Walking Alone

I have been on my own most of my adult life. I’m comfortable with it. I like my own company and don’t ever really feel alone.

Even when I’m walking by myself someone seems to be there with me. I am constantly having conversations in my mind with someone. “What kind of bird is that singing? What am I going to wear to the movies tonight? I wonder if Monty will want to go? I have to go to the dentist tomorrow.”

What is this never feeling alone thing I’ve got going on? Does it stem from my childhood and my imaginary friend, Michael who was always with me?

“Who are you talking too, Stacy?” My mother might ask, as she was watching me from inside the kitchen screen door.

“It’s just Michael,” I would reply, thinking I was about to be in trouble from the tone of her voice. I would have been somewhere between seven and ten years old.

“Oh him again,” my mother would say with a shrug as she turned and busied herself in the kitchen.

Did my mother know and see Michael as I did? She made me feel like it was okay to have a Michael. Had she heard me talking to him before? Had she decided it was healthy for me to have an imaginary friend?

Do I have my horoscope to thank for never being alone? My horoscope sign is Gemini. Does that mean I have a twin trailing along with me through life? A little troll person helping me to make the right choices? If so, he screwed up a few times.

Is it because I feel so close to nature? Is that why I never feel alone? The trees, the rivers, the snow all have a life of their own. I can feel their strength. The snow-packed dirt road has a voice of its own, too. I hear it as I trudge on top of the snow during my five-mile morning loop. Each day my footsteps have a different sound. I’m not alone.

My horses, cats and new puppy are my people. The cats live outside, but they sit on my stacks of firewood looking in the window as I write. They are out there now, sunning themselves.

“Hi, Ellie. Hi Tom and Jerilee. Where’s Fluffy? Did your water freeze already? Where is Olive?”

Aggie, the seven-month-old Border Collie puppy is sleeping in the chair next to me. I know she’ll be ready for an outside adventure when she wakes.

When I walk out my front door, the horses whinny to me hoping for an apple, carrot or slice of hay. I’m not alone.

So if someone sees me talking to myself as I’m walking down the road, will they think, “ That crazy old woman must be so lonely she’s talking to herself!” Or will they think, “She must be talking to the dog?”

I don’t care what they think. Every small town needs something to talk about. I’ll take a hit for the gossip patrol!

If anyone ever does ask, I’ll just say, “ I’m not alone.”

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Remembering​ Letters

When I was 18 years old I moved from the Jersey shore to Stowe, Vermont.  The year was 1975.  There were no computers or cell phones in my life. Landlines were attached to walls or they sat on end tables. Businesses, public buildings, train stations and airports all had payphones.  I miss those days. I’m thank-full that I got to live during those times. It was fun to talk on the phone then.  Now it feels like an inconvenience.

I would call my mother when I was finished with work in the evenings to tell her about my new life in the Green Mountains. My mother was an alcoholic so it was hard to catch her when she wasn’t drinking or already drunk. On evenings that she managed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t remember any of the conversations we had on my previous phone calls from the Green Mountains.

So, I tried calling in the mornings if I had a break. But that was her sleeping time. I tried calling in the afternoons but that is when she went to work.

So I started to write her letters.

The letters allowed me to tell her about my new life and how pretty the Vermont landscape was. I told her about horseback riding through the woods and how fun it was to cross the rivers on a horse. I told her about my most recent boyfriend or the new girlfriends I was hanging out with. In some letters, I told tell her what I needed in case she wanted to send me something. I told her about the cold. “Some days the hairs inside my nose would freeze and cars can’t start because their batteries are so cold,” I told her how I had learned how to dress to stay warm and my new appreciation for wool.

My mother died in 1990. All of her possessions were left at my cousin, Therese’s house when she went in the nursing home. I remember sitting in a big closet, “What were we going to do with all her shoes?”  I found a shoebox full of all the letters I had written to her.  She had saved them all, even the envelopes. The dates and the towns they were mailed from were all there. While reading through my past lives, I realized I never told her about the hard times. Just the good stuff was there. I guess I didn’t want to give her more reasons to drink.

