It’s Christmas time and it seems like everybody I’m in contact with is frantically busy, stressed out and gnawing through a to-do list pages long; trying to get everything done and make everything perfect for the holidays. Gryph and I are emulating the ponies. We’re catching up on sleep and eating things that are tasty and nutritious. It’s nice to have a week to rest and reflect and remember some of the highlights of the past few months.
Like riding through Gordon, Texas and passing by the elementary school during recess -> The kids thronged the chain link fence, full of questions and admiration for the ponies. As we rode away I heard them yelling “California!” across the school yard with all the magic and promise that the word has held for various groups over the decades (gold rush, dust bowl, summer of love… ) Or that morning when Gryph did a brilliant impromptu soft shoe for a herd of fascinated kine to the song “Cows” (by The Seldom Herd) played on the iPod.
Walters, Oklahoma where we were offered a cabin behind the Cotton County Chiropractic Clinic. I’d mentioned that I was 13 years out on my tetanus shot and worried about ponying a pack horse with a sore arm. Well, the shot was delivered by the pasture where we put the ponies (and didn’t hurt a bit) and the next day Gryph and I got to enjoy hi-tech hydro-massage beds before getting adjusted! But here’s the amazing thing: Dr. Jeff Hickman is both a Chiropractor and a PA – and he’s the only doctor for miles around. He takes care of the people of his community, whether they have health insurance or not, whether they can afford the whole fee or not, because he can. In the midst of all the political debates about health insurance (and the reality of how impossible it is for so many of us to afford anything approaching a viable health care plan) it was so inspiring to learn about this clinic and the healing that’s happening there. Blessings on the CCCC!
In Silverton, after Finehorn tasted her first caramel apple at the boy scout’s bake sale I was escorted through town to my haven for the night by twin 13 year old girls who told me how much they loved living in that small town and how they hoped to marry and raise famies of their own there after college. This was my first stop after Tulia, TX and I was offered a day of rest in an unused apartment. I was telling my host about how well I’d been cared for by complete strangers when I was sick and in the emergency room and afterward and he said that they’d do that for total strangers but not for their neighbors. It was a real joy to be able to tell him that the Tulia Baptist Church hadn’t held services the Sunday before. They’d put an ad in the paper, offering their help to anyone in the community (Not just people from their church – Anybody!) and the members of the church were spending that Sunday cleaning out gutters, fixing fences, bringing meals and home made bread to shut-ins and the elderly, painting and raking and offering whatever other assistance people had asked for. How cool is that!?
One morning I’d spent an incredibly cold and windy night sheltered in an abandoned house and in the morning as I was packing up my bedroll I noticed that a tarantula had shared my blankets and gotten a bit squished and crumpled in the process. I apologized and set her in a safe place while I packed up for the days ride and had the amazing experience of watching her somehow unfold and sort of reinflate each leg in turn until, by the time I left the house she was back to her former shape and size and walking slowly across the floor. I really wish I’d gotten photos of that process!
We’ve been asked a few times if we’ve had any trouble with the law. I reply (truthfully) that no, we haven’t. In Jacksboro I was telling a woman about how Mesannie Wilkins had mentioned in The Last of the Saddle Tramps how frequently sheriffs had come out to escort her into town if it was getting dark, helping her to find a place for her horses for the night, even letting her sleep in the jail if it was cold (and feeding her) and how this was something that really seemed to have changed in the past 60 years. We can’t seem to get a sheriff or police officer to stop even when we want to ask directions! (When I was adopted by the 3 firemen in Alpine and asked them the secret to getting a cop to stop they suggested throwing a rock at the car!) With the notable exception of Officer Ray Mince back up in Dixon, CA we’ve been pretty much ignored by law enforcement types. Turns out that this woman’s nephew is a sheriff in Palo Pinto and through that whole county we had somebody looking out for us any time we needed it, including an escort over the narrow twisty approach to (and bridge over) the Brazos River and also down a particularly difficult steep hill with blind curves! Kudos and much thanks to Deputy Casey Armstrong.
Then there was the day that we were offered a rest stop for lunch that included a hot tub – and the packs were transported by truck so that the ponies could enjoy a rest that day as well. And the day that we were told to stop in at the little store at the 4 corners and get whatever we wanted – it was already covered. We had a delightful picnic on the front stoop of the Masonic Lodge next door and met 4 interesting characters sitting at the table in the back of the shop. Every time Gryph or I went into the store we were asked one question, from how old we were to if we were married to how we were related. I was asked where we’d started and when I replied “Northern California” one of the men, in a low slow voice mentioned that he had kin from there, but they’d all died. I was about to reply when the woman next to him remarked that California didn’t sound like all that healthy of a place. The man, deadpan, responded that they’d lived there a long, loooong time. His may have been the driest humor I’ve ever encountered.
The day Gryph hung the silks up for the first time from the rafters in the auction barn pens we were both really excited and when our host came to see if we needed anything we were trying to explain to him what we’d been doing. Finally we showed him some of the photographs (worth 1000 words) and later we overheard him on the ‘phone telling somebody about how she was all twisted around in some curtains and stripped down to barely nothing. The next day when Gryph went to practice she had a cowboy audience ranging in age from 5 to over 50! They didn’t want to try it themselves…
Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!