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.🌼

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She Rides

This is an ode to the most beautiful woman I know.  No finer lady will this world have the pleasure of knowing, and at 66, may she know that’s she’s the most beautiful version of herself now more than ever.  May this serve as a reminder that even though she’s a mother, a wife, and a grandmother, that she is still all woman, and most importantly, uniquely amazing with what she offers up to this world with the biggest and kindest of hearts…. Happiest of birthdays, Mama…

Mom

I always picture her here on the back of spry black & white paint horse riding down a mountain trail. Her black hair and dark eyes glitter, and you know she’s at home here, the most in love here, and the most alive here.  She sits tall and true.  She rides.

 But in all actuality, this is how she handles life and all the crazy it throws at her.  She’s seen mountains of heartbreak, admitted guilt, nursed sick children, loved her family and husband fiercely, she’s fallen and risen, and prayed her way through it all. Sure, she’s made mistakes and blamed herself; nobody is more aware of them than her.  But, through it all, she rides, head held high, straighter and truer with every turn of the trail. She rides.

She’s tough. I’ve seen her eat dirt coming off a rank colt, and pull herself up and throw a leg over him one more time, just to prove she’s boss.  She has a way with horses; she sees untapped potential, and she loves the challenge of the ornery ones. And she rides them. She hangs and rattles with the best of ’em because she rides.

Lord, she’s strong; strong- willed and strong-minded, but mostly, strong-hearted.  The only fear I’ve ever seen in her is the possibility of losing a loved one.  And she’s been there. She’s lost love and she cries.  And she loves again, stronger. She extends her open arms and heart to those around her, those in need of it most, stranger or friend.  She rides through this life with grace and love. She rides.

She paints beautiful pictures, she builds a home full of laughter, love, kindness and respect.  She’s music, Sunday morning hymnals, and a little kick-ass country because it’s Monday.  She’s fast horses, Sunday morning church, and a lover and a fighter.  She’s woman, all beautiful woman, refined and lady-like and tough as nails. She’s all of these because she rides.

I’m lucky enough to call her Mama.  There’s nobody I look up to more in this life, and I am forever grateful for all she’s ever been to me. Strength when I needed, a boot in the ass when I deserved it, and unconditional love always. Thank you for all the firsts in this life, like teaching my to drive a stick and pull a horse trailer, how to cook, and how to get tough when the tough get going.  Thank you for your love and support through the years when I doubted my own skills and strengths.  But I’m most thankful for your teaching me to ride. Straight, strong and true, she rides…

Love you, Mama. Happy Birthday!

I Am…

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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.

Happy Trails~

Good Horses To Ride

 

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Well my friends, it’s another day, another dollar

Another milestone crossed in this life

I may not be just where I want to be

But, at least I have a good horse to ride.

 

Life was trying at times this past year,

Sometimes it felt like I was trekking the Great Divide

But, you see these were just lessons learned

And I always had a good horse to ride.

 

Tears came and went on the back of my trusty steed,

As I pondered all of life’s crazy strife.

And as we slow-loped through the worries & cares

I was never more thankful for my good horse to ride.

 

The time in the saddle was always well spent

It signified a peaceful state of mind.

Whether climbing mountain trails or pushing cows home

I always had a good horse to ride.

 

I spent time with friends, old & new,

Exploring the wilderness and new countryside

Miles upon miles of trails we trekked,

And all of ‘em on good horses to ride.

 

As this year draws to an end

And I reflect back on it all in stride

I realize I have so much to be grateful for

But I’m most grateful for the good horse I ride.

 

So, may your new trails ahead lead you safely home

May you give it your all in this crazy life.

But above all else, my new year’s wish for you

Is that you always have good horses to ride.

