The Real Death Bed Experience

The past four months have been a whirlwind of turmoil in my life. In mid-February, my dad had an unexpected heart attack. He was driven by ambulance from Bozeman to Billings for a triple bypass surgery. At the age of 85, it was risky. But so was letting it go untreated.

We were able to go see him after the surgery, and he looked so small! He had tubes and wires hooked up everywhere. But his vitals looked good, and his color had already improved.

The surgery went well, he recovered well, and when he was discharged, he stayed in Billings for an additional week. My brother wanted my folks to stay with him and his wife, and I thought he would take care of them. Unfortunately, there was constant chaos in the house. There was no atmosphere conducive to healing, a fact I didn’t know until later.

A week after the surgery, the day before I was going to pick my folks up and drive them home, he had a massive stroke. He was flown to Denver, where most of the clot was removed from his brain. He had some lingering effects: a slight facial droop, some paralysis on his left side, slurred speech.

I flew to Denver the morning following the stroke, and when I saw him, I was relieved that he looked as good as he did. Mom was a wreck, as expected, but my best friend from high school had taken time away from her life to be with Mom until I could get there. She shuttled me, and my kids, to and from the airport. She offered us a place to stay, although she understood that she lived too far from the hospital for us to take her up on that.

Over the next few days, we hit every high and low imaginable. Dad rallied. Then he got pneumonia. He was put on oxygen. Then he was down to just a nose tube. They discovered a DVT in his left calf, so that eliminated physical therapy. They were planning on getting him out of ICU, then he was back on oxygen. More than once, I expected a late night phone call, telling me that he had passed on.

The short version: he fought with everything he had to make it home to Montana. His body just couldn’t overcome all the ailments and trauma that was inflicted on it. He died on March 15, 2020, with Mom and myself present.

I had never watched a person die before. It isn’t like the movies. There wasn’t a big death bed confession. There wasn’t an end-of-life speech. There wasn’t a revelation or catharsis. Once the cannula was removed from his nose, and morphine administered, his organs slowly shut down. It wasn’t an immediate death. It took about two hours for him to pass. But I don’t think he had any pain.

And to be honest, I don’t think his mind was present for any of it. I think he had started dying several days previously, and this was the final stage of it. When my mom stepped out to make a phone call, I told Dad that I would watch over her, make sure she was safe. I would have her move in with us and make sure she ate and paid the bills.

I thanked him for being a good dad and a good grandpa for my boys. I told him he could rest now. His job on earth was done. He didn’t respond. I only hope he heard me. On some level understood what I was telling him. I hope it brought him some peace in his passing.

At the end, it was my mom and me holding his hands as he breathed his last breath. His eyes were cloudy already, his skin muted and gray. The body left in the bed was not my dad. He was gone. Then began the process of getting him back to Montana.

My dad was not a religious person. He didn’t attend church or pray. But he had his own form of spirituality, mostly found on the backs of horses he had loved in his life. Whatever a person believes in, I have to think he is in heaven now, finding those horses he loved, and looking down to make sure we are all okay.

Garris just competed at the high school state finals. He had a so-so year, and honestly, I didn’t expect him to perform at his normal level. He hasn’t practiced or ridden his horses since fall. Most of the spring rodeos were cancelled. And his heart just didn’t seem to be in competition. But somehow, he qualified for Nationals. He roped all six calves, between the Wednesday night jackpot and the three gos of the rodeo.

I have a feeling my dad was sitting in the saddle with him, helping that rope go where it needed to and making sure Garris’ feet stepped down sure and strong. I’d like to think he was in the mix. It makes me feel closer to my dad to believe that he is still a part of our lives, and still helping the boys achieve their goals.

I only wish he could have been spared the pain and indignity of what he went through the last month of his life. My solace is that at the end of his life, he knew I loved him. I didn’t leave anything unsaid with my dad, and for that, I am grateful.

Because of this experience, I have made a more concerted effort to find the good in each day, work toward my goals, and to avoid fights with my youngest son. It is surreal to think I can’t call my dad to ask his advice on things or just chat about horses. I’ve reached for my phone multiple times since his passing.

Mom has moved in with us, and although we are all adjusting, it was the only solution for her. She couldn’t live alone. She went from her parents’ home to her married home. She has never lived by herself. She has never paid the bills or balanced a check book. She has never gassed up her own vehicle. And losing Dad was the hardest experience she has lived through.

Moving in with us was the only way she would be able to continue living her life, as close to what she’s used to. She still rides horses, and at 81, she still plans to show this summer in reined cow horse events. I have the space and the room for her. All three of my boys want her here, even though two are out of the house. My youngest has one year of high school left.

As we maneuver through the maze of moving boxes, we laugh about things Dad did or said, and we are finding a way to have closure through this. She will never fully be ‘over’ his death, and I don’t expect her to. But right now, she is broken hearted and hurting. Hopefully, she can start to heal a little bit. And realize that Dad is still with us, living on in our thoughts and hearts.

An Unexpected Death

My dad died in mid-March. It has been a much harder thing for me to write about than I had envisioned. I have started a memoir about the experience, which is bringing out a lot of buried emotions. I can’t seem to ‘get’ to the level I need to in order to write every day. In my head, I know what I want to say. But when I sit down to write/type, my mind goes blank and I suffer the worst writer’s block I’ve ever had.

His death was unexpected. He has always been one of the healthiest people I’ve known. At 85, he was still showing horses and shoeing his own. He was up every day by 5:30. He ate healthy, three meals a day. He weighed the same as he did the day he got married. So, when he had a heart attack, it shocked us all. When we were told he had a 90% blockage in one artery, I was flummoxed. He had triple bypass, and he came out of that with great results.

One week after that surgery, he had a massive stroke and was flown out of state to Denver, where most of that clot was removed successfully. I thought he would make a full recovery and be back to his life within a few months. Unfortunately, things snowballed. He lost the ability to swallow. He got pneumonia. He had a DVT in his left leg, the one affected by the stroke. He was put on oxygen. He started bleeding internally, and the ulcer repair only helped for about a day. He started bleeding in his stool, and his body just started shutting down.

Up until the day before he died, his mind was sharp, like it had always been. He was worried about everyone else. I know he was scared, but he didn’t say anything directly. What he did say was that he didn’t want to be abandoned.

In the weeks since his passing, I have thought more and more about the man he was, and I’ve realized I didn’t know him. Not the total person. Sadly, he didn’t talk about his early life. He didn’t share with us the hard childhood he had as the oldest of three boys. He didn’t talk about his high school days. He didn’t tell us that in college, at one point, he led the nation in the steer wrestling event in college rodeo. He didn’t talk about his Army service, even though he won a good conduct award and served as a company clerk. He didn’t talk about his dreams or goals.

And that, more than his death, brings tears to my eyes. Yes, I miss my dad. I always will. But he lived a long life. And I had a good relationship with him. But I can’t ask him details about things I just discovered. Who are in the old pictures with him? What back story is behind the newspaper clippings? Why did he forego his dream of becoming a veterinarian? Why didn’t he pursue ranching, like his college term papers suggested he wanted to do?

