Hometown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaving a Legacy

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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.

Legacy Inductees

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”.

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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…

Happy Trails~