Wednesday, March 24, 2010


There is a poem called "When Cowboys No Longer Ride" that is about the old cowboys in the nursing home. Those who rode boldly and skillfully chased the steers now sit in a quiet room with curling Charles Russell calendars on the wall. I first heard it at a Cowboy Poetry gathering, and the tears flowed as I heard the old cowboy recite the poem about ageing and transitions.

A year ago, my good trail buddy, Bets, and I were riding Sweet Pea and Bart up the trails of Turtle Mountain, and remarking of the beauty of the cactus in their spring blooms. Who would have guessed that a year later Sweet Pea would have been put down due to a deteriorating leg problem, and that Bart would have been sold and heading to Montana. And no one would have thought that both Bets and I would be hanging up our spurs the same month.

Since getting her new mare, Bets has been in the ER three times. Lena stepped on Bet's foot, jumped going under a bridge causing Bets to hit her head, and last week, as Bets stepped down after a ride, she fell and hit her head. Yet another trip to the ER left her with a diagnosis of a concussion and severely strained neck. This feisty woman who reminds me so much of Katherine Hepburn, had to accept the conclusion that her riding career was over.

So as the desert displays her spring glory of greening grass, bluebells, golden poppies, and orange splashes, two riders will not be enjoying the show. My horse and trailer have been sold, and Bets has an ad in the paper this week for Lena. We have both shed many tears, and will do so for some time, I'm afraid. All my possessions that were in my trailer are spread out in my car port for a garage sale this weekend. So many, many wonderful memories. As the neighbors walk by and inquire as to why I am selling, I find myself tearing up again.

And so Bets and I are in a transition. Our time with our horses has been magical, but at some point, all cowgirls have to hang up their spurs. It is never an easy decision. I see a woman in a western hat out for her walk every day, and when I once asked her if she missed riding she said "Everyday".

It is hard to think of when "cowboys no longer ride".....and just as painful to think of the cowgirls who's riding careers have come to an end. So we must once again "Cowgirl Up", and face a new life with new possibilities. Transitions....when cowgirls no longer ride.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Los Algodones

Enjoyed a fun week in Yuma and Los Algodones, Mexico. It is said that there are more Canadians in this border town than Mexicans during the day. This is due to the number of Arizonans and Californians who go for the cheap dental and eye care. I had my doubts, but the town was very clean and friendly, and the dental and eye clinics were immaculate and very modern. The streets are lined with clinics, and you can just walk into a clinic and get new teeth, crowns or eye glasses the same day. And in between appointments, you can wander through the vendor booths or sit in the plaza enjoying a cool drink and empanadas while listening to local musicians. At one restaurant, a group of 12 mariachi musicians came in to serenade, and were soooo good!
A new casino and hotel was recently built by the tribe, and had a gorgeous pool and spa area that I snoozed in to soak up some warm sunshine. The casino was fun, the games paid well, and the player points paid for the meals. Live music was played each night....Western one night, Latin music the next, and rock the next.
I was glad I toured the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park, as it is one that is being considered for closing for the state budget cuts. Thinking about how those prisoners lived in those stone cells in the heat of the summers was sobering. So many of the western movies have dramas about taking prisoners to the Yuma prison....and it was intriguing to read of the various prisoners who were incarcerated there, including the man who killed Johnny Yuma. I walked through the prison cemetery, and wondered if they separated the graves by race or sex. The tombstones have long been stolen, but the piles of rocks over the 200 graves remain.
On the way home we saw black smoke ahead, and arrived on a car fully engulfed in flames. We were the first on the scene, and the owner came running towards us and warned us to move back, as his car contained amunition and had a full gas tank! We waited while the police cars and fire trucks arrived, and sat for an hour watching the excitment and hearing the bullets exploding while the sun set in brilliant spendor'
I placed an ad for my living quarter horse trailer in TrailerWorld just before I left, and starting getting responses within a half an hour! Everyone wanted interior pictures, so I had to tell them to wait until I got home. Within a few hours of uploading the pictures on the ad, the trailer was sold.....for full price. I guess a lot of people have been trying to find a 2-horse weekender! So the Colorado buyer will be picking it up in a few weeks, and the pieces of my life of the last 10 years will continue to slip away. I have so many fun memories of camping with my wonderful Minnesota horse camping friends....and the Las Domas ride last spring. It will be dearly missed.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I often think of the quote from John Lennon "Life is what happens when you are planning something else". When I retired from teaching 4 years ago, I envisioned my life would consist of time traveling between Minnesota and Arizona, and hauling Bart with me for camping, team sorting, and trail riding in both places. I loved the summers riding with my wonderful Minnesota friends and camping in the parks and making the annual Black Hills ride. I was making new friends in Arizona who also enjoyed riding the trails, and had shared many spectacular rides with Bets and Sweet Pea, and shared an incredible week with them on the Las Damas ride last spring.

And I have always felt so fortunate to have Bart in my life....a beautiful golden palomino gelding with smooth gaits, a sweet personality, and such a joy in so many ways. He has carried me up and down steep trails in the Black Hills, past buffalo, after steers in team sorting, across swift running rivers, and even helped me win a few ribbons in some fun shows. I always thought that we would ride our last ten years together, and I wouldn't let myself think about the day that I would have to put him down.

But often throws a few wrenches in your plans. Last year Mom's Valley Fever prevented me from taking him up to Minnesota in the summer, and health issues and problems with the current economy have added other problems in my riding plans. I found myself having to make one of those very difficult decisions, and it involved finding a new home for my trail buddy and friend, Bart.

I prayed for the right person to come along, and she did when Penny called. She and her husband have a home nearby my home in Arizona, and they summer at their ranch in Montana. He is a roper and she is a barrel racer who wants to slow down and do more trail riding. They came out to meet Bart, and I was impressed right away with their personalities and affection for each other. She rode Bart, and handled him very well. When she told me she wanted him, I felt it was the right fit, and as my tears flowed, Bart reached out an nuzzled her. That was the final indication to me that this was meant to be.

Penny picked Bart up today and he loaded quietly into their trailer between their other two horses. We said our good-byes, and they were off for a trail ride on a sunny but windy day. I wished them a great ride, then sobbed as they pulled out.

A part of my life is over, but I have so many wonderful memories of rides through the pines, prairies and deserts. Happy Trails, my friend. I wish you many wonderful rides in the years to come. And now the next phase of my life will begin....