Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Date with the Devil

I was sitting in Cowboy’s pickup truck crying my eyes out on the phone to one of my best friends on Saturday night. She told me to move back to Albuquerque, but I didn’t want to leave, I like my life here, and I really like him. I was wrapped in his new coat with his Lazy S G brand on it, after not finding my coat or the keys to my own car. Tension was so high between me and Cowboy that I had to get away from him on Sunday.

I left at first light, speeding my little blue car down the red dirt road with gravel and dust flying behind me, stopping only at Starbucks on the way out of town. The thought of listening to country music was too painful, so I pulled out my Andrew Sisters CDs and put “Don’t Fence Me In” on repeat. I was headed east to Devil’s Tower, and maybe Deadwood, SD.

I passed the small town of Moorcroft, then headed off on a tiny winding highway through grassy cow filled fields and forested hills full of deer that like to stand in the middle of the road. One ranch really captured my attention with its beautiful old red barn and my first view of the tower above the horizon. There is something majestic about a large rock sticking out above the hills, even the Sioux still go there to tie prayer clothes. They call it Bear Lodge because of the tale of seven maidens picking flowers who were chased by a bear. They prayed to the Great Spirit, and he felt sorry for them and lifted the rock up they were standing on to the heavens to save them. The bear tried climbing it, but only left scratch marks down the sides of it. The maidens stepped into heaven and became the constellation Pleiades that represents seven maidens giving birth. I was dragged out on the porch and into the middle of empty fields by my dad, the astronomy professor, all the time as a kid. We looked through the telescope at moons of other planets and comets, but most people in modern times are disconnected from the stars that were so important to our ancestors. Every culture has their own name and folklore attached to that particular constellation.

I am a birder, so I spent the morning staring at birds and taking lots of pictures of them and the tower. There were also lots of prairie dogs popping in and out of dirt holes in an open field. It felt good to be outside seeing new birds like that Red Crossbill, and I thought of how miserable Cowboy would be if he was with me. He complained that his parents took him to the “big stupid rock” all the time as a kid because they lived so close to it, and he doesn’t feel the need to walk around it any more. After talking to the park ranger forever about the birds I saw, she was excited to learn them, I decided to drive to Deadwood.

I stopped in the middle of the small highway to take a picture of the tower and a bunch of cattle grazing in front of it. The place was so deserted because it is still cold out, so I hardly saw anyone all morning. I discovered an Andrew Sister’s song about “Charlie” which is Cowboy’s name, and put it on repeat as my car hugged some ice free mountain road curves. I got some coffee in Aladdin, WY, population 15, and thumbed through the winter vests on sale with horse pictures on them as two locals starred at me.

Deadwood was tucked up into the mountains, or should I say Black Hills, in South Dakota. I looked up at the dark clouds and worried that it might snow a bit, and really didn’t want to drive those roads slick. I stayed a few hours though, after taking pictures some lady handed me champagne in a casino and pushed me towards the nearest slot machine hoping to take all my money. I found the place that "Wild Bill" Hickok was shot in that casino, they had some wax figures set up at a poker table and a huge sign saying something like “This is the exact spot where he was shot.” I snuck out a side door when the same lady came at me with chocolate cake and another glass of champagne, there weren’t too many people in town or the casino to gamble. I was disappointed to not see people in period dress; it was more of a modern town meant to steal your tourist dollars. I saw something about shoot outs in the summertime though, and could have found a buffalo burger if I was hungry I’m sure.

After seeing me leave, Cowboy decided to go someplace cool instead of working on his truck all day like he did on Saturday, getting mad at me when I asked him to saddle up Alice for some much needed fun on the beautiful sunny day. He took his roommate and the dogs up in the Big Horn mountains, and I was kind of heart broken that he didn’t take me, because I love being outdoors. We really didn’t talk to each other at all on Sunday, maybe both mad at each other for leaving each other behind. I heard him talking to his uncle on the phone about where he went, and they even saw a moose. He only knew where I went because I finally texted it to him after the day was over.

I dreaded seeing him on Monday afternoon as his blue pickup pulled into the drive, but he was really talkative and somehow we made up with each other. It feels good to not be mad at him anymore, I hope we can avoid pissing each other off so much in the future. I cooked up some elk tostadas (chalupas for you Texans) for dinner, and he kept folding my hand fried corn tortillas like taco shells which made me smile.

