The Ride


I was always nervous to put the bit in. He did it for me.

The bridle jingled softly as we rode alongside a split-rail fence. A velvet breeze rustled the meadow. Prairie grass rose and fell, rose and fell as eight hooves rose and fell, rose and fell. We would talk occasionally, but never for very long. Cowboys don't talk much, but that wasn't the reason why. I didn't know the reason why.

A forest lay at the edge of the meadow, and we soon disappeared inside it. Thousands of delicate aspen leaves blocked the heat of the summer solstice, casting a tapestry of speckled shadows in every direction. Tall, cool grass brushed against my stirrups with a ssshhhhh.

"Why aren't we talking?" I wondered. I was bursting with questions for him, about him. Questions about horses, the wars, atomic bombs, his childhood, his wife, his daughter (my mother). It was the longest day of the year and I had him to myself. Even so, I fidgeted in my saddle, worried that time would run out on my questions--on his answers.

Didn't he know what a mystery he was? I had pieces strewn together from stories here, pictures there, a medal on the wall. But I was impatient. It was the summer I turned fourteen and I desperately wanted to learn not only about him, but about myself. His blood was my blood--there were answers there. But he was not the type of man you pushed for answers.

He was quiet and majestic, with a countenance so gentle and so hard all at once. Warm brown eyes softened the weathered lines running up, down, sideways on his face. I always sensed his mind was burdened with memories of war. Of questioning, maybe? Of where was God in the Second World War? In Korea? But the mountains live and breathe of God. And horses don't care who you are, or what you did, or why things are the way they are or why you don't talk more.

"Look," he said, pointing to the tree branches above.

Two dark eyes were following our movements. A grey owl. I held my breath instinctively as we trespassed through its little world. That simple, beautiful world that feels so natural and yet so foreign sometimes. The forest was a cathedral.

Maybe that was the reason why we weren't talking.


The meadow, the forest, the owl: they were before everything. Before he got sick. Before he got better. Before he got sick again. Before he made one final trip to Big Thompson Canyon and this rugged cowboy--this atomic scientist, this Marine, this believer --stood in the pasture and wept softly as he said goodbye to his horses.

I'm certain his horses remember him. That they miss seeing him pull up to the pasture in his old Chevy with two big buckets of oats in the back.


Ten years have passed. It was everything to me then; it is everything to me now. So beautiful a memory that I sometimes wonder whether it really happened.


  1. You really have a great talent for writing. This was beautiful. I think back to my grandparents now as well.

  2. You're lucky to have that beautiful memory! Thanks for sharing it.


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