{In the Blood}

February 3, 2018, marked the date of the annual Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center’s induction ceremony and fundraiser event held at the Best Western Heritage Inn in Great Falls, Montana. This year’s event was well attended by families across the state, and even some traveling out of state, to celebrate family members and friends induction into our great state’s western legacy and heritage.

Every year that I’ve attended this ceremony, I’m taken aback by the unique stories told by each new inductee, legacy and living. And as I have the chance to observe the room full of on-lookers, my heart swells, and occasionally a tear or two wells, at seeing the genuine pride each one has for their family’s honorable inductee being commemorated. It’s heartwarming. And it’s a good reminder of why I feel so strongly about the advancement of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center.

Like its inductees, this organization isn’t without its own trials and troubles; most recently in search of a place to put down roots to commemorate our western heritage and its growing number of inductees has offered up some road blocks. It’s been a tough year on the group guiding and forging a positive path, sometimes feeling as if there would even be one.

But you know what makes this organization? The spirit of the people like the directors, volunteers, the board members and trustees and membership, all working together on their own time to see this through. To me, that’s the epitome of the cowboy and western spirit. The organization will have a future and a place because of that and these people that care. We may not know what that looks like just yet, but a room full of strong-willed, generational Montanans, cowboys, cowgirls, and Native Americans alike, will see it come to pass.

You see? It’s because deep down, we all have that will, the cowboy spirit, or heritage inside us. The very core of what drove our families to settle and ranch and muster up a life in Montana is inside all of us; that fighting, tenacious spirit. That room full of people celebrating their western ancestors proved just that. It’s in the blood. We’re born to survive, take a beating, and persevere. We’re weathered and tough and stronger because of the adversity we’ve all seen.

Our heritage is our legacy, and it will because of the grandmother that took the time teach her granddaughter to bead or tan a hide. Our heritage is strong because somewhere there’s still an old cowboy showing a young man how to gentle a colt and throw a mean head loop, and read the herd. Our heritage is strong because of bootmakers, leatherworkers, artists, cattlemen, horse trainers, teamsters, cowboys and cowgirls across this great state. Our heritage doesn’t wash out in the water, because it’s always in the blood. It’s in our blood.

We may not know what tomorrow holds, but one thing is certain, we have the makings to keep on keeping on. It’s just what we do as cowboys and cowgirls. There’s a whole other generation out there needing a vivid reminder of where they come from, a reminder of whose blood runs in their veins; someone to teach them how to work the land, ride a horse, hitch a team, plant crops, conservation and ethical land use. They desperately need mentors and teachers to remind them where they come from, remind them of what’s inside, so they know where to go and how to get there; to develop grit along the way. Tip your hat to that, then pull it down right, roll up your sleeves, nod your head, and get ready for the next ride.

Happy Trails~

Heather

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{Free}

It’s the wild ones who will set you free✨

Going through old pictures tonight…This night, this sunset was magic. I sat for the better part of two hours watching it come and leave on the silty bank outcropping overlooking the Milk River. It’s been almost a year since I sat there that night. Wanting something more. Something different for my life. But I remember the peace I allowed myself to feel in this moment. I worked diligently to be mindful and present in the moment. I let the colors of the sky melt into my my mind. I looked at the river below me, slowly finding her channel, spreading out. I remember feeling just like that river wondering if I’d ever see a change. And I did. It just took time.

There’s something so absolutely peaceful about the solitude of the prairie. I’d never felt more alone than I did there. But I also found strength. As I stood on the old iron bridge staring Westward, looking at the years and years of carvings and initials adorning the tattered metal of that bridge, I knew I wasn’t alone. It was evident others had come to this place to undoubtedly reflect on their own journey.

Life has passed by seemingly quick and slow. Just like that river that rolled slowly below me that night. And as I look back on undoubtably one of the biggest years of my life from an emotional standpoint, I’m just simply grateful. And as I look at the colors in this photo, I know God had my hand. Change came. Hurt followed. And moments of doubt. Moments of wanting to retreat back to familiarity. But acceptance of the new came. And so did love. Softer and greater than I could’ve ever hoped for.

The moral of this rambling… just be. Do what you can with what you have while you’re waiting and wondering. You’ll get just where you’re meant to be going. But love these moments anyway.

Happy Trails~

Heather

#optoutside #mtbigskyseries #mtadventure #bestill #ipulledoverforthis #liveyourlife #liveauthentic

{Kids}

To My Young Adult Kids:

#1. I’m sorry for those times that my mom voice even made the neighbor’s kids from 5 miles away brush their teeth and get dressed.