I feel great sadness when I think of his disappointments and his dead dreams.

Perhaps that is why is has been so hard to write about his death. It makes me look at my life and the failures I’ve had and the disappointments I’ve endured, from an abusive marriage to a worthless degree. I will never achieve certain things in my life that I once dreamed of; it’s simply not in the realm of possibilities at the age of 52. And I wonder if my dad is looking down at my life and feeling disappointed in me.

I have made a renewed commitment to myself, to reach some of the dreams that are still possible. To live each day with grace and joy. To find the positive in all situations. And to savor the people in my life, whom I love. I don’t ever want to regret words I’ve said, or those left unsaid. The first thing I said to Garris when I got home was that he and I cannot fight any more. We have had some doozies over school, and I just can’t do it with him. I don’t want that to define our mother-son relationship. He agreed. And I think we are both trying harder to be better communicators.

So, if anything positive came out of my dad’s death, it is that I want the rest of my life to mean and count for something. I don’t want my kids to find out things about my life only after I’m gone. I have started scanning photos and clippings, making sure to label people and events. I am talking more with my kids, even with difficult subjects. Confrontation has always been hard for me, and I normally avoid it at all costs. But I have learned that that is what kept me in a toxic relationship for years longer than I should have stayed.

To honor the life of my dad, I have vowed to live my life on my terms. Right now, that includes moving my mom into the house with us, and that is a story for another day.

Personal and Private Struggles

I have been a bit delinquent the last few months with my blog. The last six months have given me a lot of turmoil and struggles that have required my full attention. Some of these will make their way into future blogs. Some will not as they involve some of the people that I love. I don’t feel it’s my place to share their personal issues.

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve posted and at least that long since I’ve sat down to write something fun. We begin the start of another rodeo season this weekend. We head to Lewistown where Garris will compete in reined cowhorse on Friday and then the rodeo on Saturday and Sunday. I feel like we just started the summer and yet we are easing into fall

Garris decided he wants to use Fritz for calf roping this fall. Since Cyris is done with competitively calf roping, at least for a while, there was no reason why Garris couldn’t take his horse. He’s had some good practices so we’ll see this weekend if they’re going to click when it’s competition time.

It’s been a couple of years since I have hauled horses for Garris time, so I’m  a little out of practice. We’ve been getting the trailer ready and figuring out exactly what we’re going to do for the weekend.

Garris is borrowing a horse for the reined cowhorse event. The horse is a stud, and his owner was gracious enough to let us use him, but the catch was that the trainer has to go along. Tye has been giving  Garris lessons for a couple of years. It’s been a bit inconsistent, but I think Garris is seeing he needs to get a lesson in once a week if he is going to be successful in this event.

We will be taking two trailers, and it does seem a bit odd to be having someone else go along with us, but it will be good for Garris. Tye will probably yell at him from the fence if he’s doing something wrong which is okay.  Sometimes that’s what Garris needs.

After the past several months of making life-altering decisions, it’s nice to get back into a routine that I’ve had for about ten years – the routine of rodeo season. Sometimes I cuss it because it’s so long. Sometimes I dread it, because I get bleacher butt. But in the end, I rejoice in this life.

Especially this year, as I go into rodeo season with just one boy competing. Cyris graduated in May and finished out his college rodeo career at the same time.  This fall, Garris is going solo as the only Robertson boy to compete. I know how fleeting the next two years are going to feel, so my goal for the next eight weeks is to enjoy every moment at every rodeo. Soak in the weekends and commit them to memory.

For a lot of years, I went into each season knowing there were many more to come. But now I realize that every season is special and needs to be cherished.

My oldest son stopped competing abruptly after his sophomore season. I thought I had two more years to watch him, and I actually grieved his decision. I understood it – he wanted to focus on school. But it made me incredibly sad that he was just . . . done.

And Cy has struggled the past couple of years. He is burned out and doesn’t plan to rodeo for awhile. I think once he’s away from it, he’ll miss aspects of it and return. But for now, he’s content working on his ranch and going to some jackpots here and there.

And last spring, Garris had to sit out the rodeo season, because he didn’t keep his grades at an acceptable level. It was hard on him to watch his friends go to state and nationals and have to sit at home. And it was hard on me, knowing he could have been in the run for one of those coveted national spots.

So, I don’t have any guarantees. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I will try to relax more and just enjoy being a rodeo mom for as long as I get to.



Flag Flying Proud American

It’s no secret that I am a solid Conservative. I grew up in a house where family values were more important than current trends. Where the flag was respected and revered. And where hard work and honesty were expected.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Cy’s last home town rodeo in Dillon. The University of Montana Western hosted its annual college rodeo. Of course, before the start of each performance, there was the presentation of flags. In the rodeo world, sponsor flags precede the state and national flag. I’ve been involved in these types of opening ceremonies for most of my life. And every time, I tear up when the red, white, and blue of Old Glory makes its way into the arena. I can’t help it. When I look at the stars and stripes and listen to the national anthem, I can’t help but think about everything this country offers. Everything it stands for. And I’m filled with pride to be an American. I was fortunate to be born in this country. There is no other place I’d rather be.

I know I’ve posted previously about my feelings regarding the flag controversy that started in the NFL. From the outset, I felt that type of protest had no place in that forum and that the person starting it had no clue about any kind of injustice. Nor did he fully realize the extent to which he was offending a large segment of our population. I refuse to use his name; he doesn’t deserve another microsecond of fame based on his cowardly and selfish behavior.

There are several reasons his action bother me.

First, this man has never experienced any kind of social injustice. He was adopted into a white, upper class family, where he lived a luxurious lifestyle of privilege and fortune. For him to try and lecture me on hardship is an affront to my intelligence.

Second, he is a millionaire, as are all the other ‘men’ who have joined his protest. These spoiled, over paid athletes are hypocrites. They have fat bank accounts, luxury homes, sports cars, etc. and are crying out about how their skin color makes life unfair. Get real. They are playing a child’s game and making a fortune.

Third, if anyone wants to protest something, that is their right. But not on someone else’s dime. I was under the impression that athletes had to uphold certain ideals when playing for a professional team. I know if I protested during my work hours, I wouldn’t have a job.

Fourth, their kneeling is doing nothing positive. If these men truly believed in this ‘protest’ they would use their ample resources to actually make changes in their communities, and beyond. They would volunteer their time to local charities and outreach programs. They would use their fame to make positive steps in dealing with the issues they like to throw around as their basis for protesting. All they are doing by taking a knee is showing their ignorance and arrogance.

Fifth, protesting our national anthem has nothing to do with what they claim bothers them. Our flag represents so many key American ideals. It represents freed. It represents hope. It represents resilience. Is this country perfect? No. Is our society free from prejudice? No. And based on the obvious hatred and racial divide that is being fostered by left-leaning politicians, we will never be free from bias. But this country still offers more than any other in the world. These men who like to claim their African heritage as being more vital than their American birth should move to an African country. And then try to earn the kind of money their are in this country. Or try to protest the government. They might learn to appreciate what they’ve been allowed in America.  Some say the lyrics to the anthem are racist and offensive. I’ve read them. I don’t see it. And frankly, I’m tired of everything being twisted into some racial issue.