Running with Ranger

I was upset last week so I took Ranger, my roommate's Siberian huskie, and we went on a long run. We ran down the red gravel road and took a right down a road into the huge Lewis ranch, where we had an exciting find, a dead pronghorn that he didn't want to leave. I was surprised at how obedient he was, listening to me when I wanted him to avoid horses and other dogs. Now we like running together every day, through red grass covered hills, next to ponds and past curious horses along fences. He is a beautiful dog, and I love the excitement he shows on each run, so I brought my camera along last night to capture some of it. I added some quotes from a few of my favorite authors and poets.

In solitude,
where we are least alone.
- Byron

These are the clouds about the fallen sun,
The majesty that shuts his burning eye:
The weak lay hand on what the strong has done,
Till that be tumbled that was lifted high
And discord follow upon unison,
And all things at one common level lie.
And therefore, friend, if your great race were run
And these things came, so much the more thereby
Have you made greatness your companion,
Although it be for children that you sigh:
These are the clouds about the fallen sun,
The majesty that shuts his burning eye.
-W.B. Yeats

'Tis with my mind
As with the tide swelled up onto his height,
That makes a still-stand, running neither way.
-William Shakespreare

They came running
they came running
toward the king
- Don L.Lee

We may outrun
By violent swiftness that which we run at
and loose by over-running.
- William Shakespeare from "Henry VIII"

They built by rivers
and at night by water
running past windows
comforted by sorrow.
- W.H. Auden

The road became
a channel of running flocks
of glossy birds
like ripples over rocks.
-Robert Frost from "Our Singing Strength"

See how nature-trees, flowers,
grass-grows in silence;
see the stars, the moon and the sun,
how they move in silence...
we need silence to be able to touch souls.
- Mother Teresa

Why are there trees I never walk under...

...but large and
melodious thoughts descend upon me?
- Walt Whitman from "Song of the Open Road"

But the storm kept raging,
her passion burned itself to ashes,
no help was forthcoming.
- Gustave Flaubert from "Madame Bovary"

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in...

...Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in.
- Bing Crosby

Great conversation...
requires an absolute
running of two souls
into one.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson from "Friendship"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cows, Mountains and Pony

We passed rivers, creeks, and fields as cowboy showed me the area that he use to be a deputy sheriff in Montana. The land around Three Forks was absolutely beautiful, but it was too cloudy to see the mountains yet. He then drove strait up into the mountains to show me the small old mining town of Pony, where his brother is building his cabin. Clouds peeled away from gigantic mountains as we drove up, and it was one of the prettiest places that I have ever seen.

After more log peeling, and spending time with his parents and brother's family, we headed home. This time I could see all the mountains along the way and I couldn't stop taking pictures of them as he pointed to log mansions that belonged to the stars like Tom Cruise. It is a very scenic area, and I loved looking at all the ranches along the way. Black cows on hilltops ate abundant grass with huge mountains behind them, click click went my camera. He pointed to a road that lead to White Sulfur Springs, a place that I almost took a job in. I told him I made a mistake taking a job in Wyoming instead. I started asking him questions about ranching, and told him my dream of owning my own land around the area someday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peeling Logs in Montana

Cowboy and I dropped off his two corgie dogs with his Dad in a parking lot in Billings, Montana over three weeks ago. So this weekend we drove all the way to Bozeman, MT (a six hour drive) to pick them up. We left Friday afternoon and got in late. It was so dark that I couldn't see all the beautiful mountains along the way. All four dogs went barking crazy when we walked into his parents house. The living room was decorated with bears, moose, and pine trees. His mom was under a beautiful bear quilt in front of a modern fireplace under the TV that plugged into the wall, his dad in a recliner with a fluffy black cat on his lap. It was the first time I met his mom, and she was warm and affectionate with me. Her dog Cowgirl made herself at home with her body across my lap, and an old dog Archie nuzzled his nose in my hands to pet him.

I shared a guest bed with a very fat cat named Gracie in the cold basement, with Cowboy's grandma's quilts from the 70s and an electric blanket for warmth. Cowboy battled the dogs for the sofa. His mom made a huge lumberjack breakfast the next morning for a good reason, we spent the day peeling logs for a cabin that Cowboy's brother is building himself.

They gave me a sharp blade, and I got one of the best full body workout's of my life cutting the bark off the pine tree logs with it. I loved every minute of it, I like to make things myself. I think we take for granted all the stuff we have in modern life. I like to knit, make my own pottery, and bake from scratch from grandma's 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook. A new passion stirred inside of me though as that blade cut into the wood, a love for crafting wood. I might have to make my own furniture now. Cowboy made his deck himself, and a beautiful pine bed, chest of drawers, and nightstands. I loved how smooth that pine was when I was done, and how old fashioned it must be to peel your own logs. It reminded me of a PBS wood show that I use to watch, where the guy used old fashion tools.

