Little Lunga

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stranger in a strange land on a strange horse

I was sitting in the coffee shop the other morning, drinking coffee and working on my plans for the fall and winter months that were approaching very quickly. I was thinking about how fast the summer was moving by and how, before I knew it, it would be the end of a season.

The bell rang against the opening of the door and in walked a cowboy. He seemed quiet, a kind soul with a lot on his mind, but at the same time he seemed very at ease. He walked passed me and smiled and nodded his head as to say good morning. He sat in the corner away from everyone. He faced the entire restaurant from where he sat as if he wanted everyone to know he noticed them starring at him as he walked across the floor to his table. I knew this type of thing happened all the time. He sat down, tipped his hat back, twisted the coffee cup around and then turned right side up. He then removed his hat and placed it on its own chair as if he regarded it as a close friend.

He began to speak:

You might be one of the few people who understand me, but to most I am a stranger. I have been across this country and I have known a lot of people and I have known a lot of horses, but the circles for which I have worked have never thought of me as one of their own. I have worked within the boundaries of what people see as normal, I have listened to what people have said and I have observed quietly in order to learn, but I have also learned my own ways and I have been taught unconventional ways by experience and by miles and miles of having good and bad horses underneath me. I will admit that I have argued some and I have shaken my head at what I thought of as magic and showmanship. I have been rejected for not following. A woman from England once said to me that it was my job to fit in and why did I think it necessary to wear a big hat? She told me that there is no point to making people feel uncomfortable by trying to stand out. I told her it was not my job to make people feel easy about my hat or who I was, if people did not like my hat, they could simply realize that I was a stranger to them and be on their way. I am a stranger, I am ok with this. I wear big spurs and my big hat. I am an individual, I keep company with very few and being horses…they do not seem to mind. I love a fast horse, and I will pretty much ride anything. I have never been accused of being a bronc rider and I prefer to make a horse busy rather than try to make him jump high. I will ask a horse for a lot and I hope a horse will expect me to. Even close to home, I am a stranger, but what is wrong with that?

I began to wander why he was here, why in this town? The Little Snake River Valley, the Red Desert…..this place is very much off the map, but at the same time everyone at some point in their life has to drive right through the heart of it. The Red Desert, with its purple sage, green grass, red dirt and most amazingly its grey horses make this area a place of beauty and mystery. The valley with its dirt roads, countless numbers of dead trucks, old cowboys, mustangers and the ever tough oil field workers make it a town of outlaws and refugees, but, outlaws and refugees with a background of tradition and interest. Butch Cassidy once thought enough of the valley to make a hideout of it, or was it just his foresight to know even back then no one would ever look here, a strange town, a strange land and a strange dynamic that keeps its youth coming back and the curious stopping by. Being named the Little Snake River Valley makes some think that it might be a part of something bigger, maybe that is why this stranger was here. Yes, he was a stranger in these parts, but also, he fit right in, in his own way. Just as he sat in the corner of the coffee shop, was he simply sitting back in the Valley somewhere….watching, observing?

He spoke again:

I have had the fortunate opportunity to make a life of riding and training horses. I have been very lucky in the fact that horses and the people who own them have afforded me a lifestyle of not riches, but of freedom. I have seen homes of legendary horses, both thoroughbred and quarter, I have walked through the bluegrass of Kentucky and the brush country of south Texas. But now I am here, a stranger once again, in a strange land and for what? To ride a strange horse, a horse with a centuries worth of history, but hardly a days worth of a future; a horse of many colors, many sizes as well as many breeds. A horse once captured seems to be worthless, but wild seems to be priceless. This strange horse only becomes stranger when they are branded down the side of their neck. I have seen many types of horses and now I have seen many types of wild horses and to tell you the truth, there is some damn nice blood out there. These horses have a great history and they deserve a great future, so call me strange for thinking so. I am a stranger in a strange land riding a strange horse. I will either remain so and so will the horse, but in the end they deserve to no longer be a stranger.

He compared these wild horses to domestic horses like this:

Have you ever thought about the difference between a fiddle and a violin? Some will tell you that a fiddle is just a violin being played out of tune, and others will tell you that a violin is an over priced fiddle being played by some snob. Well, part of each may be true, but in the end they are both fine instruments belonging to their respective circle. It is a novelty to hear a fiddle amongst the orchestra and a violin at the barn dance, but each deserves mutual respect and dignity……

I will pick up the fiddle and play it like a violin, no one would no the difference if not for the scratch on the neck.

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