I plopped the hamburger into the bowl, reached for the catchup in the frig and poured it over the top. Two eggs, briskly stirred, a handful of crackers crunched into bits, one onion diced small, salt, pepper, a toss of spice and I mixed it all together, readying for the pan, while singing beneath my breath, a song with a cadence that almost brought my feet to dancing across the kitchen floor.
“My-y-y-y, home’s in Mawn-tan-a, I wear.. a ban-dan-a, my spurs are of sil-ver, my pony is gray.”
“When ri-ding the ranges, my luck…never changes, with foot in the stir-rup I gal-lop a-way.”
Suddenly I stopped, the spoon halted in my hand. It had been years since I’d thought of that song, and here I was singing it on a cold winter day. The thud of horse’s hooves drifted past me, our little pinto Patches, ears laid back as he swung into the turns of the dry creek bed on Grandpa’s ranch, galloping madly as I clung to his bare back, one hand twisted in his mane, screaming like a wild Indian.
We raced, as fast as Patches could go under the hot July sun, until his breathing labored, gait breaking, I sat up and pulled him down to a trot, a walk, as he stretched out his nose and slipped the reins through my fingers, dropping his head to the ground. I let him shuffle along, just me and my horse, alone beneath the blue Montana sky, so joyously happy I could not keep from lifting my voice in song–“My home’s in Montana, I wear a bandana, my spurs are of silver, my pony is gray.”
That ten year old was gone, but the love for my state had if anything, grown. Trips to other parts of the country allowed me to see how different our land really was, the rolling plains that grew grasses for livestock and acres of fields of grain. The foothills covered with evergreens, rising before a promise of more beauty to come, the stately and rugged peaks of our namesake, the shining mountains, which formed the backbone of the Rockies.
More than once as we drove back across the state line, I was struck by the immediate presence of her, whether coming through Marias Pass or into the badlands near Glendive, she made you straighten your spine and take a deep breath. Respect. Feel smaller. Expand. Lift up your spirit. And realize that it was true, the sky really is bigger. Higher. Wider. More than your arms can enfold.
It was not until this traveling, that I realized how fortunate I was to be born and raised in Montana, and to live my life in it. To have it teach me the great truths of the difference between want and need, the supreme superiority of Nature, how few things are needed for life, and those few which are a necessity. That after you have drawn your last breath, the land will go on. And on. Inscrutable. Uncomplaining. The wind blowing past your ears, the snow falling, silent and soft, while you stand watching, singing,
“My home’s in Montana, I wear a bandana, my spurs are of silver, my pony is gray.”