Growing Up Wild|
A Mountain Ranch Childhood
Paul Willard Richard
from the book:
Once I got a little age on me, I’d saddle up and ride the Two-Bar as I pleased.
In the pasture or mixed in with the milk cows, there were always several horses
I could use. Still, my favorite was Blackie.
I recall one
day setting off on Blackie with Smokey at her hooves. We rode down among the
grazing workhorses in the lower pasture. Blue iris clumps surrounded the herd on
the soft verdant meadow under the clear blue Colorado sky. Slowly I worked
Blackie into the midst of them, naming each of the sixty heavy-bodied horses,
trying to remember how we partnered them for haying. I knew each one, having
harnessed, petted, and brushed them. I loved them for the wild and free
creatures they were until haying time tamed them into working horses.
north to the sandstone bluffs, I brought my horse to a stop and peered into high
up caves that were unreachable on foot, looking for owl nests. Then I rode right
up the Illinois River channel for a quarter mile, spotting fish and wild things.
The water soaked my feet and often reached Blackie’s shoulders as I ducked the
overhanging willow branches. I worked my mare out of the river and up the rock
strewn west bluff and admired the ranch, viewing it all from high in the saddle.
I could feel the puffing in and out of Blackie’s sides from the strain of her
descent, I spotted a doe and fawn along the Michigan River who melted into the
trees after seeing my dog wander by. Smokey kept me in sight, but wandered on
his own seeking and probing his domain. My dog was as bold as I was in our
explorations. We hugged the willows bordering the river for a half-mile looking
for the deer again. I spotted a big hawk lift off from its nest. The tree was
branchless for ten feet or so. I snubbed Blackie to a tree and stood on her back
to reach the lower branches. In the flat stick nest, as the parent watched from
a tall alder tree across the rippling river, I found four warm eggs.
Riding on we
came to one of my favorite small openings. Ducking willows and dismounting,
there on the riverbank surrounded by dense green trees, I sat holding Blackie’s
reins with Smokey resting at my side. We counted trout rise to the surface
thirty times and saw seven diving ducks catching fish. I chewed on sweet ends of
timothy stems and daydreamed as Blackie chomped meadow grass behind us.
on the two-path dirt road, I opened up my beautiful mare to run as fast as she
wanted. Wind blasted my face and tears came to my eyes as I flew free up the
road with sagebrush and meadow flying by on each side. Smokey was far behind
when I reined in Blackie. She pranced around and soon settled down as I walked
her on up the ridge to the barn and unsaddled. I gave my trim black mare a
bucket of oats and tenderly brushed her sleek sides and mane, feeling as if I
was a fairly decent rider, but nothing like my dad.