#2. I’m sorry for those times I lied to you when you asked what I was eating and my cheeks were obviously packed like a frickin’ squirrel with chocolate candy from your Halloween bucket, but in all fairness, I gave you life, you should give me the Reese’s without questions.

#3. I’m sorry I made you clean your room when the rest of the house clearly depicted I didn’t otherwise give a crap. Honestly, I never cared how messy your room really was. I just needed to do my job as a mom by pretending your room should be clean. That, and you know, the smell. But damn…the power of authority 😉

#4. I’m the worst passenger you will ever have in your vehicle. What can I say? I’m a control freak, and this isn’t a NASCAR race. It only becomes that when we’re late for something and I’m driving. End of story.

#5. You’re welcome for your stellar taste and wide variety in music. However, I am sorry for never singing lullabies to you. Actually, you may thank me for that later.

#6. Please learn to eat something besides cereal, chicken nuggets and pizza at some point. Just… yeah. Please.

#7. You are the reason I’ve come to love wine. Thank you for that. I never knew the power a bottle of vino held. You’ve sophisticated me.

#8. I still watch you when you sleep. I’m a total creep like that. But you’re beautiful to me when you’re at peace.

#9. Never ever give up on your stupid dreams. Never. Because they aren’t stupid. And neither are you. I happen to think you’re pretty kick ass and can do as such. Just remember to smile pretty, stay humble and be kind when you do.

#10. I love you. I do. You can’t disappoint me. My love comes without limits for you. And there’s absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for you. You know…as long as it’s in the budget. Joking. You are my people. My greatest love. Always. Thank you for what you give to me as your mother every single day.

Now get out there and remember what you’re made of today. Maybe today won’t be your best day, but maybe it will. I will love you regardless. ~Mom

{Her Name}

Heather

Meaning: In American, the meaning of the name Heather is: A flowering evergreen plant that thrives on peaty barren lands as in Scotland.

Numerology Meaning:  People with this name have a deep inner desire to inspire others in a higher cause, and to share their own strongly held views on spiritual matters. People with this name tend to be idealistic, highly imaginative, intuitive, and spiritual. They seek after spiritual truth and often find it. They tend to be visionary and may inspire others.

Social media… {insert ginormous eye roll}; the place people feel entitled to know your shiznit, your business, your relationship status, your kids’ birthdays, be informed of your dinner choices, criticize, laugh at you, know where you’ve been and with whom you’ve been doing it, satisfy their curiosity, speculate, compare themselves, think they know best, want to inject their opinion, spread rumors…  Yeah, it’s happened to all of us that partake in these sites.  If it hasn’t happened to you, if you haven’t walked down the streets of your own hometown, and people instantly comment on your most recent post on Facebook, well then, sweetheart, you ain’t livin’ through the web!  It will happen, and you’re in for a real treat.

That recently happened to me when I {gasp} removed my last name and changed it to my middle instead to read ‘Heather Anne’, and let me just say, nothing quite makes you feel more infamous in a small town than people thinking you must be going through some damn mid-life crisis.  I sort of began to feel like a papered quarter horse mare only coveted for her sire’s name, when I thought I was just your average grade, put-out-to-pasture old brood mare. {Insert laugh} I felt frustrated and angry. Why in the hell do people care that much about what I’ve been up to? When did my name become what people wanted to discuss? If I had only known it would cause such a stir, I would’ve died my hair, posted a nude photo and changed my name to Elizabeth Taylor. Not really. But, seriously…

That being said, it also stirred some thoughts about what really is in a name anyway? What makes me, well, me? Because, guess what? It really isn’t my name. I recently had a conversation with a very loving and amazing family member about just this. Her kindness and insight always blows me away, and at this particular juncture of my life, I so appreciated her thoughts about the subject “what’s in a name”.

In her words, our name gives us our lineage and DNA traits, and sometimes one heck of a reputation to either uphold or break.  From my father and mother comes the DNA, my hair, my skin (not sure whom to thank for that acne just yet) my eyes, my short legs (also, thank you) and my barnyard mouth (not my mother’s). I didn’t know my father growing up, and through a lifetime of events that are more personal in nature, I still don’t yet know what I get from him, because even the last name didn’t stick. Regardless, I am made up of two people, but a whole helluva lot more than two names.  Marriage tagged on another, giving me an identity as a wife and again as a mother, but when that came to an end, I had to find me again. Just me. Not anyone’s name. Not my heritage. Not my father’s. Not my mother’s. Not my husband’s. Mine.

