Happy Birthday America!

On July Fourth, we celebrated the birth of this country with a family cook out. Garris was with me this year for the Fourth, and even though it fell on a Wednesday, he wanted to celebrate the day on the actual holiday, not on one of the weekends. Like he said, it just isn’t the same. He and I spent several days getting things ready.

He ran the weed eater, cutting down grass and weeds, and making a nice spot for the fire pit and lawn chairs. He picked up dog poop. We moved tables and chairs from the barn to the fire. We cut down tree branches.

And I spent a good day in the kitchen, making potato salad, devilled eggs (a must whenever Cy comes for a meal), baked beans, and fruit salad. I even made ‘weaved’ bacon so we could try a new s’more recipe, using those bacon weaves instead of graham crackers. I baked cookies.

Thankfully all three of my boys were able to make it. Cy and Syl both arrived at the same time. When Cy and Regan drove in, the Lee Greenwood song, ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ was blaring from the radio. They made quite the appropriate entrance. My folks drove over. Regan’s folks drove over. And Colleen and Johne made it. In all, we had about a dozen people chilling around the fire.

Garris had chosen his outfit with great care. He had on an American flag-themed tank top, with a short sleeved button shirt, also adorned with flags. We had found a pair of red, white, and blue flag swimming trunks and he had a flag bandana wrapped around this camo bucket hat. No one could claim he was anything but patriotic.

We had hoped to get his pool up by the cookout, but with his still-healing wrist, we just weren’t able to get it out of the barn in time.

Once the fire was ready, folks started roasting hot dogs and sausages. The smell of searing meat filled the air. And the sound of easy conversation and laughter completed the dinner. Everyone loaded up on their favorite foods. Helped themselves to drinks – both adult and kid friendly. It was an easy way to get us all together.

As we sat in the late afternoon sunshine, I felt a peace wash over me. A thankfulness about the life I am so fortunate to live. Not only do I have a beautiful home, with stunning views of the Tobacco Root mountains, but I am free.

Sure, I complain about taxes and about the less-than-perfect situation of the world. But I can do pretty much anything I want with my life.

And I don’t know anywhere else in this world where that statement is true.

While many Americans look at this day as an excuse to miss work, or to have an extended weekend, or to over drink, I have made a point with my kids to stress the reason for this day. We celebrate our independence, and the sacrifices made by men a couple hundred years ago to ensure that independence.

Some years, we spend this day at a rodeo, another tradition in my part of the world. It’s considered ‘cowboy Christmas’ during this first part of July, where rodeo cowboys can win a considerable amount of money, due to the sheer number of rodeos available to enter. But, I have always preferred staying home on the Fourth. We avoid the crazy drunken drivers. We avoid the over-zealous crowds. And it’s just a way to reconnect with everyone, especially since my older boys are no longer at home.

We weren’t able to shoot any fireworks last night; too much wind. And since everyone left by nine o’clock, Garris didn’t want to do the fireworks with just the two of us. Can’t say that hurt my feelings any. I always get a bit nervous shooting exploding, flammable things off. I worry about unintended sparks starting a fire. And after last year’s lightning strike, I was more than happy to forego the fireworks this year.

One of the best parts of the evening was seeing all three of the boys goofing off together. They were having a roping contest in the barn, and I think that’s the first time in about four years Sylvis has picked up a rope. Then, Cy pulled Sylvis around in a big feeding sled, while Sylvis tried to ‘surf’. Of course, he flew out of the sled on a turn and scraped up his arm on the gravel. That’s when the game ended.

And, of course, the three of them had to wrestle, with the two older boys picking on Garris. But now, size wise, Garris can pretty much hold his own.

I hated to see the evening end, but it had to. I was just grateful for the time spent with everyone and for the opportunity to host the cookout. And for my annual gratitude prayer to the powers that be for seeing fit to place me in this gracious country. Despite the political climate and turmoil currently boiling in our nation, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

Every year, when I listen to a patriotic song list and get a refresher course in the history of our nation, and our flag, I tear up. I think about so many generations of men dying for their right to independence. Dying for a new country’s birth. Dying so that future Americans could live free.

For me, the Fourth of July isn’t about fireworks or partying. It isn’t about snagging an extra day off work. This day is about remembering where this nation started and the sacrifices freely given to ensure this nation would survive. It’s about the promise of a country where everyone is created equal and everyone has the same opportunities to achieve their dreams.

And I am proud to be an American. For one day, there was no talk of politics. There was no debate over hot-button issues currently happening. There was no conflict between any of us. We simply enjoyed a beautiful day together, celebrating the fact that we all could.

Happy Fourth of July 2018!

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Cookout chat with Dad and Johne
Cookout
Cookout

 

Check out a few more pictures of the party prep at Twitter: @jodiicenoggle

 

All Dogs Go To The Neighbors

I recently had to stop at a neighbor’s house and talk to him about his dogs.

Now, understand, I love dogs. I have four of them: a border collie, a Saint Bernard, an American Staffordshire terrier (small pit bull), and Garris’ beagle. Yes, it’s an eclectic pack of canines, but they are each part of my family.

