What a Cowgirl Carries
There’s something about the view between a horse’s ears that makes a woman forget that she can’t stay up there forever. It’s the same way she feels watching a man catch a horse. It’s the quiet and gentle approach, the calm way he whispers and coaxes. It reminds her of the good ones.
And it’s how he wears his hat, how his shirt’s tucked in and the way he sits so sure up there next to her riding along.
The way the breeze moves through that horse’s mane before brushing her cheek and the sinking sunlight hitting him just right.
How the grass sparkles under the glow of it.
All of those things that make her happy to be alive out here are wrapped up in the way the air cools her skin in the low draws, and the creak of the leather on her saddle and the scent of the plum blossoms in the brush.
Ask her, she knows. No living thing is only softness, even though spring out here tries hard to convince us. There are thorns and snags among the fragile pieces of it all. There has to be or how would a thing like a raspberry or a rose survive here in the heat and the teeth and the pounding hooves and bending wind? You can be pretty and sharp. You can be strong and soft. You can be remarkable and fleeting.
You can be terrified and brave.
You wrap all of that up and you get a cowgirl. Some of them carry ropes. Some carry square bales and feed buckets and scoop shovels and fencing pliers. Some carry babies, on their hips or in their bellies, Earth-side or in heaven. In a quiet prayer.
And then some of them come carrying casserole dishes and plates of cookies and pies to feed you after the work is through and they wash up their hands and change their shirts because they were working right alongside you after the cooking was done. And some carry the weight of expectations wherever they go, but then some women dropped those in the crick years ago. Some carry burdens of past generations and some carry hope so high that it lights up their eyes and escapes with the loose hair flying out from under her hat.
And all carry with her the lessons learned from the buttes and the big sky. The cattle and the wild roses. The dirt and the river. The women who have cared for her. The men.
And the horses.
The horses. That’s where we started.
Up there, she feels stronger and as capable as anyone. A bit more free. The horse separates her from the rest of them, puts her shoulder to shoulder. He’s the great equalizer carrying her along, not only because she might have bought and paid for him, or maybe he was a gift, but always because she learned how to be up there properly as all of the things we know she is — confident and patient and soft and tough and kind and fierce and brave and humble and beautiful and practical and wild and collected….
And he carries her along because she made all this known, through mistakes and broken things and good days and ones that begged her to quit. And it’s not that she has something to prove, but the good ones, they prove that it can be done. It can all be done, but not without sacrifice. Not without strength. Not without fear. Not without knowing it might work out or it might not but if it’s worth being done, then it’s worth the try. It’s always worth a try.
And so she rides horses because sometimes she forgets who she really is at the bones of it all and that horse, he reminds her. And if you love her, if you’re a good one, she’ll make you happy to be alive out there in the cool low draws and the creak of the leather on her saddle and the scent of the plum blossoms in the brush next to her riding along.
Jessie, you always seem to articulate the feelings that are in my heart – that I don’t know how to express, and despite me not being a cowgirl! Thank you!
You do t have to be a “cowgirl” to know what you carry. Much love to you
Jessie. Your writings are so very beautiful; they fill me with joy and longing for the old days. Some things are forever. I can smell the plum blossoms and the sage as I am reading. I thank you so much for continuing to reinforce my most precious memories. Carol (Alton) Longtine; from the Old Alton place.
I’m so glad I can bring you back. The old Alton place is so special to us and holds so many memories for me too. Much love to you
Wow, this is just beautiful. I’ve never been a cowgirl, but I used to have a horse (a Thoroughbred mare). I’m in the UK so the landscapes are different from the prairie you describe, and we don’t ride Western style here, but your gorgeous writing captures the feeling of being out on a horse and feeling free
So beautiful, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes…. Thinking of my mamma who was the wife of a dairy farmer (my dad) and “hearing” her in your piece, too.
Such an evocative piece. I loved it. Please keep on riding and writing.