{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~

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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~