When I bought this place, we only had the beagle. He has a habit of running off when he has the chance. And, being a hound, his nose gets him in trouble. Before we had a pen for him, he would escape. I could tell when he was going to run. I’d let him outside to do his business, and he’d turn around and give me this look. Then, his little legs would start churning and a god-awful mix of howling and baying would come out of his throat.

No matter how hard or how long we called, he would be gone for hours. More than once, I figured he was dead: hit by a car or shot by someone. But so far, he has always gotten home. About a year ago, I started a new rule. Any time Cody has to go outside, he has to be on a cable. He can’t be in the pen with Brees, our Saint, because she beats him up. There is just something about him that sets her off. Twice, I thought she was going to kill him.

But I digress.

The day we started moving into this house, late 2014, an older black lab dog showed up at the back door, wagging her tail and acting like she belonged there. She didn’t have any tags. And she really wasn’t causing any problems. But I didn’t need someone’s dog around. So, I shooed her away and watched her waddle to the nearest neighbor to the north.

Day after day, she showed up. And day after day, we ran her home. Then her visits started becoming more sporadic, and I figured the neighbor finally clued in on the fact that his dog was becoming a pain.

Then, about a year ago, a second dog started showing up. Every morning. A black and white mix would be running through our pasture, or into our barn, or through the horse pens. Once, I even saw him clear over at our arena.

So many times, I started to call the neighbors about the dogs. But I didn’t want to cause a stink. I tried very hard to be neighborly. Until about two weeks ago.

Every morning, there is fresh dog poop at the door to my Quonset barn. I either have to step around the fresh pile of poo or scoop it up and get rid of it. Did I mention we already have four dogs? Have you cleaned up after four dogs, one being a large Saint Bernard?

The other day, I had had enough. In one week, the male dog had come into my barn, chasing my cats; he had gone into the grain room and pilfered a bag of treats, which he ate and left the bag outside the barn; he was in the horse pens. Again.

The same day, the old black dog was back at the house, doing her evacuations at my front door.

I had to go to town that day, so I stopped at the neighbor’s house on my way. He met me at the driveway. I’m guessing he heard me yelling at his dogs earlier, and he definitely was on the defensive.

But I smiled and kept the opening friendly. I told him I needed to talk about his dogs. I asked, “Were you aware that your dogs at my house all the time?”

He fired back with, “Were you aware that Garris throws rocks at my horse?”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. The horse he was speaking about is an old horse that was given to them by some friends. He’s very friendly and hangs out over the fence with our horses. In fact, when our horses go to the pasture to eat, this white horse cries and runs his pasture because he’s so lonely. Both Garris and I sneak him horse treats. And Garris even thought we should give him hay during the winter. I didn’t go that far, but my point is that Garris has always liked the horse and been concerned that he isn’t cared for very well.

I know my son is not perfect. But the idea of him throwing rocks at a horse just didn’t jive with who he is. He is a rodeo kid. His horses are his partners. And besides, there was no reason for him to throw rocks at this old horse.

But, after I regained my composure, I told the neighbor that I would talk to Garris. And if he did, indeed, throw rocks, I would put a stop to it. He told me he had video of the rock throwing and that his sons had both seen Garris doing that. I did tell him it didn’t sound like something Garris would do, but I said again I’d ask him and talk to him about it.

He then accused us of dumping things over the fence. Things like tin and fencing supplies and twine. He said he took pictures every time he had to ‘clean up our messes’. I reminded him that those things were on his property when we bought the place – three and a half years ago. I thought at the time, who would put a horse out in a pasture with rebar and tin and all sorts of garbage lying around. My horses would cut their feet in a heartbeat. And the ‘piles’ of garbage have sat on his property the entire time we’ve lived here. I probably have pictures of the garbage in the background of shots of the horses.

I don’t dump anything on my neighbors’ properties. And I get after my boys for leaving twine on the ground. We always hang up the twine we cut in the barn. And the weekend before I stopped, Garris and I had spent an entire afternoon picking up twine in one pasture that the previous renters had left. I always worry about horses eating bits of twine and getting an obstruction in their colons.And every month, something else pops up from under the ground. Something that we didn’t throw there. And I’m sure that’s what is happening at the neighbors: things are making their way up from the ground. Things that have been buried for possibly years. But it’s easier to blame someone else, especially if your dogs are being naughty and you want to shift the focus onto something else.

But I re-directed our conversation back to his dogs. I told him that his dogs were at my house, in my barn, and in with my animals. I told him that some of my horses were very expensive, letting him come to the conclusion that if his dogs caused any injury or death, he’d be shelling out a huge pile of money. Anyone who has ever bought a performance or rodeo horse knows just how much money goes into their training, feed, transportation, let alone the initial purchase price.

I asked him, nicely, to please keep his dogs at home.

Of course, he claimed that his dogs never left the place, ‘unless they’re chasing cats’. When I told him that they chased cats inside my barn, he just shrugged. And he claimed that the male dog ‘always’ went with him. And he asked me specifically when the dogs were at my place.

When I told him around ten o’clock that morning, he blamed his kids for not keeping an eye on the dogs. I really don’t care whose ‘fault’ it is that the dogs are wandering to my place. I just don’t want them there. I should explain that I have about 30 acres. He must have around 20 – plenty of room for his dogs to stay on his property.

