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

 

 

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Cowgirl, Who Are You When the World Ain’t Lookin’?

I will admit, I’m a people watcher. I find myself intrigued and wondering what makes up the character of a person. As women, we often feel threatened by what we perceive other women to be. We measure ourselves strongly against other’s physical appearance, by successes, by well-behaved children, by the cars we drive, by relationship statues, by friendships, and facebook posts. We constantly strive to measure up. And sadly, I catch myself doing the same. In that acknowledgement, I also realize that life is so often not what it seems. Every single one of us has a unique story, has scars, lives with fear, smiles through tears, or has a chapter in our life story we don’t read aloud. This realization levels the playing field.  We’re in this life together to help each other, inspire one another, cry with one another, and embrace our differences. 

So, that is where the following rambling came from, knowing we all have secret hopes and unfulfilled dreams. I challenge you to not compare your uniqueness to another, to look deeper than the surface of yourself and others, erase expectations and preconceived notions, and see the heart and soul of someone. Read between the lines. You may be surprised what you find you can relate to…

Cowgirl, who are you when the world ain’t looking begging you to be all it expects you to be? What are your hopes and dreams? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you happy with what you’ve come to be? Do you beat yourself up because you think you’ve failed? Do you like who you see? Are you still searching, longing to find your voice down deep inside? Are you happy, really truly happy and feel life is as it should be?

Are you looking for love? Are you married and struggling to reconnect? Do you still long to find your childhood love and ride off into a sunset? Are you missing someone? Their touch? Their smile? Their laugh? Do you ask if love will ever be? Do you have good friends? Or do prefer to just be?

Who are you, cowgirl, when this old world ain’t looking, waiting for you to make your next move? When it’s not asking you to be what you don’t want to be? Do you close the chapter on your book of life that hurts too much to read? Do you hate yourself for your mistakes? Do you wish you could just change everything? Anything? Just that one thing? Do you have regrets? Do you share unselfishly your gifts and talents with others, or tuck it away in safety away from the world’s harsh reality? Do you know who you really want to be? Do you rise up? Do you try again? Do let it all go? Do you let it be what it will be?

Are you hardened or closed because you’ve built walls to guard your heart? Do you cry for no reason at all? Are you sick? Are you tired? Are worried about it all?

Hey cowgirl, who are you when the world ain’t looking?

Do you dance in your underwear and sing in the rain? Do you drink wine straight from the bottle? Do you like your whiskey straight? Do you paint your nails red, bright, shiny red because it makes you feel pretty? Do you let your hair down, or cut it off because you just need a change?

Do you hike a thousand miles through the wilderness just to know your real heart?  Do you love whomever you want? Do you raise babies, and ride broncs? Do you work at your passion? Or just a job to get by?

Do trail cattle on the  calico prairies and sagebrush sea? Do you let that wild horse run? Do you let your lungs breathe the mountain air deep? Do you travel the world to see through new eyes? Do you put down roots and watch them grow? What is your story? Why?

Cowgirl, be who you want to be anytime, anywhere… Even if this world is watching, do just as you care.  Quit waiting, quit wondering. Just get out there and live, cause this one life ain’t waiting on you, so why are you waiting on it?

Happy Trails, Cowgirl~

Heather ©

Get It Together, Woman

20161011_174858-01It was recently pointed out to me by a male counterpart (and I am sure a trustworthy source like Hillary’s email) that after my last rant about woman logic, women are twelve percent more likely to be violent during road rage.  After I talked myself out of taking a swing on the unsuspecting dude, I sorta decided to go ahead and let my calm, cool woman logic prevail…hahahaha.

Even I was surprised by how quickly and fluidly the words came in my retort to his ridiculous accusation! And I felt the urge to justify my position because…

I am pretty sure if road rage did in fact occur, it happened for the following reasons:

It was morning, and we are responsible for EVERYTHING in the morning. Kids. Pets. Husbands. Lunches. Dinner. Not many men are around to get the kids out the door along with themselves in a fashionable and timely manner to work and school.  I’m past the diaper bag routine, but I am not too sure a teenage son is any quicker.  How can something that refuses to shower and change clothes on a daily basis take so damn long in the bathroom? However, he still wants to know if his favorite shirt is clean.  So while you’re brushing your teeth, drawing on an eyebrow, and writing a check for school lunches, you find his favorite shirt in the dirty clothes pile, give it a quick sniff, and throw it at him while pouring yourself a cup of coffee.  While pouring the cup of coffee, you think about dinner.  Dinner must consist of meat and potatoes and no food touching other food, and all you really want to do is pull the cork on the opened bottle of delicious vino and swig until you feel warm and fuzzy. Forget it. Dinner can wait, and  if all else fails, there’s a box of Captain Crunch.

