I popped over the hill on the way home from the Cutting Place, to see a string of cows and calves coming down the fenceline, moving in that peculiar gait which only cows can do, a sort of cross-threaded running trot which always makes you think they are going to fall in a tangle on their face. They never do.
I stopped the pickup, not wanting to spook them as they funneled into the open gate right by the road, which took them into the next pasture, their glossy red coats shining in the sun, their soggy calves dancing at their heels. As I waited, two riders came up behind the last stragglers, ooching them along as the cows swung their heads around to bawl for their offspring. And I saw the one in the red shirt was a woman. Totally at ease on horseback.
“Hi!” she called, raising a gloved hand to wave. She checked the cows one more time to make sure they were all past the gate, then trotted over towards the pickup. I jumped out and waded across the ditch through the knee high crested wheat.
“I’m Wanda Rosseland,” I said. I knew her cows, the prime Red Angus we admired every summer, but I’d never had a chance to meet her. “Oh, yes,” she smiled, stepping down off her sorrel horse to shake hands. “I’m Bev Gibbs. And this,” she added, as the other rider and a little gal on a four-wheeler came up. “This is my son, Jay and his wife, Emily.”
Her bright eyes sparkled as we talked across the fence, as ranchers have done since barbed wire, while both horses dropped their heads to tear off great mouthfuls of green grass. She laughed, rubbing her horse’s ears. “This one is Red. We traded him from Joe Morin.” A quick pain shot through my heart. Joe had been an old master horseman who’d recently passed away, a friend to everyone in the country.
“And who’s this?” I asked, pointing to Jay’s horse who was busily grabbing every bite she could get, while ignoring us. I reached over to slide my palm down her neck as Jay pulled her head up. Scratching around her ears and down her face, I felt the warmth of her skin and breathed in her wonderful horsey smell, the scent I’d grown up with and still missed. Thanking God each moment for this unexpected gift. A horse to visit by the side of the road, on a beautiful day in June.