He also said his dogs ‘would never chase horses’. Well, if they chase cats, they’ll chase horses. And once dogs start, it’s almost impossible to get them to stop chasing other animals. And I will not sit back and allow anyone’s dogs to run my horses around their pens or through the fence.

Then, he went into a ramble about how he and his wife had just divorced and how he was struggling. For a half hour, I listened to him tell me WAY more information about his life than I ever needed to know.

He promised he’d keep his dogs home, and I left. I honestly felt good about the stop. I hate confrontation and was dreading having to talk about the dogs. But I felt once he got his hackles smoothed back down, that it was a productive talk.

Four days later, both dogs were back at my place. The female was doing her duties. The male chased cats directly in front of me and into my barn. I picked up the biggest rock I could find and pelted him with it, yelling at him to get.

Now, I’m marking down on the calendar every time I see his dogs on my place. And I told Garris to start taking pictures if he sees them here.

I really don’t want a neighbor battle over this, but I really am tired of his apathetic attitude about his dogs. Too many people move out of town, buy a few acres, and then think everyone’s property is part of their dogs’ right to roam.

I don’t allow my dogs to run. I had a dog pen built the summer after I bought this house. By that time, we had the border collie and the beagle, and they needed to be outside. I spent money, hired a fencing company to put up a secure pen, and I have kept my dogs at home. (With the exception of our wayward beagle.) But the difference is, I don’t knowingly allow him to run free. And when he does escape, he gets his little hiney beat when he comes home.

Once, last summer, Brees and Hooey broke the chain on the dog pen gate. They got out while I was gone, but were in my field when I pulled in. As soon as they saw the truck, they ran to me. We fixed the gate, and they have not been out since.

One of the neighbor’s arguments was that my dogs were over at his house all the time. LIE. If Brees ever got out when his dogs were at my place, he would have dead dogs. She is very protective of her property and her people. Hooey goes out with me for chores, but he doesn’t leave my side. And Stella, the pit bull, doesn’t stray more than a few feet from the patio. (Her eyesight is compromised so she sticks close to her safety zone.)

I am done being neighborly about dogs. We are putting extra wire up along the fence this weekend, filling in the holes that his dogs keep sneaking through. And I’m contemplating getting a camera for the barn. But I know the next time I see his dogs in my horse pens, the sheriff will get a phone call. I’ve given the neighbor fair warning. I’ve been accommodating. I’ve been more than fair about this situation. When it comes to protecting my animals, I will be ruthless.

I do understand that dogs can get out. They can run off. They can get distracted. Like Cody. And if his dogs’ visits were simply occasional mistakes, I wouldn’t have said anything. But they are at my house on a daily basis. I’m within my rights to expect him to keep his dogs on his property.

There is a nuisance law in Montana that, in a nutshell, gives property and livestock owners the right to defend against nuisance dogs. Dogs that chase, harass, worry, or injure livestock can be killed by the livestock owner.

Now, I’m not a violent person. I have a gun, but I rarely shoot. I don’t like inflicting pain on anyone else – person or animal. But I will defend my horses against a nuisance dog. If I don’t, then who will? Most of my horses don’t like dogs and will strike at them. If they connect, my guess is that dog would end up dead.

And who knows? Maybe Brees will suddenly find her way outside the pen the next time one or both of these dogs visit. She might take care of the situation for me. Either those dogs will finally learn to stay home, or they might never make it home again.

 

Floating Bone Fix

A week ago, Garris had wrist surgery. He had been complaining of wrist pain for about six months. When he had an MRI done, the film showed a floating bone in his wrist, at the ulnar styloid process. The big knobby bump on the outside of your wrist.

When he was in third grade, he broke that wrist during wrestling. They set it, and we forgot about it. Either the bone didn’t ever heal properly, or he re-injured the bone somehow. Let me think – he’s constantly flying off his horse, getting clotheslined by calves and goats, getting bucked off, etc., etc., etc. Mom votes for re-injury.

He had this MRI visit in April, and the surgeon was ready to schedule the procedure to remove the bone. Garris told him he couldn’t do surgery until after the rodeo season was finished. I’m not sure what the doctor thought about the response, but it didn’t surprise me. So, he toughed it out for another month and a half, until his state rodeo was done.

The next week, he was in surgery.

Now, our situation is a little complicated, because of the divorce. Garris is on his dad’s health insurance, but he has his own card. Since the surgery was scheduled during my week with Garris, I took him to the appointment, but his dad insisted on being there too. In fact, he told me I really wasn’t ‘invited’ to be there. You can imagine how well that went over. I will go to my son’s doctor’s appointments, especially when they fall during my weeks with him.

His check in time was 1:15, so we went to Bozeman early to do some grocery shopping. He couldn’t eat before the procedure, so we checked in early, hoping they might get him in a little early. Surprisingly, it worked. They took him back to his little cubby, had him put on his gown, and they took all his vitals. The anesthesiologist came in to talk with us.

When she pulled back the curtain, she looked at Garris, then at me and said, “Wow! A bit of a family resemblance.”  Both he and his oldest brother look a lot like me, especially with the red hair.

She explained everything very well, answered our questions, then we were left alone to wait.

