The Road Less Travelled, or Why Learning to Ride Is a Very Good Thing

When Nicky wasn’t at the vet clinic, she used to help out at the Lonesome Spur guest ranch. She has a soft spot for the guest ranch because that is how she met her husband, Barry, plus she is honestly one of the nicest people I know. Sometimes I think she just likes the stark contrast of her life in urban England and her life now. What a difference a few years can make.

Dad has been up preg checking and working cattle in that area for several years, and he was always telling mum that she ought to come along for the ride. “It’s pretty country up there,” he said. You can see the snowy peaks of the Beartooths and the Pryors off in the distance while walking through high grass. That it well may be, she thought, but hitching a ride your veterinarian husband suddenly qualifies you as free labor rather than innocent bystander headed off for a scenic ride. This was not mum’s first rodeo.

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Riding at the Lonesome Spur
–photo credit Marilyn Randall

But back to Nicky and the Lonesome Spur. One Sunday afternoon, a few years back, Nicky was riding with a largish bunch, and Mum offered to come along and help. She didn’t have anything pressing to do, and besides, some of her four-legged pasture ornaments needed to be ridden. Many hands make light work.

It was a long day in the saddle, but one well worth it. The mountains were blue, there was still plenty of grass, and the tang of sagebrush was everywhere. Mum even went so far as uttering the phrase, “Your father might have been right.” And from the looks of the photos, he might well have been.

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Modernized Homestead Cabin
–photo credit Marilyn Randall

This is a bit of a sidebar, but every time I see dug-outs and homestead cabins in the way way back, I have fresh appreciation for what people endured in order to scratch out a better life. Winters could be brutal, just as were the coyotes, hauling water, packing a shotgun to the outhouse in case you needed to shoot a snake, and lack of evening conversations that didn’t involve livestock. I think dad would refer to these living conditions as “character building.” The rest of us would probably think of them as yet another opportunity to be grateful for indoor heating, hot showers, and Costco.

I count myself very lucky in that I’ve gotten to some pretty amazing places because of horses. Mum and I have ridden in Colombia, in southern Israel, in Mexico. I’ve ridden on the Mongolian steppe, and Dad has ridden in the mountains of Portugal. And the next time I’m up, I’ll ride drag for Nicky. From what I see, “south of Bridger” should be added to that list!

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