Sixth, taking a knee, for me, is a slap in the face to the military men and women who have serving and are currently serving. These people offer their lives in order for the rest of us to live as free human beings. Military personnel, police, first responders all deserve our respect. For the most part, they serve their fellow man with very little compensation, and in some areas, with zero respect. These men who started this disgusting behavior are directly responsible for the blatant attacks on military and police. And they should be ashamed of themselves. Of course there are corrupt officers. Just as there are corrupt football players who abuse drugs or beat the women in their lives. Seems to me, instead of lumping the majority of decent officers in with the small percentage of corrupt ones, these protesters are behaving in exact ways that they say they are against.

And seventh, I will not watch another NFL game. I won’t allow any games to be shown in my house. And that has expanded to NBA. Not that I follow any teams or hold up any players of either league as role models. But I would occasionally watch a game, especially during post season. These protesters have completely ruined the games for me. And the league commissioners, team owners, managers, etc. who have allowed this type of behavior are no better than the protesters themselves. When my core values, as an American, are essentially thrown to the ground, I will find other ways to entertain myself and occupy my time. I don’t need to watch a bunch of grown ‘men’ playing games and thinking they are above the rest of us. Eventually, these leagues will see the result in their pocketbooks. Because there are enough people who feel the same as I do.

So, even though I defend anyone’s right to protest and to disagree with my beliefs, I don’t defend the destruction or disrespect of our national symbol. I have the right to engage in my own form of protest. In the form of money and support. I won’t spend a dime supporting these men or their organizations.

I will stand up. I will put my hand over my heart. I will fly the flag with pride. And I will continue to cry when I see that flag being carried into an arena horseback. The alternative just isn’t acceptable for me.

Engagement Photos

I’m sure some of you will get sick of my posts about the upcoming wedding and what everyone is doing between now and August. But indulge me, as a mom. As I’ve said many times before, Cyris and Regan are just about the ideal couple.

They love each other, and that’s apparent in the way they interact. They help each other automatically; they are fiercely protective of each other and of their relationship; and they have common goals and ideals. For two people who are only 22 years old, they are mature and just make sense together.

A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out at their house in between morning slack and evening performance of the Western rodeo. It was comfortable being there. Regan was in the living room, trying to get warmed up from our chilly morning. Cy was in the kitchen. There was only enough coffee for one person, so Cy warmed it up in his cup. He asked if Regan wanted some, and then started a new pot of coffee for her. (He wasn’t ignoring me; I don’t drink coffee.) It’s the simple gestures like those that make me confident about their future together.

They don’t argue a lot, at least not in front of me. They don’t keep a tally of what they do for each other and expect a reciprocal effort. They just take care of one another. They don’t complain about each other or talk about the other one in negative ways. And when they disagree, they have their spat, then they cool off and come back together, usually with a soft statement or question that lets them move past the argument.

For several years, their friends have called them ‘Ken and Barbie’. For a long time, I thought it was just because they are both very attractive people. But the more I’ve watched them together, I think it’s more than that. They fit. They are ‘the couple’ that other people want to be like. I will admit, I’m in that category.

I didn’t marry the right person for me. I tried to make it work, but there were just too many gaps in too many areas of life for my marriage to succeed. Someday, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to find what the two of them have. Maybe ‘my person’ is out there somewhere, and someday we’ll find each other. For now, I’m content watching my boys get their lives started.

I’m so happy for my son that he found his person. They each have other friends. And they each do things independent of one another. But they are best when they’re together. It isn’t that they cling to each other or have to be constantly touching. But when they are together, they both brighten up and that makes everyone around them happier. They are just that type of couple.

Last weekend, they took engagement photos outside of Pony, on a ranch where Regan’s brother works. The trees were turning color, so the leaves were golden yellow and orange. The mountains provided a back drop. And they included some of their horses. I just went through all the proofs and I found myself smiling.

There is a great mix of serious and playful. Color and black and white. And the photos show the range of their relationship. In some, they are kissing. In others, they are holding hands and walking. They are even dancing in a few. Nothing looks forced or staged. And the photographer has posted that the session was fun and playful. And I think that describes these two. Together, they are themselves, and that came through in their pictures. They don’t try to be anything different from what they are. Too often, couples don’t feel safe enough to let each other see under the surface. Cy and Regan share that safety. It was tangible in those photos.

Nothing was fussy or overly fancy. They wore simple clothes. And they let their relationship be the focus of the pictures, not her hair or his old hat. It was obvious looking at these pictures that they love each other. That their love is most important to each of them. And I’m so glad to see that.

I will admit, I have been worried about my boys following my divorce. The divorce itself was ugly and prolonged. And the boys found out things that I would have rather they didn’t. I internalized a lot of negative aspects of my marriage, trying to shield them from certain behaviors directed toward me. And since the divorce was final, the relationship between their dad and me is acrimonious at best.

I’ve worried that they learned the wrong lessons from my marriage. But looking at the healthy relationship he and Regan have, Cyris has made some good choices. Maybe he learned from my missteps and my mistakes. Hopefully, he saw how to treat his future wife with respect and kindness, based on the difficulties I had to endure during my marriage. I worked hard while my boys were growing up to instill in them a sense of honor and a sense of chivalry. I want them all to be ‘old school’ gentlemen who take care of their partners. And to treat their future mates as partners, not as conquests.

Scrolling through the pictures again, I’m filled with the belief that Cyris got it right. He isn’t perfect. Neither is Regan. But together, they bring perfection out in one another. My hope for them is to have a long and happy marriage, blessed with children (someday) and the freedom and support of one another to chase their dreams and goals.

This mom is pretty sure they’re going be just fine.

Wedding Plans!

It’s been a rough week. Without going into detail, I’m exhausted from dealing with people.

So, I thought today’s post should be something fun and positive.

Cyris and Regan set a date a couple of weeks ago. They are getting married next summer, on August 3. I had thought they might wait another year or so, but this is good. They’ve been dating for enough years, that marrying next year is a logical progression. Cyris will graduate in May, and there’s really no reason to wait. This is a bright event to focus on when days seem drab or too intense.

I got to go with Regan and her mom, Jamie, to look at venues a couple of weeks ago. We went to two barns, which offered wedding packages. The first one wasn’t quite ready to market their place. It was beautiful, and in a year or two, if they do all the improvements they want, it will be a coveted wedding spot. But all three of us were concerned that it wouldn’t be completely finished before the wedding.

The second spot was just about perfect. It’s outside of Pony, one of Montana’s smallest towns. And the views are breathtaking. Mountains surround the venue, and in one direction is a lake. The barn itself is situated with large doors on both ends. It’s a simple layout – just a big, empty barn.

But there are strings of lights already hung, which offer a soft alternative to full-on lighting. They offer the option of renting tables and chairs. They have some ‘glamping’ options of cabins and tents. Beyond that, they pretty much let the wedding party do any decorating and set up that they want. Their biggest rule? Don’t drive on the lawn!