After a few minutes, his dad came through the curtain, complaining that we had checked in early. To be honest, I didn’t think he was coming to the surgery. It was an outpatient procedure, done at the surgery center. It was a low-key, non emergency situation. So, it really wasn’t imperative that we both be present. I had already signed the check in papers. And since Garris was going to be with me for the first four days, I had made arrangements for his after care.

The surgical nurse retrieved Garris and walked him to the surgical suite. We each went to the waiting room. I had brought my laptop, thinking I’d get a couple of blogs done while I waited. After only twenty minutes, the nurse called us in to speak with the doctor.

The surgery went very well. He removed the styloid process and showed us the ‘after’ xray. He was confident that would solve Garris’ pain issue. After another few minutes, Garris was in recovery. The nurse walked us back, and Garris was smiling from ear to ear.

“That was fun!” he insisted.

Whatever happy juice they used worked really well. It took longer for him to wake up than the actual procedure took. The doctor stopped in again. The nurses went over paperwork. We got Garris dressed. Put his arm in a sling. And started out the door.

Naturally, a downpour had started, so I had to retrieve the truck in a deluge of raindrops. Garris got in the truck, propped his arm on a couple of pillows, and off we went.

I had wanted his dad to pick up the pain pills, so Garris and I could just go home. I didn’t want to deal with a big store while Garris was still wobbly. But his dad said he couldn’t. So, we grabbed a quick bite through a drive-through and headed back to Whitehall.

The rain followed us all the way home. We stopped at Whitehall Pharmacy, got his pills and a couple of other things the nurses suggested. We finally got home around five o’clock. I settled Garris onto the couch, set him up with ice and a big glass of water, then did chores while he snoozed a bit.

He decided to sleep in the recliner that night, so I gave him a pain pill, forced him to take a big drink of water, and told him to yell loudly if he needed something.

Thankfully, his wrist only hurt the first night and day. He only took pain pills at night. We spent the weekend watching stupid movies. He slept a lot. I dropped him off at his dad’s house Sunday night, with his pain pills and instructions.

He comes back to my house tomorrow morning, and then next Thursday he gets his stitches out. I’m so thankful and relieved that he seems to be healing quicker than was expected. Originally, we thought he’d be in a cast for about a month. If everything looks good at his appointment next week, he’ll be able to start doing whatever he can tolerate. He just won’t be able to lift much at first.

I’ll be glad to get my riding partner back. My very own private laborer. My teenager. I know this is the last summer I will have him home. Next year, he’ll be working. I’m actually happy that he had the surgery this year. After all, it gave me more time with him. I will do everything possible to make this summer as fun as possible. And to make it last as long as it will.

He’s thankful because he’ll have a great scar on his wrist. And some girl, somewhere, will ask him about it.

Mostly, we’re both happy that he should be pain free in a few days. And then life can get back on track. He’s anxious to get back to riding his horses and practicing up for fall rodeo. Without any pain, he should improve in his events. And that’s the whole reason for fixing this floating bone.

 

My Chosen Sister

A couple of weeks ago, I had to get the oil changed in my pickup. I normally take it to the Chevy dealer in Helena, because that’s where I bought the truck, and I have an oil change service with them. I invited my friend Colleen to ride along with me, so we could get in some shopping and lunch. Basically, I just wanted to spend the day with my bestie.

When I was married, we lived across the road from each other and had more opportunity to spend together. We walked several times a week. When our boys were all small, we took turns driving them to school and picking them up. And we usually made a weekly shopping trip to Butte.

Now that I live about ten miles away from her, we don’t connect as often. Life has just gotten more complicated. But whenever possible, we get together at least for a quick lunch every few weeks.

While we waited for the pickup, we sat and chatted. And it was like we had seen each other every day. We had plenty to talk about, but nothing was strained or awkward because we hadn’t been able to get together lately.

Paul, the service manager, always takes really good care of me. He appreciates that I drive from Whitehall, so whenever he sees my name on the schedule, he makes sure to get a guy on my truck right away. I had an additional request that day, so it took a bit longer than normal.

On his second trip to the waiting area to visit with me, he offered us a ride, pointed out some close restaurants, then asked if we wanted a loaner. We had already decided we were going to Café Zydeco for lunch, and it was too far to walk.

I looked at Colleen, and we both kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, “Loaner.”

“Are you two sisters?” he asked.

We both laughed, and I started to say no. But Colleen had the perfect answer.

“We’re not sisters by blood. But we chose each other.”

How awesome is that! That’s exactly how I feel about her. She knows all my secrets. All my fears and hopes. She knows me better than probably anybody else does.

And her answer touched me deeply. I don’t have a sister, just an older brother. But she grew up with two sisters, whom she isn’t close to. For her to think of me as a ‘better’ sister than her family ones made me tear up.

I’ve had a couple of friends that I felt almost as close to. But we’ve lost touch through the years, and it just isn’t the same as it once was. With Colleen, our birthdays are only two days apart. We both had similar marriages. And we both had similar childhoods and married life. We have a deeper connection than I felt with the other women.

Colleen and I share the same type of humor: dry with some self-deprecating comments. We share frustrations and goals. We share a world and political view. Mostly, we share our lives when we can, knowing that anything one of us says will go no further than that conversation.

