On Cows and Rockets

Yesterday, Ranch Manager Greg asked Sam and me to move some cows for him. Then, I think as a favor, he grabbed my all time favorite ranch horse, Rocket, out of the pasture and tacked a shoe back on him for me. Most any horse will do, but for years, when there was cow work to be done on the ranch, Rocket was always my pick.

Here’s why.

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Colorado cows don’t come to the bucket like Texas cows do. At least ours never did. Plus, the ranch is an obstacle course of hills, rivers, timber and bogs.

Sam and I are into the slow and easy method of moving herds, none of this galloping in, whistlin, and a hollerin’ nonsense you sometimes see in the movies.

But Rocket chomps at the bit – literally. Holding the herd, he glares at them and from the saddle you can hear him clacking and grinding his teeth. Rocket is cow horse to the bone.

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A grey wall rolled in up ahead and lightning tore into the peaks to the north. So with our friend Deann helping, we began pushing about 50 mama cows and their calves down past our old house, over a couple hills and along the fence line toward the open gate.

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As we got there, the cows balled up still not seeing the hole. I noticed a red horned cow that had led the rest of the girls pretty steadily from the lower pasture. She was eyeballing the creek and the wide open space on the other side of me. From the back Sam yelled, “watch that red cow, she’s a lead cow.”

Before I could even smile at the resurgence of Sam’s and my psychic cow working rhythms, Rocket spun, darted into the creek and punched that old, red cow back into the herd.

I didn’t even touch him.

This is why people buy foundation bred Quarter Horses and spend their lives showing them. It is incredibly fun when four brains – one bovine, one equine and two human – consider the same situation at precisely the same moment. It’s even more fun when the equine brain beats the human brain to doing something about it.

That’s why Sam does this.

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No point to this post really, other than to say how grateful I am for fast horses, good cowboys and mountains without end.

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Thoughts From the Ranch.

There’s a place on the ranch I’ve photographed more times than I can ever count. This is it.

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I lived here for six years and watched the seasons change that field like the Lord expects us to change – from glory to glory in ever increasing measure. But even now, every time I try to capture it, to own it by putting it in words or photographs, it slips through my hands and breaks my heart with yearning.

When it comes to me and the ranch, the only thing I can have is the moment we inhabit together and that, I think, is exactly how it is with God.

There is only now.

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But as ever, Ike is down the road on his backhoe and the neighbors are sipping cocktails. The bald eagles fish from the snag, and the sun outside Dodo’s warms the pines just like it has for the last hundred summers.

When the sun hits their ruddy, old bark, their fragrance is so subtle and fine, it’s almost hard to take, but if I stop to breathe it in, to capture it, it fades. The only way I get to smell it again is to walk slowly and appreciatively through the pine groves breathing normally and saying thank you.

The Psalmist says, in his presence is the fullness of joy. He didn’t say I could capture it like fireflies in a jar to save for later.

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The word of God and the mountains have helped me understand something I never did before:

You and I are just as much part of this creation as the peaks, the meadow grass and the rainbow trout with their dusky pink sides, but we’re the deeply beloved part that He made in his image. We forget that all the time, and maybe that’s why we snap so many pictures, and write so many words. It’s like we’re trying to remember something the daisies and the dragonflies never forgot.

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We are His, and each time the sunset drops a pink coverlet over the mountains, he is calling us back into the fullness of joy. His joy, right now, where he wanted all of us, all along.