When son finally emerges from what smells like a locker room and grunts and groans because he has to make his own breakfast, you’re trying to draw on the other eyebrow, change your outfit for the 3rd time because your shoes make you feel fat.  Somehow, you still end up with  the black bra and the white shirt, spill your coffee on your white shirt, and have to start all over again.

Your hair looks terrible, and you decided maybe a curling iron will fix the mess, but the dog needs out for her morning constitutional.  Your son ignores you when you ask him to let the dog out, so you do it yourself, and the horses whinny at you when you open the door as a reminder they still need fed.  So, you kick off your flats, tuck your dress slacks in your muck boots and pitch out the hay.

You return inside to finish fixing your hair, which is now littered with hay,  while realizing you are now ten minutes late.  You yell at your kid to get his ass in gear, and remind him to brush at least one layer of scum off his teeth or he will never get a girlfriend. (And the irony of this dawns on you. Why would the kid want a girlfriend? One crazy, bossy lady telling him what to do is enough!)

You make it to the car, peel out of the driveway, cold coffee in hand while mentally tackling your day at work, making a grocery list, reminding yourself that it’s been 2 years since you’ve had great sex, (better put that on your to do list), and somewhere in that thought, you remember you still need hairspray. Which reminds you..shit… you’re pretty sure the curling iron is still on.  So, you whip a u-turn, note the clock and that you are now 20 minutes late. You swerve around deer, yell at your kid, and mash the pedal to the floor, skid sideways into the drive and rush in the house only to find you actually did unplug the curling iron.

You peel back out of the driveway, cussing squirrels and rabbits scurrying for their lives, you honk at slow pedestrians, and stupid Sunday drivers while giving them the Cali one finger wave.  Your curse words flow freely. Your blood pressure is sky-high. You’re blowing snot and breathing fire. And coincidentally, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bat Outta Hell” is blaring through the speakers, while your kid looks at you in complete awe from the passenger seat.

But, somehow you deliver your son unscathed and on time for school, with an enhanced list of vocabulary words because you broadened his horizons on the drive, and you walk through the doors at work with  a smile on your face, coffee-stained shirt, and crooked eyebrows ready to face the day!

It ain’t road rage…. It’s mad mother skills.

Happy Trails & Skilled Driving Ladies,

Heather

That’s Woman Logic


Women think we have a logical reason for everything we say and do, whether subtle or blatant.  We don’t understand ourselves any more than the next person, but we always promise an entertaining and enlightening adventure…

For instance, why do we wax or tweeze our eyebrows just to draw them back on? Woman logic. Somewhere in our warped little mind, society has trained us that perfect eyebrows must look better shaped and sculpted and painted on. Who really knows whey we think this looks better?

Why do we eat cucumbers and drink purified water all day and binge drink wine at night? Because we spend all day counting calories and counting steps and counting pounds, and at the end of the day, it was just one giant disappointment. A woman knows her chocolate goes better with wine anyway. Woman logic.

We push leftovers on our families. We shall not waste! We must save money!  We will eat the week old leftover meatloaf before we grocery shop. But…we will try 42 different kinds of face cream at the low, low price of $39.99 each because the first 41 were complete crap. Woman logic.

We sigh. And act dramatic. And make a big deal out of empty toilet paper rolls, overflowing garbage cans, and unemptied dishwashers.  This is our opportune moment to express and perfect our passive, aggressive behaviors by not saying what we want or need.  We sort of relish in making the moment miserable.  Woman logic.

We don’t care where you decide to eat.  But for the love of God, please do not go to the first twelve places you just named.  None of them sound good, and well, we just aren’t feeling it. However, a nice place with a variety on their menu sounds good so we can take an hour to decide what to eat, while ordering everything to the side.  Woman logic.