 

Happy Trails~

 

Heather

2015 in Review

As another year draws to a close in the crazy old life, I hope that you had time to enjoy the holidays in festive style with those you love.  Now, it’s almost time for that “new year, new me” nonsense, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but my new year’s resolutions last about as long as the attention span of my two cocaine-snortin’, squirrel chasin’ border collies.  So, I am going to give up the list making, the lofty weight loss goals, the money saving tips, and just live my life; Simply, just live my life in the year to come, and reflect back on all I was lucky enough to have this past year.

This is a poem that I did not write; it was penned by a man named Joe Mingus called Mountains of Time, but suits me just the same, and it captures my sentiments exactly as I look back on the year.  I hope you enjoy it, too.  May your year ahead be filled with all you need, and you find yourself just where you wish to be doing exactly what you desire to do.

The Mountains of Time

By Joe Mingus

When old pony’s hair starts getting long, and the leaves turn golden and red,

When the fox squirrel buries his winter’s feed and the geese fly south over head.

When the evening sun sets west-southwest in a sky that’s the color of wine,

I climb in old memories saddle, and ride up through the mountains of time.

When the springtime of yesteryear comes into view, with its freshness all green-stemmed, hip deep.

I can still smell the breath of the earth, as she woke from the harshness of past winter’s sleep.

I recall each heart-lifting happening, like each new calf’s or colt’s dancing rhyme.

But old memories and me, we must get along, we’re still up in the mountains of time.

A shadow of last summer is still lurking up here, though the flames of Old Sol are now dim.

I remember his heart that made my sweat boil, and gave thanks daily when he knelt at earth’s rim.

The long, endless days are growing faint, through a haze their shapes are hard to define.

And old memories and me, we’ve slow-loped through the rough while up in these mountains of time.

Old man winter’s still waitin’ with icy white teeth and winds that sing death with a gasp.

But he can slow nature’s dance only for a short time, as a snow blanket warms her while she naps.

So, if memories don’t fail and I keep a tight seat, we’ll look back on what we’ve left behind.

Up a trail that we cut, just as true as we could, me and old memories through the mountains of time.

 

Happy Trails~

Heather

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Cowgirl

I was recently asked if I’m a real cowgirl on a social media sight I partake in.  The exact question posed to me was “If you don’t have cows, how can you be a cowgirl?”  I pondered that thought, let my hurt feelings stroll over the words, and then I questioned myself.  Maybe I’m really not a tried and true cowgirl?  But I had  the boots, the hat, the horse, spurs, a saddle, and even a pick-up truck?    Accordin’ to good ol’ Webster, the true definition of the word is: noun. a woman who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, especially in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of her work on horseback.

Well, there was the answer…I am technically NOT a cowgirl.  I don’t spend all day in the saddle trailing cows. Hell, I wasn’t even raised with cattle.  I grew up tending to horses and mules, ornery men, and dudes, riding mountain trails and passes, and cooking in dutch ovens, but not a stitch of my time was spent with cattle.

So, I chewed on that thought a while longer, and thought “the he** I’m not a cowgirl!” Being a cowgirl ain’t just about swinging ropes, doctoring cows, calving, and riding horses.  Because, to be a cowgirl means you’ve got the grit in your gut and the attitude to accomplish anything.  You have the ability to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and take life right by the horns.

Deep down, each woman I know has just a touch of cowgirl in her.  She may be hailing a cab on city street headed to a high-rise lawyer’s office.  She’s a doctor or a nurse saving lives.  She’s a teacher expanding horizons and sculpting young minds.    She pours herself into the books and balances the budget.  She’s the mother that just lost a child, and still wakes to face the day.

She’s lipstick, leather, and lace.  She’s weathered hands that slings ropes, trains colts, and pets dogs, and is the lady dressed to the nines to hit the town with her favorite guy.  She fights fires, clears trails, packs mules, and yes, works cows. She’s gypsy- souled and beautiful music and guitar chords.  She’s fighting cancer with all she’s got because she’s a survivor and a winner.

