type type type type, click, click, type, click (a sound effect to set the stage for the following Facebook conversation that occurred a few weeks ago)
Me: “Looking forward to your visit to the ranch. List three things you MUST do when you get here.”
J: “1. Margaritas/Mimosa
2. Cowboy Photo Shoot
3. Get me on a horse”
That’s my friend J. And that’s why I love him…our list of priorities seem to always match up. That and the fact that he made sure to include a ranch visit in the time he took off after running a MARATHON in the Twin Cities just days before. He chose this as his relaxing place…and I wasn’t about to disappoint, seeing as I am a professional relaxer myself.
So I stocked up on wine, tequila and dark beers, pulled the burs from our trusty trail horse’s mane and tuned up my camera…and then proceeded to make a grocery list that had a front and a back side full of important ingredients like cream cheese, avocados, butter, heavy whipping cream, bacon, eggs, biscuits, tortilla chips, and a question mark next to the word “apple pie?”
I was pumped. I love hosting friends who appreciate the adventure of taking a trip out to the middle of nowhere to hike the hills, learn to cowboy and sit close at the kitchen table in this small house and tell and hear stories from my family and neighbors, eat and drink and fill the space and the barnyard with laughter, just the way life was intended to be spent.
J understands this. I haven’t known him to take a single moment for granted. But he’s not the type to preach about it, it’s not an action taken from the pages of a self-help book or from the trauma of a loss. It’s just his mentality. Live…really live. So when I met him in town I was not surprised to find that I could check the “make pie?” item off my list. Because J had already made one. A serious homemade, Martha Stewart looking pastry made with the freshly picked apples from his mom and dad’s backyard.
Yup. That’s J. He just whipped it up, no problem. No real recipe really and no big dramatic statement to the world screaming from the rooftop “hey world, I’m making a ppiiieeee…home made crruusstt…filled with juicy aaapppllleeess…my own rrecciippeee…” Not that anyone I know would ever make such a big deal about a baking attempt…
Anyway, I gladly took the pie in its perfect little pie box and then drove my guest and longtime friend to the badlands to hike up some buttes and show him the North Unit, a National Park he had yet to see from the top.
It was no problem that he had just run 26 point whatever miles a few days before. No problem at all…he was happy to lead the way up the trail to the top of the world with me. He’s got this under control. I mean, just a few month’s earlier he completed a 500 mile bike race and then went on to some sort of 100 + mile running relay in Colorado a few days later (I can’t remember the exact details because I was too busy trying to catch my breath on the way to the top of our destination…I’m not sure, but I could have blacked out and started dreaming of what I was going to make with cream cheese and biscuits…anyway…) what was a little hike in the uncharacteristically warm and characteristically windy ND weather?
Physically it was nothing for him, but what it meant to him to experience this with a friend I know was as priceless to him as it was to me.
And along the way we caught up. I hadn’t seen him since we met up in Minnesota to listen to music and ski down mountains in sub zero temperatures. I caught him up on my plans and he informed me that his goals for the year included getting in shape, and taking on new physical challenges…which explains the marathon and camping out on a mountain under the stars in the chill of the winter.
The man really follows through.
And I was so proud of him as I huffed and puffed along, back down to the car, explaining that Cowboy’s cooking has been pretty divine lately and I have settled into a comfortable life of eating and milling around the homestead coulees taking photos and thinking about things.
He said he knows, he’s been keeping up with me here and sharing what I’ve been doing with others.
And so we drove out of the park, stopping to discuss the impractical composition of bison, with their tiny tails, big shoulders and flat faces, along the way.
Then it was off to the ranch (with one stop for vodka and ice on the way) where I didn’t have to apologize to J for the lumpy yard, a result of the cow volleyball tournament. He didn’t care, he was too busy mixing up Jameson ginger ales and settling in. And then husband came home to whip up a batch of his famous knoephla as we sat around the kitchen table and munched on appetizers that, you guessed it, featured cream cheese as the main event.
Because we needed to get nice and fed and warmed up for our long day of exploring the ranch. So after supper we loaded up in the pickup, I squeezed my cheese loving ass into a bathing suit and we gazed at the stars as we soaked in the hot tub and made our plans for the next day…
which included waffles, homemade chokecherry syrup, mimosa, coffee and a walk along the creek that runs between the two places only to run into pops who had come home early to take us on a ride out east…
and the rest of the week went as follows…
more dip, roast beef, saddle up the trail horse, battle with my mare who has now decided she is absolutely uncatchable, but that’s ok, because I could show off my running and cowboy skills to my guest, go riding with pops, meander through the fall pastures, look back at J’s huge smile when his horse broke into a trot…
come home to guacamole, chips, more Jameson ginger ales, wine. Greet my momma at the door, pour her a glass, put on the steaks, welcome the neighbors, put a leaf in the table and bring up the folding chairs, put the bread in the oven and heat up the soup, take the potatoes and steaks off the grill, think that we should probably have vegetables and whip up a salad, pour some more wine, make a vodka tonic for the new guest, make sure we aren’t missing a food group, sit down behind our plates and tell stories, ask questions, laugh and don’t turn in until we have a slice of that pie with coffee…
go to bed full and happy, wake up for caramel rolls, coffee, another ride…
and then come home in time to get in on the end result of an elk hunt, which meant riding in the back of a flatbed trailer attached to a 4-wheeler and trying to avoid permanent damage to your rear end while pops drove at a reasonable speed over some unreasonable terrain….
…because it wouldn’t be a visit to the ranch without at least one genuine redneck experience…
Come home laughing, hug one another goodbye and make plans for our next adventure…
and be thankful your good friend, the one who drives 12 hours after a marathon to the land of cockleburs, mud and an uncatchable horse just to spend time with you and husband, is the kind of man who would leave you the rest of his pie…
We’re so thankful we have a friend like that.
Beautiful. Sounds like a brilliant week in a perfect place. Thanks for sharing and now I’m really hungry!
Miss you! Planning my trip down closer to the equator to see you!!!
I miss you guys. that’s it. I miss you all.
Miss you too. Come and visit!
Outstanding. Enjoy those wonderful fall days, the soup (which I never mastered) and wait for the Halloween Magic Pumpkin to bring you a surprise in the mail. Karen
thanks for reminding us that great friends bring us great joy and leave great memories … no matter where they’ve been (running marathons) or where we’re all going next … lovely writing and photos.
Thanks Kathleen. You’re right on about friends. I love how each and every one of them changes my life and my outlook in a different and positive way. i think that’s the measure of a good friend.
I always find your posts and pictures so refreshing. It is nice to see something besides Minnesota for a change. Thank You for all the lovely Pictures you always post.
Thanks for taking a look Crystal. Minnesota is absolutely gorgeous as well, especially this time of year. So glad we’re neighbors!
Sounds like you are both pretty incredible friends to have. Thanks for sharing your amazing visit with us. -kate