Date night is a very big deal.  We hint at our male half telling him how long it has been since we’ve been on one.  And when it finally happens, we {gasp!} shave legs, pick out a nice outfit, apply perfume and make-up and take hours getting ready for said date night, only to walk out and ask your guy “how do I look?”  And when he responds, “you look fine, are you ready?” We roll our eyes, storm back to the bedroom, change clothes at least five times, and cry because we are pretty sure he thought we looked fat. And don’t expect the night to end in magical fireworks, because we probably will still be crying and just want you to hold us. That’s woman logic.

We strategically place laundry hampers in places that we think men will notice them, and try to help our men feel more successful about helping out, only to find the the giant pile of dirty laundry stacked next to the hamper.  So we move it to an easier, less subtle location with high hopes of him actually using it the next time.  And get mad two hours later when he clearly still doesn’t it. There’s no need to move it again… he ignored you just fine the first time. Be mad.  That’s woman logic.

A woman is a complex, strange being. Good luck figuring us out, because we are still trying to do the same.  The study of woman logic is on-going, expensive, and intricate, and there are no conclusive results expected any time soon.

Hang in there guys… Haven’t you always enjoyed a perplexing and thrilling mystery?  In the meantime, there is still good, old, reliable beer, hunting, and football.

Happy Trails,

Heather

 

 

 

Look Up

“Pretty little thing, sometimes you gotta look up, and let this world see all the beauty that you’re made of, because the way you hang your head, nobody can tell, you’re my Virginia Bluebell.” ~Miranda Lambert

I’ve had so many dreams in my life. So many things I thought I would be by now. I’ve outgrown some of them, and some of them have outgrown me. And there are those I still long for to come true. And they will. I have faith.

The first time I saw thirteen year old Rachel Myllymaki run the barrels at a local rodeo, her yellow hair flying out under her hat and her horse on fire, I wanted to be a barrel racer… Some days I still want that.

I wanted to be an equestrian cross-country jumper the first time I watched it on the Olympics.  I borrowed my mom’s dressage saddle and jumped my pony over every log, ditch and downed tree I could find. Until the big girl dreams came along, but some days I still long to take that jump, too.

I wanted to be a female horse trainer and rancher and equine vet. Yes, all of them.  I wanted that big, blue sky ranch with horses as far as they eye could see. I still want that, too.

Nowadays, I find myself longing to help others through horsemanship and the wilderness and helping run the family business. I also want to write novels and short stories and take pictures of the beauty that graces me every day. And I will.

You see, sometimes we outgrow dreams, and sometimes they outgrow us. But they also follow along silently until something, or someone, reminds us that they’re still beating in our heart and soul, and they’re worth giving another thought.

I lost focus along the way. Life changed so fast and my priorities morphed over the years to accommodate choices I made. And it wasn’t bad.  But my dreams didn’t go away. I just forgot to look up. Worrying about failure, worrying about timing, worrying about finances, always worrying and always wondering. And then I finally asked myself why? What in the hell am I waiting for?

We all ask ourselves these questions when we set out on a personal endeavor. The importance of feeding our souls and feeding our dreams with good people, positive thinking, beautiful scenery, love and light, fuels the fire of wanting to accomplish something significant. When we’re passionate about pursuing life, it spills over to others.  It is the want that keeps us trying.

When dreams are written on our hearts with permanent ink, tattooed there, they may fade, but it’s our job to not let ourselves down.  

Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a moment to look back on where you’ve come from, from where all you’ve been. Revel in it. Marvel at it. Evaluate the heartache you’ve felt, but nurture your new found strength. And grow in it, and trust that you’ve got this and God has you.

Despite all you’ve been through, you’re still here. Even though the sun didn’t always shine, you still grew. You’re a mosaic of all the shattered pieces of your life, with the bits of dreams still there and the flicker of hope still burning.

It’s never too late to get your shit together. Because that’s the beginning of something good, something strong, and something that’s right for you. In that pit of anger, of sadness, of frustration… that’s your new beginning. And those tucked away dreams are your way out.

So, pretty little thing, don’t forget to look up, and show the world all the beauty that you’re made of.