But mostly, she’s you and she’s me.  She’s the fight to win and the calm in the storm.  She’s modern and old-fashioned.  She sips fine wine and chugs a beer with the guys.  She kneels and prays at the end of the day to praise God for all she has and is.

You see, it doesn’t matter what you are. Your job does not define you.  It is your attitude, your heart, and your beautiful mind and soul.  Cowgirl is a title well earned, and I am darn proud to be just that til I draw my last breath.  And don’t ever doubt that you are one, too.

~Happy Trails~

 

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The Art of Barnyard Cussin’

Nothing can stir the soul of man, woman, or child more than an adventure on a Montana dude ranch where one can partake in piece of old west history called cowboy, and blend that with the great outdoors. That is the setting of the story to follow…

It was a beautiful, pristine Montana morning with the horses grazing peacefully about the meadow in belly-deep grass; the sun was rising up to kiss the mountain peaks with warmth. The morning campfire was crackling away outside the lodge, and awaiting the guests, was a fresh pot of cowboy coffee.  It was what we called “Wrangler Breakfast” morning, which entails your guests consuming their meal of steak, eggs, & camp spuds around the fire while watching the wranglers gather in the stock by horseback.  This was my job, and I loved it.  There is nothing like saddling up on a cool, summer morning and heading out to gather in the horses.  It’s just you and your horse working together, and the feeling is indescribable.
I was the only wrangler on tap that morning, so I mounted up and headed my horse out the gate. The ranch owned about 80 head of horses and mules, and they knew the routine well of wrangling.  They usually did as they were supposed to, gallop gracefully to the barn displaying their athleticism and grace for the onlookers.  But, there were stragglers; defiant beasts that chose to head the opposite direction or hold their ground in a sweet section of timothy grass. This particular morning, they took a little extra coaxing.  I worked them back and forth across the meadow, pushing firmly but gently until they were in front of the lodge where they all chose to stop. They would take a few steps toward the corrals and barn, then stop and plant their fat faces in the grass. Any time I came near, they would pin their ears, whirl and kick, and circle back around to the tall grass. They knew they had the upper-hand.  After several minutes of this fun, I’d had enough.  My horse had lost any brain he had, my temper flared, and forgetting I had an audience, I opened up and aired out both lungs. 
Now, growing up in the barnyard, you learn the importance of which cuss words to string together to get the best bang for your buck, so to speak.  You don’t just throw out the usual simple sentence enhancers. Oh no! You string ‘em all together at one time, so I did. And I enunciated every single word loud and clear.  I took down my lariat and connected rope with hides, let out another incoherent stream of foul language, and chased them in with all I had.  Apparently my crazed appearance was convincing enough that they took off to the barnyard, full-tilt. I cussed and yelled at them the whole way, all the while forgetting about the crowd of  adults, children, crew, and most importantly, my uncle & boss, that had now gathered at the edge of the front lawn to watch the show.  I slammed the corral gate, steam rolling, exploits blaring and stomped my way to the barn. There!  I’d showed them who was boss!  I went about unsaddling and caring for my horse, and huffed up the hill for breakfast with the gang.  As I reached the campfire and guests, I noticed it was awfully quiet upon my arrival. {gasp…insert scene replay & silent foul language.}  Me and my big mouth.  Head down, I grabbed a plate of humble pie and proceeded to politely shovel it in by the forkful, quietly.  As the lump of breakfast soured in my stomach, I was reminded that sometimes, silence is golden.  Will I ever learn?  Hell, no…

Welcome, Greenhorn

Let me preclude this story with a story… I have taken a step out the family business the past couple summers. My life simply took me in other directions, but I have somehow managed to burn up the road between Havre and Seeley Lake with the mad skills of a Nascar driver this summer. Although, Havre is starting to feel more like home, my heart belongs in the mountains. Always.  So, I soothe myself with quick weekend trips to help out and visit family when I can. This 30,000 foot view has given me a whole new appreciation for this operation, and the new guy(s) that are brave enough to accept the challenge of being new to the operation and riding for our brand. It’s not easy walking into a family business like ours. 