When I was going through my divorce, she was one of the few people I leaned on. I was able to vent with her and do some wallowing, without feeling like I was bringing her down.

She and I are able to be honest with each other, even when it isn’t an easy topic. Years ago, when Garris was probably four or five, I sent her boys home while they were playing at our house. She called and asked what happened. I told her that the four older boys had convinced Garris to put his head through a noose. Even though nothing happened, I scolded her boys the same as I did mine. Before I had a chance to say anything more, she let out a little scream and apologized for her kids’ part in that game. She punished her boys, and I punished mine. And they never treated Garris like that again.

And she was my boys’ second mom, too. They knew if they were at her house, they minded her the same way they did me (probably better). And I expected her to be their mom.

On any given week, one of us was feeding at least one extra kid. Cyris and her son Ryan were best friends all through junior high and high school. Ryan graduated a year ahead of Cy, but they remained good friends. And even now, they talk or text regularly. Cyris is in Dillon, and Ryan is in Butte. And I’m guessing that they keep each other’s secrets the same way that Colleen and I do. Which is pretty cool, when you think about it.

We don’t feel the need to brook our statements or to try to be more like the other. We are each just perfect in the company of each other.

She has made me a better person. When I have dark days, I can text her, and she can tell just from my writing that something is wrong. And I think about what she would do in situations where I’m unclear. She is a wonderful friend, mother, and woman. She is much more spiritual than I am, and sometimes I ponder that influence in her life.

We tease a lot that we are going to hell when we die, because we do gossip about people. And we tend to speak our hearts, rather than worry about being politically correct. But I guess if I do end up burning in flames, I’ll have good company!

I wasn’t blessed with a sister growing up, but I have certainly been blessed for the last decade having this woman as my best friend. She’s seen me through good times and bad. We’ve commiserated about our husbands; we’ve vented about our children; and we’ve supported each other during medical scares and health crises. But we’ve also celebrated together when our kids did something great; we’ve made shopping trips into day adventures; and we’ve shared life hacks that we found invaluable. She’s seen me at my worst and, she still counts me as a friend. I can’t relay just how fortunate that makes me.

My best friend. My confidant. My chosen sister.

One Run

Today’s post is a perfect example of what rodeo moms are willing to do for their kids. It’s Saturday, June 9, and I’m sitting in the Baker grandstands, waiting for him to make his tie down run.

 

Garris was attending his first high school state rodeo this week in Baker. From my place in Whitehall, the drive takes about six and a half hours . I had made reservations in the one available motel months ago, thinking he was going to qualify in three events. At the end of the spring season, he had qualified in two events, but was only going to compete in the calf roping.

Now, he has held his own this year competing against older, more experienced, and bigger boys.

But realistically, he just wasn’t set up to do that well at state. The boys can max out with 70 points. Garris went into state with 50.

So he and I talked about my not going to the rodeo. By the time I stayed five nights in a motel, bought fuel for the trip, bought meals and other things during that week, I just couldn’t justify it in order to watch him make two calf runs.

He told me that he wanted to come to the rodeo, but he understood my reasons for staying home. So, I made a compromise with him. If he made the short go, I’d drive over on Saturday morning and watch him compete.

He agreed to that. And I figured I was safe. Like I said, he’s a good calf roper, and in another couple of years, he’s going to be the one to beat. But I really wasn’t looking forward to driving that far by myself. Plus the fact that I would probably see him for a total of about fifteen minutes during the week.

During the first go, he had a 13 second calf run, good enough for eighth. That bumped him from 25 to 21 in the standings. I figured he’d probably do about the same for the second go.

Last night, he called me at nine o’clock to tell me that he won the second round with a 9.8. That shot him from 21 to 9 in the standings, which meant he made the short go.

“You’re going to make me drive to Baker, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Yep. A deal is a deal.”

So, I went outside and shuffled some horses around and got hay ready for this morning, so it would be a little quicker for me today. I got up at four, fed horses and dogs, grabbed my cooler and some water, headed east.

A couple times today, I was afraid I was going to sleep, so I cranked up the music, drank enough water to make me need to pee, and kept moving. I made a couple of stops, and the trip took me right at six and a half hours.

I pulled in the Fallon County Fairgrounds with about two hours of sleep, and found my son, then I settled into the grandstands for the short go.

I’ll let you in on a secret, I made reservations for Rock Springs last night. I don’t want to jinx Garris by assuming he’ll do well today, but I didn’t want to wait too long and all the rooms be rented out.

Last night, my mom asked me if I was still going to go to watch. Of course. I made Garris a promise, and I keep my promises to my kids. Even if it means I get two hours of sleep, then drive for six, to watch one calf run. I didn’t hesitate or try to get out of it.

Honestly, I laughed about it. Only a rodeo mom would do this kind of crazy thing.

When his run finally came, he missed. No excuses. No big reason why. He ended up eighth overall for the year. Not bad for a freshman who came in at number 25.

When I saw him after his run, he was almost in tears. He knew going in, that he had to catch to have any hope of making it to Rock Springs. It looked like he was a little tight and a little late coming out of the box, so he got outrun. He was packing two loops, but his second loop was a desperation throw. I told him I was proud of him for doing as well as he did. He had the fastest time of the weekend and was the only freshman to make it back to the short go. Out of 16 boys, seven were seniors, six were juniors, two were sophomores, and then Garris. That was an achievement just making it to the short go.