Dream big. Dream forever. Live authentic and live true to yourself.

~Happy Trails

Heather

A Pace I Long to Keep

wp-1470584727537.jpgThese past few summer months have been nothing short of crazy and chaotic between work and home life.  Some of you may know that I work for an electric and telecom company here on the hi-line of Montana, but what you don’t know is I am a credit representative.  That means I get the pleasure of disconnecting services for non-payment and am somehow the late bill and payment negotiater.  Let me just say right off, I am fairly sure this must be karma biting me square in both butt cheeks, because I have had my way a time or three with  a Dish Network or Verizon wireless customer service rep in the past.  Truly, what goes around comes around, but at the end of the day, I usually go home feeling like I’ve been hit by a freight train driven by a sixteen year old that was just given the keys for the first time.  And on my drive home nightly, I ask myself why? What lessons am I learning? How can I be a better person? And as I am beating myself over the head with all these thoughts and “lessons” I am learning in my job, my mind drifts to a simpler time.  A time when I didn’t have to think about much except what to make for dinner… A time I could watch my life unfold between my horse’s ears down a mountain trail at a pace I now find myself longing for…A pace I long to keep.

Between these ears my life unfolds at a pace I long to keep.

Every breath, every thought just makes more sense here.

My heart and mind are put at ease.

No phones are ringing, no device needs response

No man is whining about his selfish needs.

All the while the trail unfolds between my horse’s ears

At a pace I long to keep.

The hustle and bustle of life’s worries & strife

Become a distant sound muffled by my horses’ feet

As ol’ roany clips over God’s landscapes

And I watch my life unfold at a pace I long to keep.

Between these ears I see vistas grand and Big Sky true.

From towering mountain peaks to sagebrush coulee breaks

I think what more could this girl need?

As my horse travels freely along at a pace I long to keep.

You can keep your city life, your heels, dresses and fine wines.

As for me, I will don boots and jeans, while the wind teases my hair

And Roany and I will slow lope across the miles while life unfolds

At the only pace I long to keep.

In closing, be nice to the person on the other end of the phone; she’s just trying to do her job. Your life is a one time offer. Use it well. Love often, share a smile, be kind to one another, lend a hand. Remember what really is important to you in this life, and remember who you want to be. Ride high and stay grounded.

Happy Trails,

Heatherwp-1470584709555.jpg

Flawedless

 

We live in a society that plays on and profits from our self doubt. We are who we are, and we suffer because we imagine we should be different. We imagine we should be a replica of a celebrity, a friend, or a flawless more perfect version of our own reflection. We hold our appearances to a high standard and place our value  and self worth on our outward appearances instead of valuing and nurturing and loving the inward. We pin pictures, save hairstyles, read tips, buy products all for the sake of improvement.

Starve those thoughts. Believe that whatever flaws you think you may have are your own brand, your own version of perfect. Give up being the judge.  It’s not your job.  Because when we give up judgement of ourselves, we give up the fear of being judged by others.  There is nothing wrong with being better or doing better or wanting better.  There is nothing wrong with striving to be the best.

But guess what? You are meant to be a square peg in a round hole. Imperfection is perfection, and is in fact beautiful to the right one. You are meant to not have all the answers; but you are destined for greatness, regardless.  Believe in you. Just. As. You. Are. And that’s when you, yes you, become rich in the things that really matter.  You are good enough. You are strong enough. You are smart enough.  Girl, you are flawedless. You’re meant to be. Go out and own that shit.

 

Happy Trails~

 

Heather

Wild Once

“Love her, but leave her wild.” ~Atticus

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You’re just some wild thing, with a faraway look in your eyes. The memories of freedom seep back into the unsealed cracks of your buried heart. No one can tell you, no one can really see, what goes on in there, the heart between the one you were, and the one you’re yet to be. It’s a sagebrush sea of haze and blue, to navigate all alone. The place where you crave the shelter, yet seek the crazy storm. The flame and longing in your eyes fuels the fire in man, and everything he loved and admired about you, the wild look, the catch me if you can, the youthful beauty, has become something he unknowingly tries to tame. You learn to give, you learn to bend, but your heart always runs, it runs with the calico pony off into the sun. Those wild winds, they always call, they speak straight to the core of your soul. Stay true to that wild, and stay true to that free. Remember this world can’t break you, it can’t change what you’re really meant to be… Because deep down, you and me, we are always meant to be wild and we are always meant to be free.