The clouds cleared and I could see how beautiful the mountains were in the area, purple-gray jagged rocks with white snow covering them. Cowboy told me that a glacier craved the whole valley where Bozeman is, and that is why it is surrounded by mountains. He said it would get as cold as 60 below there when he worked the county as a deputy sheriff, and maybe colder but his thermometer wouldn't go any lower.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Icy Roads Ahead

With snow clouds threatening us, Cowboy and I drove and hour away to Buffalo, WY for dinner on Friday night. He doesn't say much, especially to me, so the trip was silent, except for his country CDs. I told him he needed to take me out, I wanted to get to know more about him. He refuses to go out in Gillette though, saying that there is no place good to go. I ordered a buffalo burger, although the menu was full of steak from game species like elk. I waited to see what he ordered, smothered chicken, and priced my meal around the same. If he would have ordered the pricey elk steak, I would have gotten it too. There are plenty of elk steaks in the freezer at home though.

There were several dead animals on the walls of the Bozeman Steakhouse. I had an elk glaring at me as I devoured it's delicious hoofed cousin set in a fresh bun with bacon and cheese on it. There was a moose above my head, a buffalo on the wall, and even a cow head looking at me with it's glass eyes. There were several other dead critters, including a bear and an mountain lion, standing around stuffed. This was a real steak house, in a place where people take pride in their dead stuffed animals.

After dinner, he wanted to drive up the Bighorn Mountains a little, and despite my extreme fear of the ice now on the roads, I agreed to go. We passed the Bureau of Land Management office along the way, and I looked at it with wide hopeful eyes that I might work in that office someday, even though Buffalo doesn't de-ice their streets in the winter. We started up the mountain and both of us kept an eye on the thermometer in his truck mirror. It slowly decreased in number the further up we climbed, his truck sliding a bit on the white frosty mountain road. Every time the truck fish-tailed, he just laughed, and I tried to stay calm and trust that he would keep us on the road with the steep drop-offs on the side. This was his expertise, having driven on ice covered roads all of his life. He even went to high school here in Gillette, my greatest fear was nothing to him. He stopped at a point of interest, the snow on the road looked to be about half a foot already. I bundled up and went leaping outside where I read a few signs about the area as the fat flakes fell on my face. Cowboy stayed in the truck with a cigarette, he's seen snow before and didn't feel the need to get out. I got back in the truck, kicking packed snow off my boots. He asked if I wanted to go up higher, and my answer was no.

We passed a couple of snow plows on the way down, working to clear the fast falling snowflakes from the road for the snow mobile crowd that would be heading up that night and the next morning. The whole drive home, the snow was falling thick, and it looked to me like we were driving through some warp tunnel as he kept his truck effortlessly on the icy highway. He pulled over at a rest stop and told me it was my turn to drive. I can barely drive his truck, there was no way I was driving it across ice for another hour. Thankfully he talked a lot on the way home, his silence worries me that he may not like being around me. We are still getting to know each other, and I think he likes me, but I wish he was more affectionate. I am a Leo after all, and crave more attention from him.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Learning How to Rope from the Rodeo Pro

Cowboy has a huge belt buckle collection for winning at several rodeos with his roping skills. My favorites are a Toas, NM belt buckle and a Pikes Peak, CO one from 2006 that he wears a lot. So when he offered to teach me how to rope I was thrilled to learn something that he is such an expert at.

Monday was absolutely beautiful out, and Ranger was soaking wet from running through all the puddles from the melted ice. He later got a bath that night. I got a few shots of him standing in the water and drinking it at the same time. The ice had melted enough for Cowboy to pull his roping dummy out of it in the front yard, a big square with a plastic calf head and horns on it. He moved it to the back yard and started practicing his roping, twirling the rope loop around his head several times then throwing it, catching the dummy horns with it. With a yank down of his arm, the rope loop was tight around the horns. That was how it was done, looked easy enough. He told me it took him five years to learn how to do that and I laughed.

He handed me the rope, ready to see me make a fool of myself after laughing at how long it takes to learn. He sat back with a cigarette while I tried twirling it around my head, but I kept getting my arms and neck tangled in the loop. Roping is very hard to do, cowboys just make it look easy. He took the rope back from me, and showed me how he twirled his wrist around, it looked so easy. I gave it another try, getting myself tangled up in the rope again. This went on for a while. As I tried to get the rope twirling around my head, he walked around the ranch, pulling stuff out of the ice and putting things in their proper places. He grabbed a container of molasses out of the ice, and gave it to the horses who have been licking it and hitting it with their hooves for days now. It was feeding time and he pitched a good amount of hay in the big tractor tire for them while I made a fool of myself with the rope. The horses were too busy licking the molasses to even care about the hay.