It is elegantly simple. And a perfect fit for this couple. I’m so proud of them. They have a budget for each aspect of the wedding. They are paying for a lot of it themselves. Regan’s parents are helping with parts. I offered to help with parts (photographer and hair). If these kids were going overboard and insisting on spending tens of thousands of dollars, then I wouldn’t pay for anything. But they are being smart and practical.

Regan has a modest budget for a dress. They’re going to have friends supply music, both live and a playlist. They’re keeping the wedding party simple, only three bridesmaids and three groomsmen. The men will wear jeans and nice jackets. Their plan is to hire someone to smoke some meat, and then have family bring in sides for a pot luck buffet. In all, a very doable event.

Their biggest expense will be the venue itself, and then the pictures. And the reason I want to help them pay for those is because it’s one of the biggest moments of their lives. They only get one wedding together, and I want them to have all the pictures they want, so they can look back on their memories of that day. And share those pictures someday with their kids.

One of the most awesome parts of that day? Finding out that the owner of the barn is a woman that I worked with about eight years ago. We were both Upward Bound coaches in our respective schools. We roomed together several times when we took kids on out of town trips. And we were easy friends during those years. Once the program was eliminated from our schools, we lost touch with each other, but I’ve thought about her often and wondered what she was doing. It was delightful to see her, reconnect, and catch up a bit on our lives. We now have current contact information for one another and plan to meet for lunch when we can. Seeing her again made the choice of venue even more special.

I’m thrilled for the kids. I’m looking forward to the wedding, but I’m also happy I have several months to get myself ready! I’ve been battling with some hormonal issues and am currently working on getting them under control with some medication. But it’s going to take a few months to get everything adjusted as it should be. August gives me enough time to lose some weight, get into better shape, and really prepare myself to be ‘mother of the groom’ in front of a couple hundred people.

So, during weeks like this past one, where every day another snafu appeared, I go into my thoughts and remind myself that these days will pass. Eventually. And I have a joyous occasion to celebrate next year. It will be a day to remember!

Me Not

With all the uproar recently about the #MeToo movement, it isn’t surprising that a woman suddenly came forward to claim Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school. She’s vague on details. Her story keeps changing. And she didn’t want to testify. But the liberals expect everyone to take her word as gospel, even though this is the first time anyone has ever heard this story.

As the mother of three boys, this terrifies me.

I don’t believe this woman. Not because I’m a conservative. But because it’s too convenient. She’s had over three decades to talk about this alleged assault. This man has had a storied career. At any point during his life, she could have come forward and told her story. But she waits until he’s poised to sit on the Supreme Court. Why?

I worry about my boys’ futures. They are good men. Two are in college. One is a sophomore in high school. None of my boys are ‘players’. I have taught them respect. But what guarantee do they have that some random girl they dated once or twice will show up later in their lives to claim they did something that they didn’t. If this kind of nonsense is allowed to play out, and if this woman successfully derails Kavanaugh’s nomination, a floodgate will be opened for other women to exploit hazy and untruthful ‘memories’.

That’s the danger of this movement. This whole debacle is a disgraceful overreach of power. It is an obvious tactic by one party to control the other party. And frankly, I’m so tired of all the games and posturing. I watched a small portion of the hearing, and this woman did not strike me as someone telling the truth. She appeared to be acting like a victim. She was able to make her voice quiver. She was able to summon up tears. It was all just too contrived.

Don’t get me wrong. Sexual assault is not okay. Ever.

But neither are false accusations.

I understand women not wanting to come forward when they are young or when the person who assaulted them has power over their lives. I get it. But I also believe that unless you’re willing to make those accusations in a timely manner, when the situation can be proven or disproved, then you must be willing to live with your silence.

When I was in high school, a band teacher did and said inappropriate things. At the time, I was uncomfortable around him. But I didn’t see what he did as assault.

When we went to tournaments or out of town competitions, he came into the girls’ rooms after lights out, when we were all in our pajamas, and he would threaten us with disciplinary action. (For what, we never figured out, because, let’s face it, we were band geeks.) He never touched any of us, but he was creepy. Another time, he told me I had to take private lessons with him or I would get an F in band class. During one of those lessons, he took my saxophone, licked my reed and played it, then handed it back to me. After that incident, I did tell my parents that he was creepy, and the vice principal stepped in so that I didn’t have to be alone with this man anymore. But I never told my parents exactly what he did. Looking back, he was probably a predator. But that was 34 years ago. A similar timeline to this woman’s charge against Kavanaugh. I’m not going to go back and accuse this teacher. I don’t know if he’s even still alive. At this point, I’ve had to accept that he was a pervert. That I should have said more than I did. But I can’t change what happened.

I’ve been groped in bars. At parties. At dances. I’ve had my butt pinched. I’ve had my boobs grabbed. But I dealt with that, at the time. In all those instances, I was in a party situation, where there was drinking and where other people were engaging in amorous activity. More than once, I kneed a guy in the groin. He got the idea. More than once, I slapped a guy’s hand away and told him not to touch me. He got the idea. And when I felt I was in a situation beyond my control, I left. And to be clear, I never got falling down drunk so that I was vulnerable. I never went to a situation like those parties alone. And I did not engage in behavior that could be construed as sexual flirting.

I do think there should be a statute of limitations on accusing someone of sexual assault. I don’t have the best answer, but I don’t think it’s fair to the men who are accused decades after an alleged assault. Especially when there is no evidence. And when the accuser admits that she was drinking heavily. How do we know that she didn’t dream up this assault while she was in a state of alcohol-induced stupor?

And we may as go here: are all these claims truly assault?

I would bet that in a lot of these cases, the females were active partners in whatever took place. Afterward, they regret their decision and decide to cry assault. Remorse for agreeing to have sex is not the same thing as someone assaulting you. And that should not be a valid way for women to ‘get back’ at males with whom they slept.

Women have a degree of responsibility in this issue, not just men. Again, I’m not saying every woman making claims is lying. I’m saying that not every claim of assault is valid. And it shouldn’t be taken as truth unless it can be proved. Isn’t that what our justice system is supposed to be based on?

Females can’t put themselves in situations where they get drunk or high and flirt with males, then cry foul. If females are offering themselves, males are going to take them up on that offer. In a party situation, where there is drinking and sex and nudity, responsibility falls on both the male and female. If females don’t want to be assaulted, then they need to take themselves out of situations that are volatile. They can’t expect males to always be boy scouts if the females are acting like tramps.

Some feminists will disagree. They will insist that men must be hands-off at all times. Even if the women aren’t. I say that’s unfair. Women want to be treated as equals. Fine. But then an equal amount of responsibility falls on women in regards to sex. Some women seem to want all the perks of being on equal footing, but then also want to be treated like fragile creatures when it comes to sex.

I’ve been at parties where women are dressed provocatively and are drinking heavily. They dance around and gyrate their hips and move against men. Well, what man isn’t going to touch a woman who’s grinding against his leg? To me, as an observer, that’s an invitation. And if the woman doesn’t object then, she sure as hell shouldn’t be allowed to object later, after the fact.

