I thought of you today while the wind teased the loose tendrils of hair from under my hat. The familiar feel and memories of a spring with you came flooding back. The horse hair curried, the mane and tail trimmed and shaped, the tack cleaned and oiled just right. My horse rolled air through his nose, and snorted with anticipation. He knew the first ride of spring was upon him. Old Roany gave me the look, the one you used to tell me to watch for. The look that allows a fraction of insight into their heart and soul, the one chance you get at an advantage on a spry, spring-backed horse. I saw so much life there. He told me not to worry or be afraid. And he told me he would test me, but he also told me to trust. He read my hesitation. You see, he’s sort of like you were. Standoffish. Confident. Proud. Full of life. I saw your reflection in his eyes and your words echoed in my ear, softly. I saddled him up, lead him away from the hitch rail, the wind picking up force. My bosal hackamore, the one you gave me, hung from the horn, and I always see your hands, weathered and rough, on the mecate. I bridled him, patted him, and gave him one last look as I grabbed a hunk of mane, and swung a leg over ‘ol red roany. Hump in his back, wind in his tail, and the look in his eye, he strode out just like he always does every time, quick and sure-footed and in charge. You would’ve liked Red, Popi. He would have been just your style. The smile on my face said it all. Anyway, I thought of you today…
Some moments simply leave your mouth absent of words, your eyes filled with warm tears, and your heart so full of love and pride, and when those moments come, you make note of every detail in that capsule of time. My grandfather, Clarence Barron “C.B.” Rich was recently inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame this month in Great Falls. I have written about my grandpa in the past and shared how he impacted my insignificant, little life, but to witness what it means to really leave a legacy behind for another generation to nurture and care for as their own is priceless.
He was one of thirty-five inductees, living and legacy, to be honored at this year’s ceremonies. How a committee narrows down a group of thirty-five cowboys from all of those spread out over the years in Montana is baffling, because as I sat there and listened to the names being read and the story behind each cowboy or cowgirl, I thought how extremely lucky I was to be in the company of these fine inductees and those that came to honor them.
The stories shared were truly etched from the pages of Montana and western history; stories from train robbery attempts and assisting outlaws to carving out an honorable life from the harsh and formidable landscapes we now take for granted. Underneath every Stetson hat in that room, was a true and honorable cowboy or cowgirl. And somehow, I was lucky enough to be connected to this amazing moment in time.
I looked around the solarium full of people, close to probably five hundred, and with each name read from the inductee list, there was a family member or friend there to receive the award. There was a deep pride each one felt hearing their inductee being named, the standing ovations and the well-deserved applause for those known and not known, for their accomplishments and attributions to the community we call “cowboy”.
There were bronc stompers, ropers, farmers & ranchers, cattlemen & women, teamsters, outfitters, outlaws, horse trainers, artists, authors & poets, rodeo competitors, and livestock entrepreneurs, all being honored. They were, and are all “cowboy”, and all darn sure legendary. Their stories were significant, entertaining, and different, but the commonality was all of these people were and are, tough as a new bride’s biscuits. They tended livestock in the worst of weather, they cut trails, built barns, rode rough horses and even rougher country, all in the name of providing for a family, a community, and a country. Their purpose was strong, bold, and etched out of crusted sweat on their brows, and callouses on their weathered hands. Not a one of them missed the mark on work ethic and values. They all knew what it meant to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They loved their families and communities, and fought for their country and our freedom. They had grit, true grit, in their guts and steel in their veins.
I observed the younger generation looking on in the room, and wondered if any felt like I did? Will generations yet to come understand what it took for their ancestors and loved ones to build their legacies, their homesteads, ranches, and hard-earned dreams? Better yet, will they even care? Will they know to look up from their mobile devices and televisions, and work at a back-breaking speed to beat a storm? Does our current culture and warped society give a damn about such things anymore? Do they care about pulling calves in a March snowstorm? Will they know the exhilarating feeling of throwing a leg over a fresh colt, or to climb a mountain pass and blaze a new trail over rugged miles of rocks and trees? Will they know the art of carving life out of a Charlie Russell landscape? Will they appreciate the hue of the prairie sunrises and sunsets as they glance of the coulees and breaks? Will they be inspired to do more and be more?
I hope so. These people leave an amazing legacy to carry and pass on down the line. They take so much knowledge and history with them when they go, and they live big boots to fill. I am honored to be a part of such a life, and I hope that I am able to do more than ride along on the coattails of my grandpa’s legacy. Because it’s about time I made my own…
In a world full of emerging Kardashians, I choose to be just me. I am finding it ever-more important to be more than just okay with that. We live in a society brimming with people sharing their opinions and demanding we believe and partake in them. I am not a jean size. I have fat. My teeth are not white. My hair isn’t long enough. My nails aren’t painted. I don’t diet, and I don’t exercise as often as I should. I also don’t give a shit because it has taken me almost thirty-nine years to like just who I am just as I am.
I write this to express feelings, thoughts, and share a piece of me with the rest of you; not to tell you what to think or how to act. Being vulnerable is the key to being genuine in self-expression, and so I share that when I write the following. This isn’t a post about horses or cowgirls or mountains, but more along the lines of empowerment and exposure to reality in hopes that you can be okay with whom you see in the mirror every day.
This is a glimpse of the real me, so take it or leave it. To coin a favored phrase from my beautiful grandmother, “It is what it is, sweetheart.” I encourage those of you that choose to read this to be uniquely you. Don’t fall for society’s carbon copy version of someone else…
I am Heather. I am almost 39, and a Caucasian, married woman. I am a full-of-faith sinner; I believe in God, and I am not religious. I am a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a niece, and a girlfriend. I am quirky and silly and blunt and broken. I am strong and insecure. I overthink, and I crave complexity, but I am painfully simple.
I am loud and confident, and I am shy and reserved. I am unconditionally conditional. I struggle and I endure. I am not hateful or boastful, and I am self-effacing. I love and I forgive. I am not normal, nor do I ever care to be. I crave adventure and love the assurance of a daily home routine. I say no and I say yes all in one shot. I yell, I scream, and I fight and bleed.
I know my weaknesses and thrive on my strengths. I hurt and I cry and I feel absolutely everything. I wonder and I know. I believe, but I don’t always understand. I fall down seven times, and I stand up eight. I listen to listen, not to respond. I contemplate and ponder and consider all angles.
I love deeply and sky wide, and I don’t worry about the approval of others any longer; yet, I seek their sense of understanding. I am crazy; fully certifiable bat shit insane, and I am the calm in the storm. I have patience and perseverance and I push to get my way. And I am stubborn, so very stubborn. I am ashamed at times, but I am proud. I am best anchored with my feet ten feet off the ground.
I change with the wind, and I shoulder in to keep that change at bay. I am almost never sure of what I really want, but always clear on what I don’t want. I make no excuses about who I am, and I damn sure have no regrets. I am classy and sophisticated, and I wear jeans and have horse shit on my boots. I cuss too much, and I am brutally honest.
I am not a watered down version of anyone else. I dream big, really fucking big. And I am strong, worthy, and imperfect. I cry, a lot, and I smile even more. I have bad days, and I try every goddamn day to be a better version of myself than I was the day before.
I just am me, and I won’t apologize for that. I serve a faithful, loving and forgiving God that allows me to be all of this. I am capable, strong-willed and beautiful. And simply, I am enough.
And you are, too. Be your own brand of beautiful, write your own story, and make your mark on this world. Love your flawed and imperfect self stitched together with good intentions. Just be you, just as you are.