And my drive home? Long. I stopped for a burger in Miles City, then a couple more times to pee. But I was home by 9:30. I fed horses, then dropped into bed. I spent Sunday attending a graduation party for Regan and messing with my new horses.

 

Today, June 11, when I picked him up from his dad’s, he was still upset with himself about the miss but he seemed like a more determined roper. He’s decided to sit out football this next year so he can focus on his roping. And he wants to try and add three more events.

Sigh. That means more nerves and more practice time for this mom.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, today we’re outside of Deer Lodge, so he can tie some new calves with a few other boys. Kayle Berg, with Red Eye Rodeo, invited them to meet at his big red barn and tie the little buggers. Garris jumped at the chance. And asked if I could drive him over.

Of course. That’s what this rodeo mom does.

Musical Horses

To continue from my previous post, since purchasing my three new horses, I have spent the last two weeks playing musical pens.

I had to deal with one of my older geldings not wanting to share ‘his women’ with the new gelding. Sails is a sweet roan gelding that I’ve been using for breakaway. He is mellow but kind of a chicken. He is usually in the pen with Peppy and Whiskey, two mares. But this summer, he’s gotten very possessive about who he allows near them.

When J2 unloaded my three horses, I put the two mares together in a pen and put Cougar in a separate one. Later in the day, I put Cougar in with Remy and Gin, thinking that would just simplify my work. But Sails wasn’t having any of that. He reared up and started striking across the fence at Cougar, who didn’t help the situation by charging toward the fence.

Ultimately, I put Cougar back in the pen by himself. But then Sails didn’t even want the two young mares next to the fence by Peppy and Whiskey. Long story short, I had to haul around about a dozen heavy horse panels and make a ‘buffer pen’ to keep the horses from fighting over the fences. In this past week, I’ve created twice the number of pens I had, by myself since Garris has been at his dad’s getting ready for his state rodeo.

Once I finally had enough pens for everyone and was sure no one was going to hurt themselves fighting across the fence, I had to figure out how to graze everyone.

We’ve had so much rain this spring that I have grass everywhere. Not only in the pasture but also in the middle part of my property, between the house and the barn. In the past, I’ve put up a single electric fence pen, to try and eat up some of the grass and give the pasture a chance to breathe. This year, with this many horses, I’ve had to get creative. I’ve got horses panels, electric fence, and am utilizing all sorts of funky barriers to get the grass accessible to all these horses. Thankfully, no one has tested the barriers very hard yet.

But I have to make a cheat sheet before I go out each morning, to put everyone in the best spot. Right now, the two young mares are in the old goat pen, where the grass is a couple feet high. Sails, Peppy, and Whiskey are in the big pasture. Ote and Fritz are in a big electrified pen. Cougar is in a horse paneled pen. It takes a good half hour to get everyone to their respective spots, get the electric fences going, and make sure no one is going to throw a fit.

Then I have to figure out where to put everyone once their grazing time is up.

I have definitely gotten my workouts the past couple of weeks. And I’m pleased to say that they have eaten down some of the areas of tall grass. Sure saves on hay when they can eat what’s on the ground!

It will be easier next week, once Garris is back at my house for a couple of weeks. The musical horses will continue until the end of the grass. So, I’m hoping we keep doing this well into fall.

Crazy Horse Lady

I’ve been somewhat absent from my blog for several weeks. I’ve been writing, but not publishing much on here. Life has just gotten so busy that I haven’t had time to sit down and share anything.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a horse sale in Billings. I had circled quite a few horses I wanted to look at, so my folks and I took our catalogs and went to the Friday preview. By the end of that day, we had eliminated about half of the horses on our lists. My mom and I went back to the sale the next day.

Cyris called me before we left and told me not to bring a trailer. I laughed and told him I wouldn’t be bringing any horses home, so I had already decided against a trailer. He clarified his statement. A co-worker and friend, J2, was taking some colts to the sale for their boss. He had a trailer available if I bought anything.

My main goal for the sale was to gauge where horse prices were hovering. It has been a couple of years since I attended a sale. I’m looking for breakaway and tie down prospects: horses that Cyris and Regan could take for the summer and try to finish. Cy and I made a business deal that I bought any horses in that category and he put in the time, we’d split the profits from any sales.

The morning of the sale, we arrived during the loose horse portion, and the parking lot was already brimming. We had to park a the very back of the lot and snagged two vacant chairs in the auction. We didn’t dare leave our chairs, so we watched the loose horses sell.

When the actual sale began, I settled into my seat, jotting down selling prices, and preparing myself for a long day. The first few horses I was somewhat interested in went for a bit more than I was willing to pay, so I watched them sell to someone else.

Then  two year old filly came in the ring. She came off a ranch in Havre, and I had spoken to her rider just before the sale. She was quiet, calm, and very kind looking. The bids started and I figured she was gone. Then everyone stopped bidding. I threw up my hand, bid once, and was suddenly the owner of a young horse.