There can’t be a double standard. If women don’t want to be touched. If they don’t want to have sex with a man. Then they need to say no before they have sex! And they need to act with some decorum.

Now, I’m not talking about the casting couches of Hollywood. Or of the celebrity crap that is constantly going on. I’m talking about real-life. I’m talking about regular people and about growing up.

As far as underage females being with older males. That isn’t always the guy’s fault. Look at how young teens dress and apply makeup. They are trying to look older to attract older guys. When these young girls go to parties where predominantly older males are going to be, they are putting themselves in a situation that they may not be able to control. That is on them. That is not on the boys. Boys are not going to check IDs. When a girl is willing to get in bed with them, they’re not going to ask if she’s legal. And why should he have to?

Which brings up another wrinkle to this. Why are minor girls at parties like this to begin with? Where are the parents? Where are the chaperones, if it’s a school-endorsed party? I’ve heard one accuser say that there were gang rapes at every party, every week. Then why in hell did she continue going to those parties?

And when females agree to make out with strangers, then they are part of whatever actions are taking place. They are not dissolved from responsibility. They can’t act promiscuous and then have the right to act pious.

Most men I’ve known are going to stop if they’re told no. And men can say no. But to be fair, women can be prick teases. They can make out, do what feels good to them, and then they suddenly want to stop. They think that empowers them. But it doesn’t.

Maybe what these females should be doing is avoiding situations where they might be assaulted. Don’t go out drinking with strangers. Don’t go to parties alone. Don’t make out with males that you just met. Live your life with some self-respect. And by doing that, women won’t become victims.

So, in the case of Brett Kavanaugh. Who truly knows what happened thirty years ago? I’m guessing there was a party that both of these people attended. But beyond that, what proof does she have that anything more happened? And if both of them were drinking, how clear are her memories. She has admitted that she was drunk, to the point of not knowing where she was or who she was with. That statement alone casts enough doubt on her claims for me. In the three decades since that supposed incident, there hasn’t been one whisper of inappropriate behavior on his part. I find it hard to believe that if he was the person she’s accusing him of being that he could hide that aspect of his life for that long.

And then suddenly, thirty years later, she suddenly remembers? With the ‘help’ of a therapist? The timing is suspect to me. I can’t remember every party I went to when I was 15. I can’t remember who was at those parties or who was drinking, etc. I have a hard time believing that this woman can. Especially when she admits to drinking.

Democrats want to pounce on Kavanaugh’s past drinking exploits, when he was a teenager. Then why isn’t anyone looking at Ford’s drinking history? Her sexual history? Why isn’t she being investigated right along with him? Because she’s the accuser? If every woman is afforded the right to accuse any man without evidence, where does that end? Shouldn’t every man’s denial then be believed without question? Remember, everything needs to be equal and fair between the sexes.

She claims that that ‘assault’ had a lasting impact on her life. But she went on and is now a college professor. And if an assault took place, she would have told someone about it. A best friend. In the past thirty years, someone would have heard the story. But the most damning thing is that instead of going to the police with her accusation, she went to her politician. This hearing should not have even taken place. Someone circumvented proper channels.

The best advice I ever gave my boys – repeatedly – was to ‘keep it in their pants’. At the time I was thinking more along the lines of an unexpected pregnancy and how that might derail their future plans. But now, I’m thinking more about the danger of a girl claiming sexual assault later in their lives. That is scary. That is unfair. That is unfortunately the world we live in. And I am appalled that our society is allowing such blatant manipulation of the truth. This ‘hearing’ was an embarrassment to me, as a woman.

For the women who were truly assaulted, I am sorry that happened to them. As I said, sexual assault is never acceptable.

For the women who are making false claims, for whatever the reason, shame on you. It is women like you that are taking us backwards. You are actually hurting the process of holding men accountable when they have raped or molested women. Because the more false accusations that are made, the less people are going to believe the true reports. And the more likely it is that women won’t file reports at all.

And frankly, women who are guilty of filing false rape accusations should be held legally liable. They should go to prison and have to pay a settlement to the person they unjustly accused. Without consequences, these lies will continue.

For the women rallying behind this accusation: be careful. The men in your life are not safe. No man is, if these types of unfounded accusations are upheld. Do your research. Don’t jump on someone else’s claim of assault without discovering whether or not it’s true. And think about how you would feel if your husband, or brother, or son, or father, was the target of a smear or revenge accusation.

I’m tired of politicians saying that a woman should be believed, simply because she’s a woman. Really? How about the women who accused Bill Clinton of assaulting them? Oh, I forgot, those women don’t count because they were accusing a Democrat and a liberal.

The MeToo movement is a blight. It is doing nothing but ramping up lies. It isn’t fair that a female can dredge up decades-old resentment, package it as an accusation of assault, and go on living her life while she destroys a man’s. So, don’t include me in the support for this movement. Liberals have done nothing in the last ten years but use divisiveness and hatred to drive wedges between facets of American society.

Just look at what they’ve done to this hearing. Shameful. Hopefully voters will remember that in a few weeks.

Something to Believe In

Nike sure divided their customers on this latest ad campaign.

It’s no secret that I am a conservative. So it should be no secret that I cannot support Nike. I will not buy another pair of shoes. I will not buy any more Nike clothing. And frankly, what I do have is either going to the garbage or to the donation pile.

Let me tell you why. It may not be what you think.

I believe in our Constitution. I believe that everyone has the right to feel in whatever way is best for them. I believe that anyone can speak freely, provided that speech is not hateful or divisive. I believe in this country and for everything that we have always embraced.

When this kneeling started, I will admit I was offended. The flag is a symbol of everything good and decent about America. I get choked up every time I watch it fly while the anthem is played. My kids rodeo, so almost every weekend, I watch a kid bring the flag into an arena and run it around during the anthem. Even as I’m writing this, I feel a tear slide down my cheek.

I was offended because I have had friends and family serve in the military. I’ve gotten news that friends died while serving. And some of my friends who have come back didn’t come back the same. But they willingly sacrificed to ensure that all of us living in this country would continue to live free.

Once the kneeling spread, I refused to watch any more football games, to the despair of my youngest son. But we talking, and I explained my reasoning. I cannot support an organization that will not support the very foundation of what this country is about.

The NFL refused to let Tim Tebow kneel down to pray. They refused to let him put a Bible verse in the eye black. Now, I’m not a religious person. I’m not vested in Tebow’s life at all. But this seemed odd to me, even at the time.

Then the NFL refused to allow players to honor fallen police officers. They refused to allow players to honor those who died on 9/11. They refused to allow a lot of things that players wanted to do, because it ‘didn’t comply with NFL ideals’.                  ‘

But they will allow players to kneel during the National anthem?

This smacks of hypocrisy so loudly that it’s almost funny.

Don’t these players sign contracts? Aren’t they employees of the NFL? If so, then why are they allowed to ‘protest’ during working time?

