August 7, 2006

Have you ever done anything like this before?

I have. I miss the sky. It’s true you know, Montana skies go on forever.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere between a hill and a crick near Pompeys Pillar Monument in South Eastern Montana. We’d watch the aurora borealis at night in August and laugh about the mosquito being the state bird.

From the time I was 6 or 7 I’d eat breakfast in the morning, run out to the corral, saddle (or not) one of the horses and disappear until I got hungry. Or when I figured it was too dark to ride anymore. Water was hand pumped from the well house and was so cold you couldn’t take more than a few drinks before you ended up with a brain freeze. Not that it would stop you.

I ran barefoot from May to September and couldn’t tell one day from the other. One of my ponies was a chestnut with flax mane and tail and I’d ride her up to the top of the hill just to see how pretty she was when the sunset lit her up.

I played nursemaid to a million kittens, puppies and my share of calves. I stole a piglet from a sow and nearly gave my dad a heart attack. I killed snakes, swam in rivers and ate chicken that was alive an hour ago in the coop. I could build a fire, hobble a horse and make good coffee before I was 9.

I made fun of city folks and kids too stupid to know what to do in a rainstorm. I learned how to read clouds, follow trails and not get lost. I milked cows, made butter and cried when the filly died. We trapped weasels and shot at foxes. Had a big dog named Blue who was never far away. I could trim and file horse hooves at 11. Boys? Who needed them? I was stronger and smarter and knew more anyway. 😉 I understood the country I lived in although the people were always a mystery.

My childhood was more Laura Ingalls than Punky Brewster.

When I see my four walls and my city lot I am sad for my boys. They would have enjoyed the farm, the pond, the slough and the pheasants.

It’s gone now. It has become a hunting lodge. Cold, impersonal. A hotel of sorts for people to stop by on their way to another adventure. Sold, remodeled and nothing like Grandpa’s house used to be. Tommy Lee Jones stayed there once. I have seen his picture on the wall. White hair, big beard and a big fat mule deer propped up for all to see.

I watched a movie with Mr. Jones in it last night and I became all nostalgic.

If I close my eyes I can almost hear the creak of leather, the thud, thud of weary hooves, the intermittent lowing of tired cows. I can almost taste the never ending dust. The dull ache between my shoulder blades from holding back a horse who never wants to quit. I catch a whiff of a campfire and then I know it’s almost time for the day to be over.

They weren’t glory days, they were hard days in a hard world with difficult people. I’m not trying to romanticize it for you. But I’d take 10 years of honest country work over 30 years of this comfortable city life