As most of you know by now, I grew up working for my aunt and uncle’s outfitting and guest ranch business in beautiful western Montana. Over the years, I had the honor of being graced with several titles: babysitter, shit shoveler, kitchen help, drag guide, aka the toilet paper (the last one a trail ride of 16 to shut gates, pick up dropped hats, reins, and bring up the rear), kids’ camp counselor (there are still a few kids out there recovering from a week of horseback riding and camping with me talking to a counselor of their own!), and backcountry cook. (I use the term cook lightly. Hunger usually won out over taste the first few years of cooking!) 


Eventually, with a little luck, some 7 years of blood, sweat and tears, and a magical 18th birthday, I became a trail ride guide and eventually, barn manager. But never, ever, was I the greenhorn, the new kid on the block, the red-headed, bastard child that showed up in the barnyard with brand spankin’ new gear of all the wrong sorts and a fresh tin of Skoal in my jeans.  I was never on THAT side of the fence in this operation… Thankfully…


The greenhorn is the guy that shows up eager the first morning all smiles with no idea of what’s in store. His new hat will be deformed and made fun of. He will be the brunt of dirty barnyard jokes and shenanigans.  He will inevitably be drug across the barnyard by Spade, the mule, on shoeing day.  He will saddle horses wrong and get bitched at by second year know-it-all wranglers (usually of the female variety).  He will work from sun-up to sun-up, and meet his ass coming and going on the dusty trail.  He will never drive the truck with the horse trailer. EVER.  He will get the smartest dumb horse in the corral for all intent purposes of teaching him the ropes. He will ride drag behind the mules watching packs and eat enough dust to choke a horse.  If he has a lick of sense, he will learn to completely disappear on his day off if he doesn’t want to be recruited for fixing fence, repairing tack or picking rock.  He will dig the latrine at every campsite.  His packs will have to be re-roped and slung correctly. He won’t have much chance at socializing with the opposite sex, unless he has the pleasure of packing Miss Kitty, the ornery mule.  He will be teased mercilessly by the seasoned crew, and make all the same mistakes that those before him did. He will forget to close gates, and get to change flat trailer tires.  He will eventually meet the ground when ol’ paint makes a high dive through the ground hornets.  He will hear the same songs in the breakfast line every morning, and he will eat more damn hotcakes than he ever thought he could. He will feel bruised, beaten, tired, and sweaty.  His hands will be calloused and his butt will drag.  But, at the end of the season, he will look back on it one of two ways… He may think this is the last year he ever cares to do this, to ride another horse or pack another mule or fix another fence. Or, he will know he’s grown in more ways than he could have dreamed. He will have seen more miles of backcountry than most men will ever know about. He will hear the boss man’s stories and poems and feel like part of the family. He will love pancakes of all sorts.  He will welcome hugs from the ladies in the kitchen. He will know each of the mules’ names and their favorite spots to scratch. He will bond with the horse he’s come to know over miles in the saddle, and lay claim to him for the seasons to come.  But most of all, he will walk back into his old life, reflect on the long days of hard work and his time spent at the ranch and be left yearning for more and wishing it were summer all over again.