Finally, I asked him to stand behind me and to move my hand with his as he roped. His strong hand guided mine, and I finally understood how to do it. He let go and I was still twirling the loop of rope above my head. He told me to do it for an hour, and added that I wasn't allowed to try to rope the dummy yet. He walked off doing chores and I walked around the ranch roping for a good hour. I roped for so long that I got a horrible blister on one of my fingers. I didn't stop when it hurt though, I kept going and the blister broke. Then I moved that finger to a different spot and still kept roping. When he saw my finger, he pulled a roping glove out of the horse trailer and I kept roping until the sun set. It was warm enough that my light jacket was enough to wear when just a week ago I bundled up in a few coats and Cowboy's huge insulated snow boots just to give the horses their 5am hay breakfast in the dark when he was out of town. I remember the icy cold air slapping my face as soon as I stepped out of the house, and now there is a warm breeze.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lead On

Cowboy is quit the cook! He made buffalo pot roast on Saturday night, and cinnamon rolls from scratch for breakfast yesterday with the most amazing buffalo and moose burger chili for dinner. I myself made some moose meatballs and spaghetti last week, after discovering the huge freezer full of game meat that he has. What he and his friends and family don't kill, he gets from semi-truck accidents that his brother cleans up in Montana. Once food is in an accident, they can't sell it again, so his family must all have well stocked freezers. He has a bunch of stuff that was going to a Chinese restaurant in there now, scallops, pork, and pot stickers.

He played a CD from his friend's country band on Saturday night and we started dancing to the song "Lead On" that cowboy use to sing in clubs I guess. He twirled me around the kitchen, and I couldn't stop thinking how cute he was as I was in his strong arms. We then watched the movie "Silverado" together that he recorded from the satellite earlier that day.

On Sunday, he declared that it was warm enough to ride Alice his brown and white horse, see her picture here. She is the only one who keeps shoes on all winter to keep her hoofs from splitting. He whistled for the horses and gave them some mid-day hay. Big Brown came running at a gallop when he realized he was getting another meal. The other three strolled across the field at a leisurely pace. He surprised Alice when he pulled her out of the barn, the other horses giving us curious looks. He tied her to the horse trailer, put her saddle on, and clipped her mane so the bridle didn't rub against it. I could feel the love he had for his horse as her brushed her and talked to her, while she looked a little nervous at Ranger (see pic here) who was making circles around her.

Cowboy and Alice took off riding while I took pictures (coming in a later post), Ranger following them in every direction that they went. The rolling grass hills framed Cowboy and Alice beautifully as they rode. Then Cowboy put Alice in the round training pin so that I could ride her. She looked confused to be in there, since she hasn't seen one for years. I got on her and she kept looking to Cowboy to rescue her from the strange woman who has only been feeding her for a week. She kept going to the door as I tried to remember how to ride a horse, her eyes telling Cowboy to get me off of her. Eventually I convinced her to go in circles around the pin, switching directions that she was walking every so often. I made tight cirlces pulling her reins in either direction, learned how to stop her and make her back up by pulling hard on them. Then I asked Cowboy, who had been watching, how to make her go faster. He said to kick her sides a few more times and we took off. Alice started talking to the other horses who were all watching the spectacle from the nearby fence line, with Baby Girl, her daughter, talking back to her the most. We called it a day, Alice covered in sweat, and she got a huge bucket of oats as a reward while Big Brown watched and protested. I loved it, even though my legs hurt today. I can't wait to ride again.

Library Card

I convinced cowboy to come into the library this past weekend and get me a library card since I won't exactly have a place of residence for some time. I will be camping for my job even. He told the librarian he hadn't been in here since high school, and back then the library was downtown. He doesn't like to read, said he made it through high school by watching the movies of all the classics. It is alright, I don't like to fix diesel engines like him, none of us are perfect. Cowboy giving me his new library card means a lot to me.

I love to read, and some of the most comforting places to me are bookstores and libraries. My mom was a librarian, and I would stay in the library with her for hours everyday after school reading books and looking up stuff in the encyclopedias. It is probably why I know so many random facts. My sister's kids don't know about much other than TV shows and video games, which surprises me since I spent my childhood researching stuff that interested me.

I'm on a library computer now, where the internet is quit reliable, unlike at home. I've felt disconnected from the rest of the world for a week now, which has been nice really.