Three horses later, a five year old mare came through the ring. I hadn’t really seen anyone ride her, but the group of horses she was in was being trained by a Hutterite man from Nebraska. He put a nice handle on all the horses he rode in the sale. She had good breeding, so I watched the bidding start on her. Same thing. Bidding stopped; I made a bid; and I got her.

I felt pretty good about picking those two up. You see,  lot of people don’t like mares, because when they come in, they can be cantankerous to get along with. But some of my best horses have been mares. In fact, Peppy, the mare that Garris rode all through junior high, was one of the best horses – male or female – that we ever had.

And I figured if these two didn’t work out for our needs, we could sell them. Besides, the horse I really wanted was going to go high.

After a couple more hours, that gelding finally came through the sale. He was a four year old, had great breeding, and looked a lot like our Peppy, except he was leaner. He had, supposedly, two years of cutting training, and seemed like he had a good head on him.

Bidding started, and the price jumped quickly. I figured he was out of my reach. Then, just like with the other two, people stopped bidding. I threw up my hand, made three bids, and I actually got the horse. I was waiting for the rider to ‘no-sale’ the horse, but he didn’t.

Now, I felt kind of silly at that point, for picking up three horses when I hadn’t intended to bring home even one. But as I looked back through the pedigrees, and mentally calculated what those horses SHOULD have sold for, I relaxed and knew I had made some decent purchases.

Then I had to tell J2 that I had three horses to get home. He was amused about it. Apparently, Cyris had told him ahead of time that I wouldn’t got to a sale and come home empty handed. I guess my son knows me better than I do! J2 had a big stock trailer and plenty of room. They were going home the next day, while my mom and I were leaving right away. I got some hay to my new horses, made sure the gates were secure, and my mom and I left.

Since my dad didn’t make it to the sale, he was anxious to know how it went. He was surprised, but pleased, about the three I bought. And last weekend, my folks, Cyris, and Regan, all came to my place to see the new additions, and to ride. We had a fun day, complete with a birthday celebration for Cyris.

Cy and Regan each rode both mares. The gelding, Cougar, stepped on a nail on Thursday, so he was wearing a fashionable rubber boot and couldn’t be ridden. But the kids fell in love with the two year old, Remy. She acted, and moved, like an older horse. She’s already neck reining. She moves out well. She keeps her head at a good level. She’s going to make a dandy horse; we’ll just have to see what direction seems like a good fit for her.

Gin, the five year old, was a bit more high maintenance. She needs some good, long days with Cyris at the ranch. She may not work for what we need, but with some time and patience, we’ll figure out where she needs to be.

In all, I am happy with the outcome. Although, I won’t be attending any more horse sales for quite a while! As it is, I’m playing musical horses, trying to put everybody in pens where they won’t fight over the fence. I’ll just enjoy these three new adoptees and see if I get to keep any of them, or if my kids end up stealing them away. Guess I’ll just be the crazy horse lady that keeps adding to the herd.

Mother’s Day Musings

It’s Mother’s Day 2018, and I am sitting in my pickup trying to stay warm. At a high school rodeo.

Not any shocker. The last ten years, every Mother’s Day has been spent in similar fashion.

Do I mind? Not really. Only when my ex doesn’t bring my son to my house after the rodeo is over. A couple years in a row, he opted to take Garris with him, one year to take calves to the stock yards. And last year, to Dillon. In fact, last year, Garris didn’t spend a single minute with me on my day.

That’s when I told them both that wasn’t going to happen again. I understand that there is always a rodeo. But once he’s done with his events, Garris is supposed to spend the rest of the day with me. I’m not sure why my ex thought it was okay to interfere with Mother’s Day.

This year, Garris told me he wanted me to come to his rodeo, and then he’ll go home with me.

As a rodeo mom, Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday. I feel like I earn the holiday all year long. I love the life I have. I love that my boys have the rodeo bug. I love that we spend such a large amount of time in and around arenas. I love that we are part of a bigger family of rodeo folks. I wouldn’t trade my moniker as rodeo mom for any other.

I also feel like we moms put in a great deal of effort to get our kiddos to this point. Yes, dads tend to foot the bills for horses and practice cattle and entry fees. But in my case, my kids had great rodeo horses because of me and because of my folks.

I spent hours and hours every summer teaching my kids how to ride. How to rope. How to run the barrels and poles patterns. For me, horsemanship was the most important lesson they learned. Only after that, did they get to move on to actual rodeo events.

And when my boys first started competing, I was usually the one who hauled them. I helped them get their horses cleaned and saddled. I helped them get mentally prepared for each of their events. And again, I wouldn’t trade any of those things.

But sometimes moms get overlooked when kids start listing the people who helped them. It happened to me. A couple of years ago, Garris did a newspaper interview before he went to his national rodeo. When asked about who helped him the most, he immediately answered his dad. Later, I called Garris out on that. He was thinking only of the previous year. He wasn’t thinking about all the years from the time he was three years old and who had been with him all of that time.

When he realized what he had done and how badly he hurt my feelings, he gave me a hug and told me how sorry he was. I’m not trying to make myself more important than his dad or than anyone. But I think it’s important that he recognize the time and effort I’ve put in getting him to the point where he can compete as a freshman against older kids.

Rodeo moms, take heart! Our kids do appreciate what we give them and what we offer. It’s just sometimes not in their foremost thought. After all, we just always step up and do what they need us to do. We give everything we have to them, without asking anything in return.