My daughter will never find a shoebox full of letters. Darcie never writes letters. I suppose I could print out emails and put them in a shoebox somewhere but Darcie hardly emails me anymore. Phone calls are almost obsolete. I do get texts, facebook updates, and snap-chats. The latest is a Marco Polo app where we can send videos to each other. I’ve been tempted to get rid of my cell phone. I could have a landline for half the cost, but I’m afraid I would never hear from Darcie.

I recently found my old cell phone. It gave me an idea. I put it in a shoebox with its charger. From now on I’ll save all my old phones so she can look at our texts and pictures when I’m gone.

The Competition

When my daughter was six years old she wanted to bring her pony to a horse show. One of Darcie’s friends was going and she wanted to try it, too.  Her friend’s mother convinced me it would be fun.  “We can compete in the halter class to get a feel for it,” she said. I had been riding since I was ten, but had never competed in a horse show.  We were instructed on what to wear and how to sign up. After loading Little Dipper, the Connemara/ Shetland grey pony with the big brown eyes into my two-horse trailer we headed to the county fairgrounds.

Horses of all sizes and colors were tied to horse trailers. The kids were dressed in their English and Western outfits including little black velvet helmets and cowboy hats. Some kids were toting chaps, some with crops depending on their discipline. The Moms were busy carrying water buckets, brushing horses, feeding hay, shoveling manure out of the trailers and pinning their child’s number on the back of their shirts or riding jackets.

I stepped out of the truck looking at the chaos and immediately felt the tension in the air. “Soccer Moms,” I thought to myself. “ Who is really competing here?”

Darcie went through the routine of the halter class. Leading little Dipper and smiling at the crowd like a pro. After she finished her routine, I went out in the arena to stand with her as instructed. The Judge approached with his clipboard.  He complimented Darcie on her ability to lead Dipper in circles, turn right, turn left, back up and stand quietly.

Darcie looked up at him smiling. “Hear that Dipper?” She said petting her pony,  “You did good!”

“However, you need to trim his whiskers and his fetlocks. Do you have a pair of trimmers?” Darcie looked at me.

“ No, we don’t,” I said disgustedly, trying not to be rude.

After telling me of different brands, costs, and quality of trimmers. He turned his focus back to Darcie. “Do you have any questions?”

My little cowgirl stood there looking at Dipper, chewing on the inside of her cheek the way she does when she’s nervous or anxious. “Dipper needs his whiskers to feel for bad things in the grass that he might eat by mistake. His ankles have fur to stop the mud and rain from getting to his skin. I don’t want to trim him.”

The judge smiled. “That is true,” he said. “ But in horse shows we want to keep the horses polished.” He handed her a green ribbon and walked off to the next competitor.

On our way home, we discussed how important it would be to win a blue ribbon. We came to the conclusion that a blue ribbon wasn’t in Little Dipper’s best interest. She was happy for her friend Malory to win a blue ribbon but felt sorry for Malory’s pony having to get polished up for the show.

Billy Bowman

I had moved to Stowe, Vermont from the Jersey Shore in the fall of 1975. Having just graduated from High School three months earlier I fled to the Green Mountains of Vermont with all the reasons an eighteen-year-old has to leave her hometown.

The town of Stowe boasted its title of “The Ski Capital of The East.”  There was and still is a cute village with retail shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and two gas stations.  The Mountain Road follows the West Branch of the Little River as it winds its way up to Spruce Peak and Mt Mansfield.  Chair lifts and gondolas carry tourists, ski bums and locals higher up to ski down the steep terrain.

The town was full of young people like me working at the many resorts, restaurants, and motels that lined the Mountain Road. At night we would descend on one of the two-bar/ dance halls that were housed in converted old barns. The Baggy Knees and Rusty Nail were the hubs of social life.

But it was the mountains that drew me to Vermont. The cold, clean rivers and streams, forests of spruce, balsam and pine and the smell of the rich loamy soil made my senses smile! The landscape was scattered with old and new barns, dairy cows and horses. It was the country life that I wanted. I wanted to be a county/ mountain girl. Maybe someday I would have a farm with animals, gardens, barns, and corrals.  Maybe get married and live happily ever after.