So what does Heather mean? Rest assured, my name is synonymous with words like “crazy”, “strong willed”, “temperamental”, “ornery”, and “funny”.  But the real answer to that question is truly an ongoing journey.  And you know what? It’s a pretty colorful and amazing one, sorta like that mountain flower my mama named me after.  And like it, I’d like to think that I have enough resilience and grace and beauty to continue to grow through those winter storms, unwarranted adversity and healthy change. And hopefully, when that sun comes out and cares to shine a little on me, I can grace the paths of others that I cross everyday.  May my name make my children proud, my parents proud, and most of all, me, proud.  Because in the end, I want my name to not be remembered most on social media, but by those closest to me as something good.

Whether you are man or woman, take the time to remember what’s in your name…

Happy Trails~

Heather

{Real}

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you…Edward Abbey

Inspired by a recent conversation with my sister-in-law, Breana, a beautiful, insightful and real soul. Love you, Sis.

Here we are, another year drawing to a close. It’s funny to look back on a year of your life…As I break my own down, analyze it, ponder it, cry over it, and finally, smile, I can honestly say that all the lofty goals I set out thinking I would accomplish, I didn’t. That book I was going to publish? Archived and still waiting. The money I was going to save? Spent. The weight I was going to lose? Huh uh. The house I was going to buy? Sold to another. The relationship I thought I could fix just one more time? Chapter closed.

And the funny thing is, I’m okay. I’m better than okay. That old cliche about when one door closes, another opens? That’s true. It’s just not the door I thought it would be. It didn’t come with a neon sign hanging above saying “choose me”. It was dark and shrouded with cobwebs. It was scary. And as I go back and reread all the little notes and sayings I’ve written over the past year, some for myself, and some for you, the notes of encouragement, the ones that said be true to you, the ones that said to hell with what others think, to live authentic… I realized I struggled taking my own advice. Maybe those lofty “better me” resolutions were complete horse shit. But I can also see where I put one foot in front of the other; where I took an extended hand that was held out; where I trusted my own heart; where I believed I could, so I did. And you know what? I’m the best me I’ve been in a long time.

So, onward to a new year. And I’m not making resolutions. I’m not. Because I’ll have setbacks and hard times, but I will embrace them. I will learn. But here’s what I will do. I will live in the moment more and not share it with the world. And when I do choose to share, I will make a conscious effort to share the real and authentic parts worth sharing; real photos of everyday real subjects and situations and words that are my own and not quoted, unless relevant. I’ve hit a quiet, reflective point in my life; maybe a more personal level. I want the things I share to reflect that. I want to repercuss love and reality, whether that’s good or not. I have a desire to be nothing but real, raw, and unfiltered and untouched. Just me. And if I’m doing so, I hope it enlightens something in my fellow 19 followers to do the same. Let’s unfake this world we live in. Let’s be real.

I hope 2018 is all you want it to be and more. I hope our trails really are crooked and winding and lonesome and dangerous. That’s the beauty of a real journey. And may you pause to take it all in along the way…

Happy Trails~

Heather

{Goodbye, Old Friend}

For Grandpa and Teton. May they be riding down those trails together again…

It’s been time for a while now… to say goodbye. And I knew you knew that when I walked out in the corral the other day on that cold and frosty morning. The time had come to let go. And I could hear Grandpa saying the same. The goosebumps came, the hair stood up on my neck, and the tears welled on my icy eyelashes while I slipped the halter on and walked you to the trailer…

It’s funny how one, single moment can cause a flood of memories. This moment, this short walk from the corral to the horse trailer with the last horse, Teton, Grandpa C.B. rode and called his own, did just that.

Memories of every single horse I’ve owned in my lifetime flashed through my mind; the good moments and the not so good. I could hear my grandpa’s words from that July day in 1989, as I stared at the carcass of my horse lying on the cold concrete floor in the vet’s office, my 12 year old heart crushed and broken, tears falling and his hand on my shoulder, “Sweetheart, you’re gonna outlive a lotta horses in this old life. You’re gonna have to toughen up.” I looked at him, thinking how cold and cruel and unfeeling he was, but now I know he was right.

And I have toughened up. I’ve had to thanks to my life’s path of working at the ranch with the horses and mules. I have outlived a lot of them; really good ones and some real pains in the ass. And none of them have been easy, but I’ve learned so much during these junctures in life. I just haven’t learned to say goodbye to these old friends very well.

Saying goodbye to Teton was really tough. The last memory I have of Grandpa at the ranch was on this quick little black and white pinto. He still carried himself with that snap of step and ears perked, but his body was failing him at 28. It was time, and it was the right thing to do. So, I smiled through tears closing that trailer door. I knew Grandpa would be waiting at the top of the pass for this good old boy, ready for that last ride through the mountains of time.

