In the mid-1990s, our family spent a day on an honest-to-goodness ranch near Snowmass, CO. With our red bandanas and straw hats in place and sunscreen slathered on our faces, we mounted horses “according to our abilities.” Sitting atop a thirty-hands-high mount named Iguana; I squared my shoulders, sat tall in the saddle, and decided right then and there that I was once again, Jill Wayne, rider of the purple sage, conqueror of the Rocky Mountains, and a horsewoman Extraordinaire. Iguana was philosophical about the whole thing.
I usually hold on to the saddle horn in a desperate claw-like grip. This time I guided the horse with one hand on the reigns and shot one-handed slides with my camera in the other. Iguana seemed to know the moment I was concentrating full on the perfect shot and my “Whoa” meant galloping under a tree branch or enthusiastically chasing a wayward longhorn. We definitely had a language barrier. Nevertheless, I rode better than I had ever ridden before, although that probably wasn’t saying much.
Rocky Mountain Cattle Moo-vers (still in business) promised they were not a “greenhorn” outfit and would not “steer” us wrong. I admit I expected a farce but we had a fantastic time. Friendly and experienced wranglers were there to keep us out of trouble but we had the freedom to head out across open areas or dodge tree limbs to herd the longhorns to pasture, a taste of the old west we will carry in our memories forever. I tried not to remember that these cows and horses had made this trip hundreds of time and knew every nook and cranny of those paths and in reality, may have been realistic looking wind-up toys.
It was three and a half miles one way, long enough if you hadn’t sat a horse for a while. It was mid-June as we wound our way through Colorado buttercup, bluebells, columbine, orange paintbrush, shooting stars, scrub Oaks, twisted juniper trees and pinion pine. The air was fresh at 8,000’ and the scenery overlooking snow-capped mountains, was fabulous.
Just about the time three hours had passed and my legs felt like they were going to drop off without any effort at all, we arrived in a lovely meadow. A guitar-playing wrangler strolled alongside encouraging us to sing along with everything from Sweet Georgia Brown to Country Roads and threw in a few songs he wrote himself. While horses whinnied in the wild flowers and cattle grazed, we enjoyed a “Chuckwagon Lunch” that included sizzlin’ steak, crispin’ chicken, and roastin’ corn.
We could have ridden horseback on the return trip as well, but we all opted to ride back in the hay wagon. You see different sights from the back of a wagon. It bounces a lot but it doesn’t have a mind of its own.
What a fun day that was. As I rode along the ridge, I had an incredible feeling of happiness. Not only were “All my children” right there in my sights, but I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was once again that “cowgirl” that sat wide-eyed in the local theatre in Dowagiac, Michigan, on a Saturday morning, watching Dale Evans and Roy Rogers make cowboy history. It was all a long time ago but I think my rump still hurts! God Bless until next week.
Winter in the Wilderness, the first e-book novel published by Minshall, is offered at most Internet book sites. A print edition may be obtained from Amazon, or you can order an autographed copy from the author at Box 1040, Congress, AZ for $7.95 plus $3.50 for postage and handling. The fourth edition of RVing Alaska and Canada is available through Amazon.com.
At 45, Widow Minshall began 20 years of solo full-time RVing throughout Alaska, Mexico, and Canada. Sharlene canoed the Yukon, mushed sled dogs, worked a dude ranch, visited Hudson Bay polar bears, and lived six months on a Mexican beach. She lectured at Life on Wheels, published six RV-related books and wrote a novel, “Winter in the Wilderness.”