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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Dog Hair & Mule Sweat

with Natalie Riehl

editor@rockymountainrider.com

 

November 2011 Issue  

 

 

     Autumn darkness has taken over my evening feeding routine. Last week, I reflected on the mild, almost balmy, temperatures and took a few extra minutes with the horses to take in the change of seasons.

     The corral was muddy from several days of rain, and I wore my trusty, knee-high irrigation boots to fill hay bags and shut the gate to the pasture. At this hour, in the middle of summer, the sun would not be setting for more than two hours, and the sounds of birds, insects and traffic would fill the active air. Now, sounds were muted, reflecting a calmness and quietness of a winter’s night, and only the faintest hint of daylight shone above the mountains in the west.

     In passing by the garden, I caught the heavy aroma of herbs and the lingering scent of tomato leaves, which had already taken a couple of hits from frost. The half moon rose, on its back, a chunk of luminous cantaloupe. The cat chirped in her clipped voice, making her way across the grass as I walked from the barn. She was happy to follow me into the house.

     The seasonal transition continues, and we’ve had a few nights of hard frost. My irrigation boots have been replaced by my pac boots so I can navigate half-frozen corral mud. The petunias and geraniums in the front porch planters were stopped in their colorful tracks. The big mule deer buck has become bolder as he stalks our raspberry plants’ leaves.

     Two nights ago, the smell of wood smoke was distinct in the cold air, carried from a neighbor’s stove across the mown hayfields. It seems a nostalgic scent to me, and always tugs at my heart, even though we had two months’ of choking, “big campfire” exhaust at the end of summer from the forest fires surrounding our valley.

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     I look forward to Saturday morning errands in town. I feel upbeat, anticipatory, eager to cross items purchased and stores visited off of my list. This excitement is not always met with a like expression in our household; I often get an “Ugh.”

     Which, naturally - no finally - made me reflect on why I have this festive concept of Saturday morning errands. I traced the experience directly back to when my dad and I would head out on a Saturday morning. He was a “list” kinda man, and no doubt that’s where I learned to make lists.

     I don’t recall exactly which stores we visited, but in Fort Collins in the 1960s, it probably included Toliver-Kinney, a hardware and yard supply store; Ranchway Feeds for a sack of horse grain; Jax Surplus for outdoor gear (Dad was a big hiker); and assorted stops such as the pharmacy, State Dry Goods, and lunch, where I had a ham & Swiss on rye. Every week. Why do I remember this sandwich so clearly?

     I love the charm of our Western towns as they were before civic groups got together and decided to “beautify” the downtown areas with lots of trees, brick sidewalks, and curving curbs. The sight of the unique architecture is lost, probably forever, hidden by the trees which occlude the classic Western structures.

     Not all towns have succumbed to “beautification.” Consider yours lucky if it hasn’t been transmogrified into one with the boring, identity-less shopping mall look.

     I had a lot of fun with Dad on those Saturday mornings, so it’s no wonder why I still get into a lighthearted mood when I anticipate an outing.

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            I hope you, loyal readers, get into a festive mood with the upcoming holiday season, and that you spend quality time with your loved ones… and have fun!

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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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