They say the best writing is done when you are either euphorically happy or in the depths of despair. I think they’re right, whomever they are, because whenever I remember this day, I feel I want to write forever. You might think the title doesn’t match the experience when you begin reading, but stick with me. I think you’ll feel the same way. I think you’ll agree —- it was the best day ever.
It was cold, bitterly cold, as I sat in the rain, bundled up in my daughter-in-law’s coat and gloves, sneakered feet tucked inside the tapaderos that hung from the sides of my son’s saddle. It was years since I had looked at the world from the top of a horse. And here I was, joining this group of cowboys, my son included, as they moved 300 head of cattle to spring pasture.
I had just completed a week of school meetings in Utah and journeyed on to southern Idaho, where our son and his wife were working on a large ranch and farm enterprise. Talking to my son a few days before my arrival, he expressed disappointment that he was due to work during the only day I’d be there. It was spring and cows must be moved to higher country.
“Unless you’d like to ride along, Mom. We’re driving the herd about 10 miles up into the mountains.”
Hurrying busily between school meetings in the city, heels nicely polished and makeup on, I quickly tossed out a reply,
“Well, sure! It’s been a long time. Let’s do it.”
The words were out now and there was no backing down.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. It’ll be fun.”
Poor boy. I’m sure he was worried, and to tell you the truth, as I stopped at Target that night to pick up a pair of jeans, I had a little bit of concern myself. I had no fear of getting on a horse, but I wondered if, after a day of riding, I might not be able to get off! My bravado slipped just slightly before I pulled my sense of adventure quickly out and brandished it courageously.
So, here I was. The day had dawned, foggy and rainy and cold – 45 degrees cold. My daughter-in-law did her best to wrap me up warmly, tucking heating packets in pockets and making sure snacks were ready. I chuckled to myself as I thought of the day before when, in heels and office attire I had visited schools and shared educational philosophies. Well, they wouldn’t recognize me today.
As we trailered our horses out and met the others, I wondered just what they must be thinking. But all was well, the cowboys having been instructed to be careful of how they spoke (this I found out later when one of them slipped and another corrected him). And of course they knew the cowboy way; be respectful, especially to ladies. There is a gentleness and kindness that runs straight through the middle of the life of those who live close to the land. It is something the Washington politicians could learn from but will never understand. There is a quiet confidence that is born when one touches the land and lives by its rules, experiencing the force of the elements and understanding how small mankind is in relation to creation and the Creator.
As I climbed onto a nice palomino, the rain began to fall in a steady torrent and my son apologized for the weather. I didn’t care. It was as it should be. I was living the cowboy life, if only for a day. Let the rain come and the wind blow. My hands might have gotten a little cold, my knees a little stiff, but I was a cowboy and I would not complain.
Riding along I thought of that little boy who mimicked the Lone Ranger and crawled along the living room rug and fired his silver bullet. This was the boy who gave us that awful fright when he was five and took off to go hunting with his bow and arrow in the huge BLM pasture in western Arizona where we lived. When his father finally found him — hunting the bull, whose name must have been Ferdinand, because he was just too friendly—- he breathed a sigh of relief and brought him safely home. And this was the son who spoke to the other cowboys to tell them his job today was to make sure his mother was well taken care of.
Surely, this is the story of parenthood. We care for our children, worry over them, pray constantly, seek to protect them. We see them go off to live their grown-up lives and work through the loneliness of not seeing them every day, reminding ourselves that this is good. We would not choose to hold them back. And then sometimes, we have that golden opportunity to be beside them for a day and our hearts are gladdened.
My horse plodded along on the muddy road as I rode behind the herd.
“Mom, are you warm enough? You doing okay?”
“I sure am. This is the best day ever.”