Sue and Neil Anderson hired me to waitress during the ski season in their small twenty-one-bed ski lodge.  They served breakfast and dinner to the guests.  I would have days off to ski with my free ski pass. They lived at the lodge with their two children. The children were both in elementary school, a boy and a girl. They were nice kids. Once the season started there would also be a dishwasher and housekeeper hired. I would share a room with the housekeeper to be.  The Andersons also offered me room and board during the fall months to help clean and get ready for the winter season that usually started around Thanksgiving.

I also found a job at Top Notch Resort in the riding stables for the months of September and October giving trail rides to wealthy tourists.   Top Notch Resort was the best of the best in Stowe. The horse barn, stables, and tack were immaculate. I had enough horse experience from working in New Jersey that they hired me on the spot. They had just lost two of their four employees so the timing was perfect.  The work was hard and the days were long and I loved it. I worked with the Andersons on my days off.

Meeting Monty

Zack and I were sitting on the porch of the Bar-Diamond Ranch with a cold bottle of Budweiser and our feet stretched out over the railing. It was the end of our last day of the season.  My black felt cowgirl hat was pulled down over my far head, enough to keep the setting sun from scorching my eyes. I had discovered a new meaning of filth, sweat, and exhaustion.  My hands were swollen and bore new calluses. My lower back was burning on fire from the old injuries of my bookstore days in Vermont. I blamed Harry Potter and all those boxes of hardcover books!

We had been working for two months setting up hunting camps, packing in hunters eager to kill an elk, packing them and the elk they shot out and then breaking down the camps to pack out before winter moved in on the West Elk Wilderness Area.  All this packing was done with mules and horses. It’s called Outfitting! We were in the Gunninson National Forest near Somerset, Colorado. There are one million, seven hundred thousand acres in the Gunninson National Forest with four designated Wilderness Areas within it. We rode and worked in the West Elks Wilderness Area.

Zack was in his early forties and an amazing horseman. I was in my late fifties, a woman and struggled to keep up with him.  He would laugh at my inexperience and lack of strength. I would laugh along with him because what else could I do? He taught me how to pack the mules and horses and how to lead a string of two to six animals. Most of all he kept me safe. His wife, Julie and their six-year-old daughter, Lacie would sometimes ride with us. Julie was the daughter of Delis and Linda Ferrier who we worked for. They all made me feel like part of their family.

“Whats ya doing tomorrow?” Zack asked.

“ I’m going to sleep in. In fact, I may sleep all day. Right now, I think I could sleep for a week.”

“ Oh, I was going to ask if you wanted to ride.”

“ What are you crazy?”

“I don’t mean here! We’re moving cows off the mountain.”

As the words sunk into my exhausted pea-brain, my legs hit the wooden planks of the porch, almost spilling my beer, I turned towards him, looking him in the eye. “Really? Oh my God, could I really go with you?”

“ Well yeah, I wouldn’t have asked you if you couldn’t go.”

“ I would love too! I don’t know anything about moving cows!”

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, we both started laughing!

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “But we can always use another rider and you can ride well enough. I’ll let you know what to do.”

We made a plan on where and when to meet as I tried to control my excitement! I don’t know where the exhaustion went but it was gone!

“I gotta go. I have to get rested up and ready for tomorrow.” I headed down to the corrals where the horses and my trailer were.

“Don’t you want another beer? Zack yelled behind me. “Linda and Delis will be here soon with supper and our pay.”

“ I’m too excited I won’t be able to sit still. Tell them I’ll catch up with them. Thanks, Zack, I’ll see you tomorrow!”

I caught Willow, my black and white paint and loaded her in my trailer.  “Willow, you are going to be a cow pony tomorrow!” I knew she would do good because I had bought her from Zack and Julie the year before. Zack had trained her on cows.

 

I met Zack at the cutting corrals the next morning. There were horse trailers, pick up trucks and cattle trucks backed up to the loading chutes. The riders had already left. We headed up the mountain, riding through stands of cottonwoods and oak brush. We rode through open meadows and on National Forest roads. We were in the Gunninson National forest on the opposite side of the West Elk Mountains where we had been Outfitting for Delis and Linda. Once again, I felt like I was in a western movie.  I knew John Wayne would come riding over the next hill, packing his six-shooter and 30-30 any minute!