So, sometimes they do need a little reminder about all the support they get from their moms.

We take videos. We cheer. We order pictures from the photographer. We offer hugs when runs don’t go well. We offer a high five or a fist when the runs go well.  We listen to their successes and to their misery.

When my oldest son was as senior in high school, his state rodeo did not go well. He had been roping calves really well all spring, but he had two long times at state, which eliminated any possibility of going to Nationals. He was sitting at the trailer, absorbing the moment. I sat down beside him, told him there was nothing I could say to make things better, so I just gave him a good hug. We sat there for several minutes, until he was ready to face the world again.

I salute all the rodeo moms who, like me, sit through rain and sun, snow and wind, good runs and bad, to  continue propping up our kids in order to help them be the best people they can be.        There will come a day in the future when I won’t be sitting at a rodeo on Mother’s Day. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do when that day comes. Maybe by that point, I’ll be watching grandkids instead of kids.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

Breakaway and Break the Rules

This past weekend, I attended a breakaway roping clinic in Helena. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have always wanted to learn how to rope. I’ve spent the last couple of months getting my horse legged up and trying to get myself in shape as well.

Being an older participant – fifty – I was excited, but apprehensive going into the clinic. As someone who had never roped, I just didn’t want to look like an old fool trying to recapture some long-forgotten youth.

I was more than pleased with the outcome of the weekend. Within the first hour of the clinic, I knew I had made the right decision in attending. Not only did I feel welcomed and accepted, I felt like I belonged in that group of people. I didn’t feel like an old woman. I felt like someone trying to learn a new skill.

The two instructors were friendly and engaging, and though they expected everyone to pay attention and put effort into the clinic, they offered help and plenty of individual instruction. They each answered questions and one-on-one tips, whether it was specific to roping or horsemanship. The hours flew by.

I normally hate people watching me, especially when I’m trying something new like that. But most of the other participants were friendly as well. Only a few had been to a previous clinic.

Because I was the only one who had truly never roped before, I felt like I had an advantage over those who had. I didn’t have any habits to break or any other instruction to un-learn. I’m not going so far as to say it was ‘easy’, but the way the ladies presented their method was simple and made sense to me.

They emphasized the ‘feel’ of the rope, and for some reason, that clicked for me. I picked up the swing pretty quickly, by the end of the second day, my swing was faster and more accurate. I was even getting my slack figured out, at least on the dummy.

I didn’t chase any actual calves this time. I wasn’t ready for that. And I don’t think my horse was either. If there had been any trotters, I might have jumped in and tried chasing a few. But the calves were way too fast. Next year.

I know enough now to practice more on the dummy, then transfer what I learned to my horse and work on those skills at that level. By next year, when there is another clinic, I’ll be ready for live calves. And who knows, maybe by next summer, I can actually compete.

I can understand how roping becomes so addicting. Even for us old-timers!

 

Boys and Noise

As the mom of three boys, my house was usually filled with all kinds of noise. Yelling, jumping, wrestling. I got used to it. I say that, because I was always a very quiet person. Growing up, I rarely spoke unless someone spoke to me. I was shy to the point of pain. So, my life in a house full of loud males was a bit unsettling for me. Even my oldest son told me once that I was out-numbered and he felt sorry for me that I didn’t have any little girls.

I tuned out the noise, most of the time. When all three boys were home, most weekends, they had friends over, when we weren’t at rodeos or sports events. I got used to fixing huge pots of whatever we were eating, because invariably there was at least one extra kid at the table.

I never minded. I had lots of extra kids at school that called me ‘mom’. It was a term of endearment that I liked. Slowly, there have been fewer kids around the house. Partly, because my older two boys are now away at college, so their high school friends are away too. I don’t see them as often. And I don’t know as many of their college friends.

Partly, the divorce has played a part as well. I live farther from town, so Garris’ friends don’t make it to my house as often. And truth be told, he doesn’t have as many close friends as his brothers did. He’s more of a loner than his brothers were.

But he’s loud in his own way. When he comes through the front door, the noise level in the house increases exponentially. He almost reverberates sound. It’s almost like he can’t help himself. He has to sing or yell or make noise if he’s conscious.

He has to antagonize the dogs or the cats. He has to throw a ball, even if I just told him not to. He has to throw his backpack on the floor instead of place it.

In short, he pushes my buttons to the point where I lose my patience. And then my voice gets louder. That seems to be his goal. That seems to make him happy.  And we have found our own groove together. I let him think he really annoys me, when in reality, I look at this as our little game. It’s one last way that we can play together now that he’s a teenager.

On the weeks I’m home alone, I remind myself that in three short years, I’m going to be in a very quiet house 24/7 and I will be craving the noise and the movement that Garris brings with him. I need to find some patience on those days that he pushes my buttons and remember that his persistence is his boy way of showing me that he loves me. He pesters me to remind me that he’s in my life and that he’s full of piss and vinegar. He has brought me out of my shell since the divorce.

On my darkest days, it’s his noise that has gotten me out of bed and forced me to join the world. It’s his pestering that has kept me grounded and kept me focused on what really matters: my boys.

Oh, what would I do without him and his noise!