Brandin’

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For my generous friends and their families that have been kind enough to share their way of life with me… Thank you…

I haven’t written much about the hi-line of Montana since moving here.  Mostly, because I was fairly certain that nothing about Havre could compare to the spring beauty of my home in the mountains, but I’ve been proven wrong.  And as much as I love the receding of the snow-line on the mountains, and birth of the wildflowers and watching the ice retreat from it’s alpine lakes, spring on the prairies of central Montana are truly awesome. The foothills of the Bears Paw Mountains are beautiful in their balsam root bloom, the fresh scent of sage, the greening up of winter wheat and alfalfa fields, and pastures full of newborn calves and new mamas that speckle the landscape.

But as picturesque as the landscape is, the ranching and agriculture families of the hi-line are the heart of the country.  That becomes so evident during the spring and branding season.  Ranchers are a proud, hard-working lot that carve their livelihood out of the formidable landscapes of the west.  Raising cattle ain’t for the faint of heart.

By the graciousness of my friend and co-worker, I was allowed to spend the weekend riding and to help out with their branding.  I didn’t grow up working cattle; the mountain horses and mules from our dude ranch were my exposure to livestock.  And I thought I had somewhat of  a handle on that cowgirl lifestyle…until now.  I’ve ridden rugged mountain terrain all of my life, and the prairie handed me my hind parts on a worn leather platter. Those hawthorn-covered coulees are steeper than they look when you’re at run downhill after a wiley little calf.  We pushed cows and calves where cows and calves didn’t want to go. And my horse worked harder than he’s probably ever worked since I’ve owned him.  I swear we covered 20 miles in 10, and the majority of it at trot or run. That grass wasn’t growing under anyone’s feet.

Eventually all the cattle were penned and separated, and once the branding started, it was all hands on deck. There were family members, neighbors, strangers and friends all working to get the same job done.  There were calves making men outta young boys bucking and kicking all the way to the fire.  There were no gender roles, girls roping, and handling stock just the same as the next.  Fathers helping daughters, husbands working with wives, and kids working with kids, and the older generation helped guide and coach the younger along. I let my eyes take it all in and felt a lump rise in my throat. These moments are exactly what life is all about.

At the end of the day, the cattle were branded, cold beers were drank , good food was eaten, and stories about back in the day were shared around the table. With pride for a job well done, and feeling lucky to have been part of this tradition, I threw my leg back over my ol’ roan horse and we headed out to push the cattle back out.  What a sight watching mamas join back up with babies as the bawled and called their way back up over the hillsides.

The smiles in the eyes, the ‘thank yous’ and the ‘good jobs’ were generously passed around.  It was an honor to be part of something so worthwhile, with people I am proud to call my friends.  And the best part was being asked back to do it all over again the next day…

I will forever be grateful for these opportunities that the generous families around here have been kind enough to ask me to be a part of.  Life is good on the ‘ol hi-line, and it’s even better in the brandin’ pen.

Happy Trails,

Heather

All In

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Being all in. I struggle with it. Whether it’s jobs, relationships, and adventures and decisions. And then I reserve and hold back and overthink until the time passes, uncomfortably. Self doubt…because what if I don’t meet expectations? My own…someone else’s? Then the justification sets in…I tell myself I didn’t do it because it wasn’t the right time or it just wasn’t meant to be. I look for the comfort in my justification. Then I think of the importance of living in the moment and wonder why the hell not? And I am all in…almost. And the justification of why’s and why nots and self validation rears itself again and again. And I complicate the choices I make. I muddy the waters just to clear them. I throw rocks in the puddles just to stop the ripples. And I wonder…will I ever just be all in? That peace of assuredness doesn’t knock frequently in my mind. But while I’m over thinking the next big decision or idea or should I of?, life happens. And it happens in such a soft and mild and endearing way, that I settle softly into routine. And maybe that’s the answer in the end. To just be grateful for the chance to choose my action or reaction. And be all in. Just for a moment.🌼