I find a little comfort in this thought… And I smile thanking God for all those horses I’ve had the pleasure of crossing trails with over the years, and the ones hopefully still to come. And although, goodbyes never come easy, I know they’re going to come regardless. And, like old cowboys and their horses deserve, I will honor them by carrying on and remembering what it means to be cowgirl tough.

May the good Lord bless and keep you; you and your old friends.

Happy Trails~

{Perfect}

You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. You don’t even have to be amazing. Sometimes you have to give yourself little pep talks like “you’re a bad ass woman” or “you’ve got this”. Maybe you know you’re purpose or maybe you’re paralyzed by the “what ifs” and the “it can’t work”. You don’t need to have every hair in place, dressed just so, or have it all together to share that big, amazing heart and soul; to share your kindness. You just have to show up ready to seize the next opportunity to do as such. Perfect isn’t real. Perfect is boring. You definitely don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. You just have to be you in all your glorious mess and chaos and love💫 .

{Old}

Growing old is a luxury denied many. I think of that often. And as that thought sort of festers, it enlightens an awareness in me. I see silver streaks making their presence known in my hair, lines marching and etching their way across my face. And I see a different light in my reflection. I see a different me. Maybe even a better me.

And as I let the thought of learning to accept aging gracefully settle in my head, a crooked, half smile sort of creeps across my face…

Why fight what is a beautiful thing denied many? Because if the good Lord sees fit to keep me around for a while, I plan on doing this life right. Right by Him, right by others and right by me.

I will take time for long walks with loved ones, play fetch with the dogs, and take in every last sunset. I will sit next to the love of my life and sip wine and hold hands and smile. I will love.

I will make mistakes. And learn and grow and try again. And I will say I’m sorry. I will change. I will make new friends, and I will say goodbye to others. I will let go.

I will listen to music; loud rock, classic country, and soft blues. And I will sing every word in my truck with the window rolled down while the wind tousles my hair.

I will wear wide-brimmed hats, turquoise and silver and old boots. Everywhere. And when people look at me funny, I will just smile without a care knowing they’ve yet to find their own peace. I won’t change who I am or what I’ve become for anyone.

I will work hard with my hands, ‘til they’re old and wrinkled and veiny reflecting a lifetime of stories. I will sweat and break my back and be grateful that my bones hurt at the end of a long day’s work. I will know that I’m still alive.

I will love my family fiercely. I will love my neighbor and lend a helping hand to strangers. I will pray for a better day and a better way.

And I will ride horses for as long as this body will allow. I will wander aimlessly through a pasture full of grazing horses on a starry, summer evening touching soft noses and calling their names.

And at the end, when time draws to a close, I hope that I’ve made a difference somewhere; that maybe by living fully, someone drew an ounce of inspiration and strength to try again.

I will be proud of the woman I am when I am old.

{Alive}

October 4, 2017

3:15 A.M.

I open one eye and look at the alarm clock as it sounds, my body not wanting to leave the warmth and comfort of bed. My brain starts slowly processing the day’s task at hand. Ten hours in the saddle, thirty miles to ride into the wilderness to our hunting camp and back out, the rugged, rocky trail, the mules loaded with hay. Damn. No. I can’t force my body out just yet. Ten more minutes of useless sleep…

4:02 A.M.

The lights are on at the barn. I hear hoof beats running in the dark and my cousin calling “come boys”. It’s time catch up the stock and saddle. Headlamp lit, I find my way through the dark, the cold, frosty dark, searching for familiar faces. My roan horse, Twist, greets me first and nuzzles me for his treat. He knows what’s in store today; my best friend for the last six years. I catch him, lead him to the barn for his grain, and head to halter the mules, Bart, Ranger, Cecil, Matt and Luke make up one string. Otis, Kitty, Spice, Betty, and Delilah, the other. Ten head today is all to be packed. I brush them, give a little extra love to Spice, my favorite girl, taking in the warmth of her winter hair that is now in place against my cold hands, and saddle them up.

8:20 A.M.

I turn behind me to watch the packs settle in, listening to the sound of the hooves beat down the frozen turf, they crunch as they connect with ice and rock. I hear the mules breathing and noses blowing as they start to set a steady pace knowing the climb that lies ahead. I face forward in my saddle, look out over my roan’s ears and do the same. I give a glance overhead and pray for safe travels and an open mind and gracious heart. I just ride.

10:42 A.M.