We stopped to eat our lunch and let the horses graze. We hadn’t seen any riders or cows yet. Zack explained that there were twelve different ranchers with permits to graze their cows on the National Forest in this area. They pooled together and hired pool riders to move the cows during the summer from pasture to pasture. The pool riders kept an eye on any sicknesses and doctored the cows or calves accordingly. In dry years they had to make sure the cows had water.  Some years the springs would dry up. Ninety percent of the cows had to be off the forestland by October 15th. The permit holders all helped when time allowed from other ranch duties. This was the big fall round-up I heard about in the movies!

Zack was a talker with a quick wit and an easy smile. He was tall with dark hair and handsome. He was the real deal, sporting cowboy hat, spurs, chinks and a wild rag (scarf) around his neck to stop the chill of the wind. He and Julie had cows on this permit along with his parents who had been ranching all their lives.  Zack had lots of stories and I was constantly drilling him about cows and horses.

“I’d like to meet someone like you that was about 30 years older,” I said as we were mounting our horses after lunch.

“Thirty years? How old do you think I am? That would make him over seventy. You want a guy that old?” Zack had his mischievous grin going on. I could tell he was going to have fun with this.

“Okay, twenty years older then.”

“Well good luck with that. The only guys around here are red-necks, ranchers and druggies.”

“Okay, I’ll take a tall, handsome, rich rancher who will let me ride and work with him. I don’t want to spend my days in the kitchen. I want to be out here!” We both had a good laugh!

“Well, first of all, there are no rich ranchers and if there are it’s because they made their money somewhere else and they ranch to lose it! The thought of you in the kitchen with an apron on cracks me up!”

“ How about a poor, handsome rancher who is good with horses?”

“You’re getting closer but I still don’t know any. But then again I haven’t been looking.”

“Just keep an eye out for me.”

Zack couldn’t stop grinning and shaking his head. “You’re dreaming!”

I smiled and said, “Everything starts with a dream!”

 

We rode through a grove of Aspens, weaving our way around and over the blowdowns, coming out on another Forest Service road. Zack was concerned that we hadn’t found any cows yet. “We’ll cross this road and head down to a water tank to see if there are any fresh cow tracks.”

After crossing the road and traveling down a steep bank we found a dead calf. Zack didn’t think it had been dead very long because there were no signs of coyotes or a bear eating it. He knew the brand on the calf and whom it belonged too.

“Why do you suppose it died?” I asked.

“Don’t know,” was all I got for an answer.

There were no fresh tracks by the water so we headed back down towards the cutting corrals. It wasn’t long after that we ran into a group of riders and maybe twenty cows with calves in a big meadow. The riders were all over the place, hooting, hollering and whistling to move the cows down a narrow path to the corrals. There were dogs running, barking and nipping at the cows heals. Every now and then a new rider would appear loping out of the woods with a lone cow and calf, moving them toward the group.

Zack instructed me to stay in the back. “Don’t move them too fast. They’re moving at a good pace and they know where they’re going. Ruth is in the back there. Stay with her. I’m going up ahead.  I’ll see you at the corrals. Before I could say okay, Zak was on a dead run, leaving a wide girth around the cows until I lost sight of him in the front.

I trotted up to who I thought was Ruth. I introduced myself and told her I was riding with Zack. Ruth and her husband, Larry were the pool riders. She was around my age and a real cowgirl! We hit it off right away. We had a nice visit and a leisurely ride back to the corrals.

When I got to the corrals there was nothing for me to do so I tied Willow to my trailer and went to watch the cowboys cut out the different rancher’s cows into their own designated pens. Some of the ranchers would be hauling the cows home that day and others would be moving them down the road to pastures where they would drive them home the next day. Julie and Lacie were there with their truck and trailer waiting to haul their cows home.

Julie was on her phone standing next to her truck that was parked close to the corrals. Lacie was in the back of the pick up playing with a toy horse with a long mane and tail. She had a comb running through the toy’s mane. I climbed in the back of the pick up with Lacie.

“Wow, you have a good view up here.”

“Yup, I seen it all before,” she said in her authoritative six-year-old voice. Julie overheard Lacie, rolling her eyes and smiling as she talked on her phone.