But the biggest issue for me is that these players who kneel claim to be doing so to draw attention to social issues: racial inequality, police corruption, oppression. I’m not saying that those things don’t exist. They do. But number one, I don’t think they exist at the level that these players would like you to believe. Number two, kneeling during the playing of the national anthem isn’t going to change anything.

If these people truly wanted to help. If they truly wanted to change social injustice, then they would get off their knees and go into their communities. They would use some of the millions of dollars they have been paid to help their communities. But few, if any, have done anything but make a spectacle of what used to be a solemn part of the game of football.

I don’t have any respect for the athletes who choose to kneel. These are millionaires who PLAY A GAME for a living. They have everything in the world. And they’re going to lecture me about oppression? About injustice?

The original kneeler was adopted and grew up in a very privileged household. He knew nothing of hard times. Or injustice. His kneeling was simply a way to gain attention. Not to mention the fact that he is a Muslim and doesn’t care about this country. So when Nike uses him as symbol for ‘standing up for something’, I have to wonder what exactly did he stand up for? And what exactly has he lost in his life?

Similarly, any celebrity who has the audacity to lecture others about income inequality (a billionaire former TV hostess), gun control (countless celebrities who are guarded by armed security), police brutality (a singer who advocates the killing of police officers). You get the point. These people live in a completely different world than most of us. They are insulated from the issues of poverty, safety, and hunger. Very few of them use their ample resources to help others in need.

I don’t need celebrities, athletes, singers, etc., or politicians telling me what I should or shouldn’t think or how I should believe.

Nike got this wrong. Their sales are increased right now. And that doesn’t surprise me. Liberals will order Nike products and jump their sales for a short time. But they can’t sustain that. In time, Nike will see the error in their bottom line. There are too many people like me who just can’t stomach the support of someone who chooses not to honor the very country that gave him such a privileged life. To me that is the greatest hypocrisy about this entire situation. None of these athletes or singers or actors would have achieved such fame or such fortune in any other country in this world.

This athlete hasn’t sacrificed anything. He hasn’t lifted a finger to help anyone but himself. And isn’t that the whole point of his protest? That others are in need of help. Then, why doesn’t he help them? He has the means. He certainly has the time, since no NFL team is going anywhere near him.

That’s why I cannot respect any of these screeching celebrities, preaching to us what we should or shouldn’t do. In general, they haven’t done anything to help anyone, unless it involves a sound bite or media attention. And in my life, these people really don’t matter. In fact, it’s people like me who have allowed these celebrities to live in their fantasy worlds. And if they offend enough of us, then they may find out what hardship looks like.

Look at what some the other athletes and celebrities have chosen to do with their resources: J.J. Watt, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthew, Larry Fitzgerald; Chris Pratt, John Cena. These men use their time and resources to help others, in particular children. There are many more rich and famous folk who do use their fortunes for good, in good and decent ways. They aren’t doing this for attention or to be on the news. They’re doing this because they want to help. Protesters might want to ‘take a knee’ and think about that.

This kneeling crap is coming to a head. And it needs to. There has been irreparable damage done to the reputation of the NFL, of its athletes. And it’s creeping into other sports, like NBA, which I also refuse to watch. It may turn out that these athletes are going to knee cap themselves. Fans like me aren’t going to forgive easily.

If they were truly doing this as a sign of true concern, I’d respect them for it. But that isn’t what this is. These people are simply looking for attention.

My dad used to tell me all the time, the people who scream the loudest are usually the ones you shouldn’t listen to.

There is a growing list of athletes, sports team, singers, actors, etc. that I simply won’t support again. I can disagree with someone who has differing political views. I know that not everyone is going to see things the same way that I do. But when someone insists that I believe in their agenda, without even listening to mine, I walk away. I am strong in my convictions. I’m not going to change who I am or what I believe in simply because someone uses a megaphone to yell. Or because someone is crude enough to wear body parts as hats. Or because someone disrespects what I believe in.

Let’s be clear: Nike has the right to advertise however they see fit. Athletes have the right to kneel during the national anthem. Celebrities have the right to spout any nonsense they want while in the spotlight.

But I have rights as well. I have the right to express my beliefs in the form of monetary spending. I can choose whether or not to support a company or sports team or singer/actor based on whether or not I agree with them. I have the right to turn off the tv during football (or basketball or baseball) season. I have the right to leave movies and CDs on store shelves. I have the right to stay home and not watch a new movie at the theater. I have the right to buy products from companies that support and agree with my definition of patriotism, sportsmanship, and decency.

I don’t advocate boycotting everyone. I know not everyone else shares my strong beliefs. But there are a lot of us who quietly but decidedly make our opinions clear. I doubt I will ever return to being a sports fan, not with the same intensity or care that I once had. Of course, athletes aren’t in the same class as they were thirty years ago.

Today, most of the elite athletes – pick any sport – are overpaid, under talented, and spoiled. They aren’t grateful for the lives they have. They, as a group, are arrogant, demanding, and entitled. Too many of today’s athletes are part of the problems we have as a society. Same goes for actors who receive millions of dollars for mediocre performances. Or singers who all sound alike.

It used to be there were heroes among the celebrity. There were classy, honorable people that a parent could point out their children and hold us as role models. Sadly, that is all but gone. There are only a handful of celebrities in that category. Too many are just too focused on themselves to care about anyone else. Or to recognize their good fortune.

No. I can’t support people or companies who can’t support our flag. Because, after all, if they can’t recognize how fortunate they are to live here, then I have to wonder why they are still in this country. Isn’t that what is boils down to? If things are so bad here, and this country is so awful to live in, then all of those celebrities and athletes and anyone else can take their money and go live somewhere else.

Why haven’t they?

My guess is they’ve realized that with all of our problem, America is still the best place to live. I still believe in her. I still honor the flag. I still get teary when I hear the anthem. When that changes, I will know that things truly are dismal. Until then, I’ll keep standing for the anthem. I’ll keep crying silently when I hear those words. And I’ll keep true to what I believe.

I may be only one. But there are a lot of us ‘ones’ who will add up.

Stolen Innocence

Last week, news broke that an athletic trainer at Custer County High School abused at least a hundred boys over the twenty years he was at the school. Some estimates are two hundred victims.

This man has admitted that he concocted an elaborate training program, targeting the younger and smaller boys in the school. He groomed them by saying he would help them boost their testosterone. He would help them build muscle.

But all he was doing was sexually molesting these boys. He started with naked massages and invasive prostrate checks. He insisted that these boys remove all clothing, regardless of what their injury was. He would stroke them, bring them to ejaculation. He would perform oral sex on them. And I believe he engaged in sodomy. Sometimes at school. Sometimes in his home. He provided porn and alcohol to the boys.

I’m stunned.

I am truly sick to my stomach. I grew up in Miles City. This was my high school. With the number of boys he molested, I’m sure some of my friends were victimized by this man. I do not remember him at all. In all my years participating in sports, I never had to see the trainer. None of my guy friends ever said anything to me about ‘funny business’ in the locker room. Neither did my older brother. I didn’t hear any rumors or whispers when I was a student there. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

But today, I’m angry. I’m angry that so many boys had to go through this. Teachers are supposed to shape kids and protect them. Not prey on them.

