Monday, June 19, 2017

Ownerless beasts

I kept my promise and quit my office job at the end of December. I grew up on a ranch outside Reliance so can't say how I ever ended up in a cubicle. Carol didn’t like it one bit that I was giving up a steady paycheck and benefits. She liked it even less when I told her what me and the boys had planned. She called me a fool.

Femur and Tommy quit their jobs that very same day. They’d grown up outside of town, like me. Hunting and fishing with their fathers, like I had. Femur had landed in pharma sales in Philly, and thought the alliteration of it was funny. He wasn’t married, so he didn’t have to answer to nobody.

Tommy had been a sheriff’s deputy in Larimer County, just

outside Fort Collins. When he came home that December and told Connie what he’d done, she left him. Went back to her mother’s. She didn’t sign up to be married to a 42-year-old loaf, she said, who up and decides at mid-life he’s going to quit his job and go play cowboy.



Two months prior, we’d been eating chili at Cap’s farm north of Salina, a second day of pheasant hunting in the books. Cap said have you seen that documentary “Unbranded,” and put it up on his big screen. These Texas boys adopt a dozen wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management, $125 a head. Some people call them mustangs, from the Spanish for ownerless beasts. Those boys broke them horses, trained them up, and rode them 2,000 miles from the Arizona/Mexico border, through the Superstitions, along the Continental Divide, and on to where Montana bumps up to Canada. We wanted some of that.

And that was 18 months ago. We’ve been on the trail four months now and we’ve come more than 1,900 miles. It’s the beginning of August and we’ve got 70 miles to the Canada border. We’re camped outside of Bigfork on the western slope of the Flatheads tonight, frying some bacon and mapping tomorrow’s route.

My horse and I have got to know each other pretty good over the past year. I call him “Doobie.” When I came home that December night and Carol called me a fool -- the words she used were actually “damn fool” -- it started that Doobie Brothers song running through my head. “What a Fool Believes.” Because I did.

That song stuck with me, even if Carol didn’t. I sold my Winchester .270 six months later and it brought enough to buy this pony from the BLM, with enough left over for a used Billy Cook saddle. I figured since I was supposed to be a fool, and since me and this horse were gonna be close like brothers, I’d call him Doobie.

The lines from that song are running through my head tonight as me and Femur and Tommy and Cap pass a bottle of Four Roses around the fire. What I’m hearing is:

“The sentimental fool don’t see 
Trying hard to recreate
what had yet to be created…”

I don’t know what we’re hoping to create here and I don’t know that any answer is at the Canada border. I think maybe we just want to be ownerless beasts while we still can.


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Photo credit: Kevin Smith, Flickr Creative Commons.

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