“I bet you have, “ I laughed.

“This is a good spot for me to take pictures and videos of them cutting out the cows and calves.  Maybe I can get some good ones of your Dad.”

Lacie looked for Zack in the corrals, “Dad on that yellow horse over there.”

“Oh yeah, I see him.” I wanted to give Lacie the power of finding her Dad.

It wasn’t long before the battery died on my phone. Giving in to no-more pictures, I turned to the back of the truck leaning against the cab. I noticed there were two guys untying their horses from a nearby trailer.  They stood out to me because they had baseball caps on not cowboy hats. As they mounted their horses I could tell the first guy had spent a lot of hours in the saddle. As he mounted, his long leg gracefully draped over his horse’s back. He then leaned forward cueing his horse to move into a walk. He was headed towards Julie’s truck. He came around the back to the passenger side where I was standing in the bed.

“If you want to look important, you can come stand over there on your horse with us.” He was grinning.

I wasn’t sure how to take what he had said to me. But he was grinning so it had to have been a joke of some kind.

“ I wouldn’t want to show you up, “I said smiling.

He was riding off still grinning before I was finished talking!

Julie came around the front of the truck obviously aware of the conversation and said, “ He wants you to ride with him!”

“What? Is that what that was?”

“Yes, go get your horse!”

I saw there were other riders gathered where the Mystery Man had pointed too. I hopped out of the truck, half running to my trailer and Willow. I managed to get Willow’s bridal on, my chinks on and mounted before I was needed to do anything!

I trotted over to Mystery Man and his sidekick. They were both riding Chestnuts. Were these the rednecks that Zack talked about? Where was Zack when I needed him?

Mystery Man and sidekick’s horses were quietly eating grass. I started to pick up that the sidekick wasn’t the same quality rider, as Mystery Man. The sidekick seemed nervous.

Willow would not stand still and relax. I had only had her for a year and we were still figuring each other out. I didn’t completely trust her and she didn’t me. She was getting anxious will all the activity around her.

“ She’s kind of wormy,” Mystery Man says to me.

“Yeah, “ is all I could say.

“ You seem okay with it though.”

“Yeah.” I was embarrassed that my horse would not stand still.

Mystery Man explained to me that the riders were going to let a bunch of cows out of the corrals and it was our job to stop them from going down the road. We want them to head off to the right where they will be driven to another pasture.

“Will we be driving them to the pasture?” I asked.

“ No, there will be plenty of other riders to do that. They’re going to let mine and Jay’s cows out next. I need you and Mike to help me move them down this road to a different pasture.”

I looked over to sidekick, Mike and he waved. “ Hi, I’m Mike.”

“Hi Mike, I’m Stacy.”

I looked back towards Mystery Man hoping for an introduction but he was looking at the corrals. “Here they come, get ready,” he said to Mike and me.

The cows came out of the corrals at a trot. They were pretty worked up after being driven around in the corrals. Some were mooing as they searched for their calves in the chaos. There was dust everywhere! It became really loud and western but the cows headed in the right direction with the other riders falling in behind them.

Mystery Man said, “Okay we’re next. We want to keep them in the road. They are going to want to go in the oak brush. It’s real thick in places so be careful.”

The next group came out of the corrals on a run! Some cows heading to the right of the road into the oak brush! Mystery Man hollers, “ Mike stay behind them! You come with me!”

Mystery man takes off at a fast trot with me right behind him. As we flew past Mike, his horse started twirling in circles. His horse wanted to go with us and Mike looked terrified as he tried to get him under control. I felt bad for him but knew I needed to keep up with the cows to turn them out of the brush!

There were a group of cows between the road and me so I bore to the left to push them into the road.

“ Don’t go in there it’s too thick! Stay up here, it’s open all the way down to the pasture! There is a fence to your right that will help you. I’m going ahead to make sure they go in the gate!” Mystery Man takes off at a fast lope and leaves me alone. I knew the road was the one that I had driven in on that morning but I still had no idea how far this pasture was. I caught sight of the fence to my right and the cows were still to my left. I hoped I was doing what I was supposed to be doing!