I’m angry because this man had no medical background whatsoever. And he was allowed to do hernia checks. He was allowed to do the boys physicals. He was allowed to keep the training room in the boys locker room. That alone should have been a huge red flag.

I’m angry because this taints part of my childhood. I wasn’t directly affected by this man. But I’m sure some of my friends were. I’m sure most of the population of Miles City has a connection to at least one of this man’s victims.

Where was the oversight in this program? Coaches had to know that this man was seeing kids after practice. They had to hear about the training program. Didn’t anyone think to check it out?

And out of that many boys, there had to be at least one who told someone what this man was doing. For those boys who did seek help, why were they ignored?

I have three boys, and from the time they could understand what ‘private parts’ meant, I told them that no one was allowed to touch them, for any reason. I told them to come to me if anyone ever tried to touch them, even if it was a family member or a teacher, etc. I told them this a lot. I told them this to protect them.

So many times, parents worry about their girls. And rightfully so. But I worried about my boys. Pedophiles, like this trainer, are everywhere. I hated to ruin my kids’ innocence too early in life, but I felt that was better than having their lives ruined by molestation.

As a parent, I’m curious why these boys were allowed to go to this man’s home alone. I would question any trainer who kept a treatment room at home and encouraged boys to come over outside of school hours. I know sometimes my kids have thought I was too protective. But when stories like this come out, I know I have done the right thing for my boys.

This past year, Garris went out of town with some older boys, with his dad’s blessing. Garris was a freshman, in a car with upper classmen, driving thirty miles to another town on a two lane highway. I hit the roof. I insisted that Garris had to get my permission as well before he took any more road trips. Same thing for riding with new drivers.

Garris wanted to go to a friend’s house after a rodeo last year. The rodeo was in Boulder and the friend lives in Helena. I told Garris I had to talk to this boy’s mom first. So, at the next rodeo, she and I talked. I asked her who would be driving if Garris went home with them. At first, she looked at me, then she said either she or her husband would be driving. Then she put her hand up for a high five. She said I was the first mom who had ever checked with her. Garris and his friend were both standing there. They both heard this other mom say exactly what I had said: brand new drivers aren’t ready for passengers. Especially when those drivers are 15 year old boys.

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes I feel like I’m square. I feel like I’m the party pooper. I have to know who my kids are out with, where they’re going, and what time they’re going to be home. And in today’s world, with cell phones, it’s easy to keep track of your kids. I don’t intrude into their social lives, as long as they are with who they’re supposed to be, where they’re supposed to be, and they come home on time.

I just have to wonder at how much of a dis-connect was happening during this trainer’s time at the high school. How could so many boys be abused without someone noticing?

The only good thing about this is that more protective policies will surely be implemented by schools. No more ‘good ‘ole boy’ type hiring. No more unqualified or un-vetted people in the schools. At least I hope so.

If any of my high school friends happen to read this, just know my heart aches for you. This man stripped away your dignity and your faith. And I’m sorry that he wasn’t stopped.


Only One Sails

We buried a horse today.

Not a random knot head. But a favorite horse. A part of the family. So, my world changed today with his passing.

My folks bought Sails five years ago, thinking he would make a good heeling prospect for my older boys. Sylvis didn’t really get along with Sails, because Sylvis was too impatient. Sails bucked him off during their first ride.

Cyris did some heeling with the horse, and really liked him. But he seemed tentative to get into the steer on the turn. We came to the conclusion that at some point in his life, he had had a bad wreck. So, Cy switched ends and started heading. That worked out much better. He tried to start him on calf roping, but he just didn’t like the rope in his face. Again, I think he had been in a roping wreck.

Sails was a big, deep gelding, with plenty of power to turn a steer. At first glance, there really wasn’t anything special about this horse. He was a red roan, with tri color mane and an expressive face. He was a gorgeous specimen. But physicality doesn’t determine more than beauty to me. It doesn’t factor into my criteria for becoming a favorite horse.

Those go beyond what is visible. And he had plenty of those traits.

He was a gentle creature, never at the top of the pecking order. Usually at the bottom. He didn’t stand up for himself. But in the last year, he started defending his favorite pen-mate, Whiskey. He and she were buddies. Inseparable. In fact, he was a hit with all the ladies. I think it was because he was so mellow. But he did get protective of his little harem and didn’t want the other geldings around the girls.

Sails had heart. Before my folks bought him, he had several owners, most only for a few months. I never could figure out why so many people gave up on him so quickly. When he got to our family, he was underweight by about a hundred pounds. And he had a defeated look to his eyes, almost as if he expected to be shuttled somewhere else in a few weeks. Within a few months, he had gained what he needed, and then some, thanks to my dad. And he was perkier. The whole time we had him, he gave his all any time we asked him to do something. About three years ago, he ended up with an abscessed tooth, which had to be removed surgically. It took about a year for him to recover.

Sails was a big chicken. That may seem odd to count that as a reason to make a horse a favorite, but for such a big guy, he was scared of everything. And then, after he spooked, he seemed to laugh at himself for being so silly.

I loved riding this horse. I felt safe on top of him. And was he smooth. His trot barely moved you in the saddle. And his lope was like a rocking horse. He was the one I took to my breakaway clinic in March. You could run reining patterns on him, chase cattle, or rope. Garris was getting him ready for reined cow horse events for this fall. Their last lesson was awesome, and Garris is now questioning if he wants to pursue that event without Sails.

You might be wondering what caused his death. A belly ache. That’s a simplistic answer, but it’s true. Saturday afternoon, I noticed him lying down, getting up, and kicking at his belly. I watched him for a little while, then gave him some Prevail (banamine). I waited an hour, and he went back to eating. So, I figured it was just some gas and didn’t worry about it. I put him in his stall that night, because it was supposed to rain. Then next morning, his stall was devoid of any fresh manure. And he had pawed a trench in front of the door.

Sunday morning, eight a.m., I called the vet clinic, knowing I would get the machine. I left my message, set my time for half an hour, and waited. And watched my horse.

If my vet didn’t call within thirty minutes, I’d call his cell phone. Having that number is something I appreciate, so I don’t abuse it. I have only called him on his cell once before, for a cut-foot emergency. Just as I was dialing, he called. I explained the situation, and he said he’d be right out.

He did a rectal exam and found him severely impacted. His turds were terribly dry. But he had gut sounds. So, he tubed the horse with water then oil then more water, all he could tolerate. But there was an obstruction somewhere. He did what he could, offered medicine with strict instructions, and basically told me if he didn’t get unbound by the morning the only option was surgery. To the tune of about $12,000.

Now, I loved this horse. But I can’t justify spending $12, 000 on a surgery that MIGHT relieve the problem. There is only about a 60 percent chance of it working, and whether your horse survives the surgery or not, you still pay the fee. And there is no guarantee that the surgery will return a horse to its previous level of performance.

So, I followed the instructions. I medicated him as directed. I offered him water every time I went the barn – every two hours all night. And I prayed for a bowel movement. I never thought I’d ever want to smell or see fresh horse turds. But in those hours, I would have wept to see him lift his tail and push out some poo.

