When Ranch Life Isn’t A Pair of Gold-Plated Spurs

God answered a prayer this weekend. Nothing big and fancy with fireworks blowing out of a rock. Just me saying, “Lord, please let the trail slope downward when I come around this next bend.”

I was three hours into a trail I’d never been on in my life. My head was pounding and turning around to retrace all those hours on the trail was not an appealing notion. The rain was coming down like all the angels had started crying at once, and I was about ready to tie myself to the saddle horn and let Jason pick his own way home.

I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly where I was the entire time; I just couldn’t get to where I wanted to go. That’s one of the most frustrating things about riding the mountain country. As an Iowa flat-lander, I grew up with the ability to ride off in any direction I wanted. No forests. No brush so thick you can’t see through it. No canyons. Just prairie for miles. Also known by the modern-day terms of corn and soybeans.

Mostly, I was just tired and hurting. I’d spent the morning rounding up strays out of the neighbor’s hayfield, pushing them through the mailbox pasture and fixing fence. And the whole point of trying to find some obscure place known as Johnson Gate in the middle of a forest was to find more missing pairs.

So that’s why, at three hours of drawing a big zero on finding cattle, I asked God to please make the trail slope downward around the next bend. And it did.

As Jason switchbacked his way down the mountain, a little clearing opened up. There in the fringes of brush were two pairs. A whole afternoon of riding, and there they stood, looking at me with expressions that said, “Well, it sure took you long enough to get here.”

All of a sudden, I was perked up. Never mind that I didn’t actually find the pairs; they just happened to be standing on the same trail I was riding.

And while I knew where I was the whole time that afternoon, what I didn’t know was made mighty clear when I pushed those pairs the rest of the way down the mountain to the main trail on the flat.

Those pairs? They weren’t more then a jig and a jaunt off that main trail if I’d come from that way. Couldn’t have been more than a third of a mile up the mountain to the salt clearing where they had been standing.

Sometimes you just have to laugh, you know. On the days where ranch life isn’t a bunch of blue ribbons and gold-plated spurs. On the days when you get bucked off, stomped on and run over. On the days when you ride three hours and find cows you could have found in 40 minutes.

Those are the times you just have to give a chuckle, thank God you’re still here and keep on riding.

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