Finally, I saw Mystery Man standing in the road on his horse, blocking the cows from going down the road farther. He was tall and lean looking like Clint Eastwood on his horse.  The cows were walking through the gate to the grass inside. He was counting them as they walked through the gate, pointing to each cow as it passed him with his crooked index finger.

The oak brush thinned out and I made way down to the road. Mike was coming up behind me. There was a horse trailer parked on the side of the road headed back up to the corrals. A big guy got out with a big grin and a deep voice, “That oak brush didn’t get you did it?”

I assumed he was talking to me. “ No, I ran into a few braches but nothing serious.”

“Well at least you didn’t lose your hat!” he said with a big laugh. He had the kind of laugh that was contagious.

Mike caught up and said, “Well hello Mr. Cunningham!”

“Hi Mike, I thought I’d give you guys a ride back up to the corrals and your trailers.”

“Mr. Cunningham?” I thought to myself. That’s Zack’s last name. This must be his Dad.

Mystery Man closed the gate as the last cow walked into the pasture and rode up to the trailer. “Well Jay, I started out just counting mine but got some of yours, so my count ain’t that great!”

Mr. Cunninham laughed and said, “Oh well we can worry about that tomorrow. Did we pick up any others besides ours that you saw?”

“I may have seen one of Palmers’ but I can’t be sure,” says Mystery Man as he gets off his horse.

I guess we’re putting the horses in the trailer and I’m wondering how Willow is going to do with this. Mystery Man wraps his reins around his horse’s neck and ties them in a loose knot so I do the same thing, acting like I know what I’m doing. He leads his horse to the back of the trailer as Mr. Cunningham opens the trailer door. His horse jumps in and goes to the front of the trailer. I lead Willow up next hoping she doesn’t make a scene by backing up and not jumping in. Willow jumps in like a pro! At this point, Mike is fumbling with his reigns and his horse balks a little and then jumps in.

Mike and I get in the back seat of the truck. Mystery man is in the passenger seat. I say to Mr. Cunninham, “Are you Zack’s dad?”

“Yes I am,” he replies.

“I love working with Zack. He’s so capable and such a gentleman. I really feel like he looks after me.”

“Well he should, that’s how he was brought up!” He says ending with a big laugh.

I look at Mystery Man. “Who are you?”

“I’m Monty, Monty Todd,” Mystery Man declares!

“Hi, I’m Stacy.”

“Yeah, I know. Zack told me about you.”

 

We get to the corrals, unload the horses and I started to un-tack Willow at my trailer. Monty came over to me.

“Well, thanks for your help. I hope you had fun.”

“I did. Thanks for letting me tag along.”

“Oh sure, we can always use an extra rider this time of year. You have a nice truck and trailer. Do you ever haul horses for people?”

“ I did in Vermont. I’m not sure what I would charge here.”

“Well, I have to get two horses down to Cortez. I thought I’d give someone a hundred bucks and another hundred for fuel.”

“I guess I could do it for that,” I said.

“Let me get out my red book so I can get your phone number.” He reached into his front pocket. “I don’t have a little black book, just a red one,” he said with a smile. I smiled back and gave him my number. He didn’t seem so mysterious now that he was talking to me.

“I’ll let you know what I’m doing after I figure it out,” he said with a giggle.

“Okay, I’ll talk to you then.”

I said my good-byes to Julie, Zack, Lacie and Jay Cunninham. I drove home thinking about how fun the day was and most of all about Monty Todd. I never did move the horses for him but he did call a few days later. He said he ended up moving the horses with his daughter. He asked if I wanted to ride with him back on Black Mesa to look for more cows and maybe do some elk hunting. I rode with him three or four times before I thought he just might like me.

 

That was over two years ago and I feel just as twitterpated as I did the second time I rode with Monty. He’s a lot like Zack. He’s a tall, handsome, rancher, cowboy dude. Everything starts with a dream! Oh yeah, and he’s not rich!

The Big Eight

 

It was December of 2012. I was standing in the driveway of what I didn’t know at the time, was going to be my eight acres of paradise in Crawford, CO.