It didn’t happen. At five a.m., he was standing up, his head alert and he drank. I was so sure he was turning the corner. When we went out an hour later, he was stretched out and groaning. I gave him the last dose of xylzine and ace, then I texted the vet. I wanted to chat with him before he got to the clinic. In my heart, I knew what needed to be done, but I wasn’t ready to actual say it.

He came out within the hour.

The harder phone call was to my parents. I hadn’t mentioned the belly ache, because I was sure he was going to survive it. They didn’t make it over in time to say goodbye to Sails. It took them about two hours to get to my house, about a half hour after the vet had already left.

We won’t know what actually caused Sails’ death. It could have been a twisted gut from something as simple as rolling in the dirt to get flies off his back. It could have been a fatty tumor on his intestines that caused a bowl to form, making it hard, then impossible, to move grass and hay through. It could have been something else, like a cancer. Or he could have swallowed a piece of twine from the pasture.

No, I don’t throw my twine on the ground. But previous owners did. Not just the big orange kind, but the tiny little strings from round bales. We are forever picking them up, but they are embedded in the ground. It would be easy for a horse to eat some strands of that and have it bind everything up.

All we know is that he couldn’t move his bowel. Ultimately bacteria built up and started leaking into his gut. He wasn’t bloated yet, but it was a matter of time. The craziest part of this whole thing was that he had gurgling gut sounds even this morning. Nothing about this presented as it should have.

I asked the vet if I should have called him Saturday night. He told me, based on what I explained, that he wouldn’t have come out. It sound like a generic case of colic that resolved itself.

I stayed hopeful until this morning, when I looked into Sails’ eyes. He was fading away. He was grinding his teeth, a sign of pain, and his back legs were twitching. His body was breaking down. He was giving up. It was time for me to let him go with as much dignity as we could allow him. Any faithful companion deserves that much.

So, Garris and I hugged each other as we nodded for the vet to give Sails some pain medication. We needed to get him out of the barn and to the big pasture, if possible. It was asking a tremendous task of this horse. But he did it. Did I mention this horse had heart? He walked himself to his final resting place. He chose where to stop once we got to the pasture, because he wanted a few bites of grass. Even in his last moments, he gave us a laugh. And the vet allowed Sails a few minutes to munch. He explained what would happen, and he asked if we were ready.

I nodded, of course, but I wasn’t ready. I had said my goodbyes to Sails before the vet arrived, because I knew. But it wasn’t enough. I kissed his forehead, told him he was a good boy and that I loved him. And I told him it was okay. Garris hugged him, said goodbye, then we stepped back and hung onto each other.


Putting down a horse is not an easy task. You have a thousand pound animal who is in pain and dying. You have to get that animal from standing to lying. It isn’t gentle. It isn’t graceful. Frankly, it’s a shocking and awful thing to have to witness. In fact, it’s heart wrenching. I’ve watched it before, and I really didn’t want to this time. But Garris needed to. It was part of his process of saying goodbye. So, I watched the vet give the first shot, which dropped Sails to the ground with a thud. I watched as he gave the second shot, to ultimately end the life of this beautiful animal that I loved so deeply.

I had hoped he would just lie down in the grass so that it wouldn’t be scary or traumatic for him. Sails was already dying. His gums were turning black. He hadn’t drank in hours. And he hadn’t passed any bowel for over a day. Something was fatally wrong. Short of an ungodly expensive surgery, he was out of options. But I think he knew we were trying to help him. He seemed resigned to his fate and didn’t fight anything. I only hope he didn’t have any fear when the shot hit his system.

I held Garris and let him cry. I told him that it was okay. That Sails was okay. We heard the sucking sound that horses make when they are releasing the last air in their lungs. An awful sound that you never want to hear. I told Garris it was okay. It was normal. I told him when the sound stopped that Sails wasn’t in pain any longer. And he had been in pain for two days.

When I looked at my Sails, he was dead. His eyes were still open, staring vacant into the sun. His big body was still, only his mane moving with the wind. I told him again that I was sorry and I would miss him. And then my stomach lurched, and I threw up. Wretched. I couldn’t believe he had to die.

Then I called Joe, who has a back hoe, and asked if he could bury my horse. Luckily, on this day, he was able to come right over. Within an hour and a half, Sails was beneath the ground. He was at peace.

Garris piled some big rocks on top of his grave and is planning on etching a stone for him. I’m so thankful Sails was able to walk far enough that we could bury him in the pasture, within sight of the house and the arena. It feels like he’s still with us this way. Some might think that morbid, but this way he’s close enough for me to walk out and sit and talk to him when I’m feeling lonely for him.

I couldn’t watch the actual burial. Garris needed to. But I just couldn’t. So, my dad and I sat on the front step and just talked until it was done.

I’ve cried all day. I can’t stop. This is the part that sucks about loving your animals. When you have to let them go, it tears out a part of your heart. In time, it will get easier. The numbing pain in my chest will get better. The hole in the corrals will start to feel normal. And I’ll start riding someone else.

But for now, I’m allowing myself, and Garris, to wallow a bit in our grief.

He didn’t want to do anything today. But I gentle forced him to ride the two young ones. Remy is two and bucked me off last week. Hard. So, she needed another ride. And Cougar is four.

Garris fought me a bit, but once he was horseback on Remy, I watched his mood lighten. He had a good ride on her, and on Cougar. And it was good for both of us to get out of the house. It was a gloomy day, to suit our moods. And it’s finally raining.

I didn’t force too many tasks or chores today. Frankly, I didn’t feel like doing anything either. Tomorrow, life will have to return to some form of normal.

Even the horses know something isn’t right. Earlier, when Sails was lying down, two of the mares refused to come into the barn. And Whiskey is looking for him. She actually looks sad. Some people say that animals don’t feel but I disagree. She is looking for her friend. Tonight, when I went out to check everybody, Peppy sniffed my coat. Then she kept sniffing it, licking it gently, then rubbed her lips on it. I realized that I was wearing that coat earlier in the day with Sails. I’m sure she could smell him on the jacket. And then the tears started all over again.

As I turn out the lights in the house tonight, a type of peace settles over my thoughts. Although I hate the outcome of the day, I know Sails couldn’t have lasted on his own for more than a few hours. Those hours would have been brutally painful for him as his body shut down and he struggled to breathe. As it was, with pain meds, his stomach muscles twitched. His legs moved. It was agony watching him.

I will always wonder if I made the right decision to forego surgery. I will always wonder if I should have called on Saturday. I will always wonder exactly what caused this in a vital and healthy horse.

But Sails knew we loved him. The last five years, he had a home, not just a temporary living arrangement. I made sure to brush him and comb out that gorgeous tail and mane before the vet arrived. And we kept part of his tail, to put with a picture of him. I took pictures of him. We told him how handsome he was. And how much we were going to miss him. I hope he took some comfort in our actions.

The corrals are little less colorful tonight. They are a little less quirky. And a lot less Sails. After all, there’s only one of him, and the world is a little less without him in it.