See ya next year, greenhorn…


Splittin’ the Seams

The woes of a 38 year old shopping in an 18 year old world…
I consider myself a comfortable and functional kind of shopper, and I highly dislike shopping for jeans; not nearly as much as bathing suits, but it definitely ranks right up there with waxing your lip, doing dishes, and paying taxes.  However, I do occasionally have to buy them, so I prefer to do my shopping at stores that sell clothing, tack, dog food, boots, feed, and beer (you know…one-stop shop).  That means the selection tends to lean toward functional. Until lately…
Recently, I was in my favorite store, and a bedazzled pair of ripped-out jeans caught my eye.  I thought, “What on earth possesses a woman to want to draw attention to her posterior with gothic crosses and sparkles?”  But after further perusing, I quickly deduced that this design was the only choice I had.  So, I grabbed a pair and headed to the dressing room, all the while my stomach turning at the sight of the price tag. In the dressing room, I stepped out of my duds, and pulled on the pants. Well, I tried to pull on the pants.  Now, I know that fat tends to rearrange itself from time to time, and I possibly ate ice cream the night before, drank a beer, and had sour cream on my potato, but I refused to blame my gluttony on the fact the pants were snug. I had the right size, right?  Tug. Pull. Squat. Suck it in. Wow, who knew it could be such a workout trying on jeans?  Upon searching for the button and zipper, (it was there somewhere) it came to mind that the backside felt a touch “drafty”. The tag listed these as “low rise”, which clearly meant that everyone else would get to see the moon rise. Not only were they “low rise”, they were tight AND sparkly, and created something resembling a “muffin top” out of my midsection. In fact, the idea of removing these pants quickly brought to mind opening a can of Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits. You know, the loud pop sound you get when you beat the tube against the counter?  Yeah… It wasn’t going to be pretty. Clearly it would require just as much effort to remove these jeans as putting them on did.
Well, I couldn’t get out of them fast enough! I was reminded this is exactly the reason why I don’t like shopping for any sort of clothing in this day and age. I might not be in style, or be gracing the cover of Vogue any time soon, but the last time I checked, my horse didn’t care what I wore to the barn.

Happy trails and happy shopping…May you ladies be far more successful than I was!

Legendary Woman

“I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.” ~ Calamity Jane
With all this recent news of men wanting to be women, and changing their names, and going from adorning the cover of the Wheaties cereal box to Froot Loops, I only felt it necessary to weigh in on this subject from a ranching woman’s perspective.  Now, if you are sensitive to these issues, chances are I’ve already offended ya, so don’t bother to keep a readin’.  I ain’t here to offend you modern-aged, equal rights kind, because I believe in some of those things too, but part of the cowgirl code is standing up for what you believe in, even if others perceive it to be wrong.  So, here goes nothin’…

In all my years growing up as a female in a man’s ranching world, there has been more than one time I wished I had the physical strength of a man.  Moments like swinging Big Bertha, the post pounder, into the rocky ground while building a few miles of fenceline, or clearing trail with a crosscut or axe, shoveling snow drifts, and packing mules all test a she-man physically. Ranch women don’t lead the typical urban female life.  In this lifestyle, men still physically have the upper-hand. I don’t pretend to have the brut strength to take on a mad bull, or pack out an elk on my back, and ride rough stock for the heck of it.

But there is a place where a woman, if she digs deep enough, has toughness to match her male counterpart.  It comes from the grit in her gut. I’m not referring to the grits she ate at breakfast.  I’m referring to her mental toughness.  A man may call it her crazy-as-a-mama-cow side, but when she taps into that strength, she leaves a man in the dust.  When she channels that crazy into productivity, she’s a force to be reckoned with.  She’s the woman behind the scenes, working long hours, matching a man stride for stride.  She’s the cowgirl that found a softer side to that raunchy little bronc that a man wanted to out-stout and muscle his way through.  She cooks the meals and balances the books.  She juggles kids, schedules, in-laws, outlaws, doctors sick horses, cows, kids, and dogs.  She pauses to enjoy the simple morning beauty and refresh her soul, and meets the day head on with a can-do spirit.  She’s earned every line, callous, wrinkle, and gray hair, and she doesn’t need a glamorous magazine cover photo to express how brave she is on a daily basis.  The bravest and most notorious things she accomplishes often go unnoticed or praised, and she likes it that way.  She simply is a legend without the world knowing.

So I tip my hat to the real women out there.  We weren’t created by some strange phenomenon or whimsical, magical surgery.  We earned every bit of our title, woman, and our place in this world is quietly legendary. So, go ahead and be just that.


~Happy Trails