My teeth are chattering. I’m shivering violently as my body aches for some shred of the sun’s evidence on the snow covered northeast draw. I can see it above me, thawing the peak as a few orange rays slowly trickle their way down from the opposing side. I remove my gloves from frigid fingers and reach in under my horse’s mane to rob some heat. It’s the coldest morning I can remember riding. I look one last time at the sun as the trail makes its crossing through the draw and finally up the western, warm slope. I look back at the mules again, watching the rhythmic bob of the hay loads riding down the trail on sturdy backs, giant ears working to and fro and perking gently as we cross the narrow, slick bridge. I talk to them. “Easy boys. That a girl, Spice.” And as we meander our way up through the exposed red shale and mudstone, the sun finally greets us with its ever-loving presence. I close my eyes, breathe deeply inhaling the musty smell of wet tag alder and aspen leaves, the aroma of pine mixed with earthy mud, the scent of horse and mule sweat. I smile. There’s nothing like it. You can’t jar this scent or buy it in a can. I open my eyes and let the sun warm me until the shivering stops.

12:02 PM

We’ve crested the pass. I look to my right to see the familiar glacial cirques and craggy rock faces of the Swan Range. In the remains of the last snowfall, I see fresh grizzly tracks reminding me my horse, mules and I are not the only travelers on this corridor. I follow the tracks for a mile or so, watching them stop and feed and smell, no doubt readying itself for the onset of winter’s hibernation, the Hyperphagia stage. I realize how much I’ve come to love this pass. What once was an acquaintance has become an affair. I’ve come to know every detail, slope, slide, and nuance of this trail. The sun continues to thaw the cold, and melt the smattering of snow on the nearby bear grass clumps. High country. God’s country. Big Sky country. We descend down out of the alpine basins, watching the river drainage stretch and wind below. One and half more hours to camp… Eleven miles down, nineteen more to go.

There have been some long days accumulated lately. There have been dark nights. There has been frustration and plenty of cussing, like the air out both of your lungs type of cussing. There has been laughter and jokes told and teasing and a steep learning curve packing mules this fall. My mettle has been tested. Tears have fallen. But not one, single regret. Because I found a piece of me in all of this, a bit of strength in this solitude and perseverance. I found memories and heard my grandpa’s voice speaking to me, and the words of his Outfitter’s Prayer ring in my head with a resounding impact. It’s with a longing hope, I can reflect back at 90 years old, Lord willing, and know I really lived, that I took in every moment and let it seep into every fiber of my heart, and etch a strong memory, one that makes me momentarily feel alive again.

Happy Trails,

Heather

Trail Time

Trail Time. I’ve logged some serious miles on my saddle this summer. And I’ve had the pleasure of riding some fine horseflesh, and with each mile looking out between those ears, I soak up the intrinsic value of time spent doing exactly what I love; riding my horse through the wilderness and the backcountry, over new trails and old.  

I’m always amazed at the newness of this country I’ve ridden through my entire life. Every turn reveals a slight change and offers up a new perspective physically, as well as emotionally. I love this place, and I really love how it unselfishly continues to nurture the human soul year after year. Wilderness. To quote a fellow wilderness traveler and friend,  “The heart of the wilderness is within the wilderness of your heart. Ride there.” 


Ride there. Trail time opens the floodgates to a plethora of thoughts. Life passes by at 3 mph and it feels like a 100 years sometimes. I ponder what life has bestowed on me in a short span of 40. Love. Jobs. Horses. People. Favorite memories. Hurt. Pain. Happiness. Music lyrics. Poems. Dust covers and shrouds each passing memory and thought as my horse tracks along. I watch and wonder what lies ahead. Sometimes I’m sure. Sometimes I’m not.

I ride, trying to make sense of it all. To the right of the trail, I watch the river ripple along, and I allow myself to get a little lost in the moment. The water flows gently, never forcing her way, never pushing, just rolling rhythmically. I think silently about all the changes that have made their way into my life, not so different from the way the water runs gently nearby. Maybe I’ve been a little lost here and there, but the beauty has always been in the unsureness of how I’d find myself and my purpose in life. How every little thing, moment, nuance, and experience were just small specks adding to something greater. And I realize in watching the river flow over the colorful freestone bottom, that it will be just a matter of time before it will all make sense… and in this particular moment, I don’t need to understand a darn thing; I don’t have to have it all figured out. I just need to be.


So, I turn back in the saddle, looking onward, and let life unfold between those two ears, and I open my heart to all of life’s possibilities. I let go. I smile. I have faith. And I have hope. I remember what was and think about what will be. I just breathe. 

That’s trail time.

May your trails be happy ones.

~Heather