The clouds were heavy and the ground was soaked with moisture from the pervious night’s rain. Cottonwood leaves from the stand at the end of the driveway littered the ground, giving the air an earthy aroma. The North end of the rectangular eight acres was open pasture. The South end consisted of a grove of Cedar trees. In the center of the property where I stood was a dilapidated mobile home. The area around the mobile home was scattered with the last tenant’s treasures.  I didn’t dare get too close to the structure, thinking a wild animal may leap out of one of the missing windows or doors.  Pieces and parts of rusty barb wire fences strung out in different directions, giving no clue to the property’s boundaries.

A small stream ran East and West along the back of the mobile home. The West Elk Mountains were to the East. They felt close enough to touch. I found a cast iron wellhead cover.

As I wandered through the Cedars, a small herd of mule deer jumped from their beds and ran off. “ Don’t go,” I called to them. “ I won’t be here long.” I hated disturbing them. This was their home. Then I found a horse skeleton that added to my feelings of trespassing. The bones were scattered and the skull gave me the creeps.

While leaning against my rental car, I could vision the property being cleaned up, free of the mobile home, junk and new fences replacing the old.  I hoped the summer pasture would provide enough grass for my horses.

I was on the property for a total of forty-five minutes. While driving back to Boulder, where my daughter lived, I called the real estate agent and put an offer on the eight acres. I had to fly back to Vermont the next day.

The following summer I arrived in Crawford with my two horses and camping gear. I wasn’t sure if I was going to spend the summers or move to Colorado for good. I enjoyed cleaning up the property and I loved the lack of responsibilities other than my basic needs of camping and tending to my horses.  My new life was off to a good start.

I learned the stream was actually an irrigation ditch and what I thought was a wellhead was a water tap.  The pasture turned out to be a hay field and produced enough hay for the horses. I learned that fences were made to fence out, not fence in as it is in the East.  After realizing this was home, a small house was built with a porch to enjoy the views.

Since being here I have chased and caught a few more dreams; working on a dude ranch as Head Wrangler, working with an outfitter and meeting new friends who love and live the lifestyle that I am now part of.

And Monty is in my life. The kindest, gentlest man I have ever known who values family, friends and a ranching lifestyle.

If heaven isn’t in Crawford, I don’t want to go.

Finding The Big 8

There I was in Crawford, CO looking at an eight-acre piece of land in December of 2012.  I had spent the last 38 years of my life in Vermont. The fifteen before that on the Jersey Shore and my first three years of life in a Northern Suburb of Chicago.  I had wanted to move out west and specifically Colorado ever since watching Westerns on TV as a child. While my girl friends were changing their Barbie Doll outfits, I was playing with my cowboy action figure, Johnny Quest and his trusty horse. I had little plastic corral panels to build for Johnny’s horses and others I had acquired.  My friends were in their girly bedrooms on shag carpets driving Ken and Barbie around in his sports car while Johnny and I were under the shrubs building corrals and fighting Indians off wagon trains.  John Wayne, My friend Flicca, Gunsmoke, The Riflemen, Wagon Train, Bonanza and others were the characters I grew up with. I longed to ride horses on cattle drives, rope calves, wear spurs and chinks, sleep under the stars and shoot quarters out of the air with my six-shooter.

My dream of living in the west took its first turn in 1992. My former husband and I and our six-year-old daughter were vacationing on a dude ranch on the western slope of Colorado. It was before the internet came into our daily lives. I found the ranch we stayed on in a Ranch Vacations field book. After our 2-3 night stay, I wanted to move to Crawford, Co immediately! I wanted to at least buy a piece of land or an old mobile home or cabin or something, anything! Steve didn’t want anything to do with any of it. It was too far away from Vermont. DREAM CRASHER!

That may have been the beginning of the end for Steve and me. We prospered well in the business we had but by the time Darcie was ten, our marriage had declined at a fast rate. We divorced and I contemplated moving to Colorado but didn’t want to take Darcie that far from her father, family, and friends. I turned forty, got divorced and enrolled in community college all on the same day.

So Darcie grew up, went to college in Virginia, came home, went to massage therapy school and announced that she was moving to Boulder Co. I was at the end of a fourteen year, on again off again relationship. She moved to Boulder. I started to look for land in Crawford. She was twenty-four. I was Fifty-five.

The following posts will include the adventures of a fifty-five-year-old woman following her wild west dreams!

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