will come, so be ready. If it feels delayed and slow, know it’s temporary. It just means you still have work to do. Any challenge that arises is just a calling for clarity. And you need to lean into faith just a little more. Dig deep. Be strong. Be peaceful and be fierce. The answer will come. And you will know that you’re about to step foot into the best damn adventure you and that crazy heart of yours desires. You don’t have to have it all figured out today at this very moment. You only need to know you’re ready for a change. The answer will come. ❤️

Hometown

days-gone-by_16812654352_oHometown. You spend the entirety of your childhood waiting for the day to leave this god-forsaken place just knowing there must be a bigger, better world out there awaiting you. And there possibly is.  But what you don’t realize at the time is you will come to miss what your hometown has truly manifested in your heart of hearts.  It won’t be a sense of success or money that you seek, but the first time you come back home after a long period of being gone, your heart will see what really mattered all along…A sense of comfort and belonging and stillness and peace. And most importantly, love.

It’s not much of a secret to anyone how much I miss home.  But I was ready to leave for a while when I did a few years back.  Ready for a change. I was one of the few of my graduating class that stayed.  I didn’t seek out grand college ideas, even though I wanted to be a large animal vet.  I didn’t mind bar tending and waiting tables and working odd jobs just to get by, because I always had my family and the ranch.  I had what I needed to feel fulfilled out my backdoor.  And then life changed. Family came along and bills needed paid, and it was evident that I had to do something about it, so moving happened. And I embraced every part of it.  I had to. Adventure and change finally awaited me, and there was no sense not meeting that change with arms wide open and a freshened heart ready to beat strongly.

And life went on in my hometown.  Without me.  And I thought, “I don’t miss it. It is always there to come back to.”  I still tell myself those things.  And with every drive back home, the  “I don’t miss it” turns into “I miss some things about it”.  And then phone calls come about people passing, family and friends and high school pals, and the “I miss some things about it” turns into “I miss home. Every damn day.”

16812880925_4783c52764_hWhen I walked through the doors of my favorite church this Christmas for service, I had a difficult time managing my tears and swallowing the lump in my throat.  It was joy and peace and love I felt.  The friendly faces, the “it’s so great to see yous”, the warm embraces, the “we miss yous”  and kind words.  Life went on, and some things changed, but the one constant was the goodness of what I always loved about my hometown hadn’t… the love of good people and their hometown hearts.

And I am forever grateful for my hometown. For the county lines that bring a smile to my face when I drive that familiar drive west.  I remember fondly the first kisses that happened here, the football field full of black and gold, and the smell of peanut butter and paste that greets my senses in the schools I grew up in.  I am grateful for those church pews and the warm and welcoming faces that don’t forget me.

I love the scent of pine that greets my nose, the mountains and the valleys that I intimately know; the back roads I drive to get lost on and with every little, winding mile I find another piece of me.  With every visit, I come back to life here. I realize that in leaving my hometown, this crazy, hectic world has given me sanctuary here.  A place to come back to, to right the wrongs, to remember my roots, and a place to just be me again.  A place to anchor in the storms of life.  A place that continuously welcomes me no matter the time that lapses.

Hometown hearts, they are the love that makes a place home.  And I am proud of the place I call home. Always and forever will be…

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Just Your Time

I was asked recently what I wanted for Christmas this year, and I thought about that. Of course there are material items that came to mind. (I am only human.) A horse trailer was at the top of the list, but then a truck upgrade was, too. I’m not much for impractical items like pretty jewelry or fuzzy leggings. (Leggings tell entirely too much truth for my liking!) So, I decided it’s not about what material item I could want or need. My needs are met, but sometimes the needs of the heart fall slightly short. And what we could all use more of on this earth, is just a little more time.

My needs are really what I want for all of you…I want for you a place to call home filled with family, laughter, slight dysfunction, and a whole lot of memories to be made. May it be filled with less stuff and more love.

 I want your time. Time for a visit over coffee with friends, new and old. I want for you to pass on an old tradition or trade you’ve learned or perfected, and share that with the next generation. Stay connected to them without a device. Teach them what it means to pull up their bootstraps and dig in. Help them see what life there is to be lived out there. Let them embrace their roots and their wings. I want you to live, love, smile, and give. Give of your time because you can. Give of it because you want to.

I want for that bronc to test ya, but may you be able to match him jump for jump. Sometimes life is all about that hang and rattle. And if you hit that dirt, pick yourself up, dust off, and try again. May your whiskey be smooth and straight. And may it kick your butt just once to remind you of your limits. May your music be beautiful and speak to your heart.

May you find grace and forgiveness if you’re seeking it for yourself or others.  May you find joy and peace and strength. May you smile more and dance any chance you can. Hit the pause button once in a while, and make time. Make time to get back to the heart of life. Hug your family, kiss the babies, and fall in love all over again.  

I guess I really want nothing of you, but everything for you this holiday season. I just want your time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your care and love and insight this past year. May your holidays be all you wish for and more. Much love to you and yours, and as always, Happy Trails from my Big Sky to yours.❤

~Heather