A "cowgirl" story that I lived which taught me a valuable lesson about life.
| It was a potential Lassie scenario. You know; where the human has gotten himself into a dire situation and yet the wisdom and calm of one of mother nature’s creatures saves the day? Only in this case Lassie weighed 1200 pounds and was a flight-prone prey animal, as opposed to the man’s best friend type that was known for sticking with his human through thick and thin. Oh, and Lassie’s name was Buster. And I was sitting on his back. Buster was a horse.
I didn’t even have the human/animal relationship bond thing going for me either. Buster and I had only first met that morning. 6 hours previously our first interaction had been for me to take him away from his morning hay and throw a saddle on his back. I don’t think I made a great first impression. I maybe gained some brownie points since then in that I'm not a strong believer in spurs, and therefore hadn’t brought any. Plus I wasn’t a jerk and pull rider, something I’d like to think a horse with a metal bit in his mouth always appreciates. I don’t think that constitutes enough to form an instant trusting bond with an animal though. And being completely lost in the middle of roughly 6000 acres, is the kind of situation where you’d like to have at least something going in the relationship department with the only bigger than you breathing entity within a couple of mile radius.
I was on a round-up. Not a “City Slickers” kind of round-up, where people actually pay for the privilege to get more dirty, exhausted and sore than they‘ve ever been in their life. No, this was the real thing. Real Cowboys and Cowgirls riding 8 to 10 hours a day in search of 600 head of cattle to be found and returned back to the “krills” (Cowboy lingo for corrals) for transport to summer pasture. I was a greenhorn, as they call the inexperienced at all this. That admittedly had more than a little to do with the predicament I found myself in.
My riding “partner”, and because of the circumstances I found myself in I use the term loosely, was more experienced than I and obviously more concerned about the cows than he was of me. He had left me to go off into the brush after two recalcitrant cows and their calves that we’d been following for over an hour. You get kind of an investment in them after a while, and when they decide to veer off the right track suddenly after all that time and head the wrong way, you definitely want to at least “try” and convince them to do otherwise. That sometimes requires moving fast and squirting through some amazingly tight, steep spots (unbelievable what a cow will plow through when it’s feeling pressed), and as they say, if you snooze, you lose. You better get on them quick, or they’re going to be gone.
Now I very possibly could have kept up with him; we’ll never know though, because in what I’ll assume he thought was a favor to me (as opposed to a reflection of the hindrance he perhaps thought I ultimately was), he firmly shouted “stay put. I’ll be back!”, and took off.
So there stood Buster and I. Completely, utterly, alone. Now a horse is a herd creature; they don’t do well all by their lonesome. Buster of course had wanted to follow his fellow four-legged friend off into the brush, and it took my thankfully somewhat experienced riding skills to convince him to stay put. This is not quite as easy as telling your dog to “stay”.
Buster insisted for a while on doing a horse version of tap-dancing, while whinnying pitifully to his now long gone buddy. Not exactly a calming activity on his part, but I was trying hard for his sake as much as for my own to stay cool, calm and collected and when he finally settled enough to stop his feet and stand, I took a deep breath, rubbed his now lathered neck, and assessed the situation.
It was apparent that I was now more isolated and alone than I probably had ever been in my entire life. It had been a good 10 minutes since we’d been deserted, and the total quiet reflected our isolation; in an area like this, you can hear things from a fair distance. Other than a few birds, and Buster’s occasional furtive attempt at equine verbal communication with his long gone friend, there was absolutely nothing to hear that would indicate another human was anywhere remotely close; no rustling brush, or mooing cows, or neighing horses or shouting cowboys. Surprisingly, I found this didn’t really concern me.
In my real life, I’m a wife and mother. That encompasses all that you would typically imagine. It certainly never affords me the opportunity for the kind of nature grounded solitude that my circumstances were providing me with. Instead of being frightened or concerned about my situation, I surprisingly found myself becoming rapidly rather blissful. Buster had settled at this point, I’d like to think partly because I was maintaining my composure, and instead of panicking, I found myself entering almost a meditative state. As I sat on his back atop a mesquite covered hill and gazed down in respectful awe at the valley below us, I found myself actually grateful for the situation I found myself in.
Now I know many people have experienced similar moments; anyone with outdoor tendencies who turns to mother nature and her solitude for comfort can still find many ways to accomplish this type of peaceful isolation. But that is an intentional act and what I found unique about my situation was that this wasn’t. Potentially I was in what could be more than a bit of trouble given that I wasn’t at all familiar with the area I found myself deserted in the middle of...and I didn’t care.
I sat there for a good 15 minutes, letting Buster nibble at the dry grass at his feet, watching the birds soar overhead, and appreciating to the fullest this unique opportunity to feel like an anachronism in my own life; if I forgot my reality consisted of being a middle-aged suburban housewife in the 90’s, I could imagine what it must have been like to be a frontier woman in the 1800’s. I realized that a sense of peace found amongst a potential of fear is a powerful confidence builder. I also gained a deeper appreciation for the fact that attitude toward any situation is truly everything.
So when the sound of bleating calves and shouting Cowboys brought Busters’ head up from the grass and I knew that our ticket out of there had just arrived, I must confess to a sudden sense of sadness for the abrupt ending to such a brief glimpse at what a gift being lost can be. As I let Buster head off in the direction of our re-entry to reality, I said a quiet thanks to the powers that be for letting me get so lost that I could, in the process, find such an important part of myself.