It’s been pretty scorching hot around the ranch these days, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of the sexy outfits I’ve been wearing to stay cool.
No, that’s not it at all. It’s just typical late July/early August for you. But you have to appreciate a place on the map where in the matter of six months you can experience a 130 degree weather shift.
I will be remembering this past weekend of 90+ temperatures when I am in my seven layers topped off with a hooded down parka that reaches my ankles.
Oh yes, I will remember.
But this morning as the thermometer stretches toward 80 degrees and it is only 8 am, I am remembering 30 below…and thinking no matter what, I like summer better. Hands down.
Because after a long, hot day where we’ve watched the sun emerge from the horizon and make its merry little way across the sky, beating down on our lawns and flower beds, sweating up our skin as we stand there, coaxing the flies to buzz around our ears and the corn in the east to stretch its arms a little higher, we sigh and sip our iced tea knowing that in a few hours we may be awarded a sweet reprieve. A breath. A sigh. A little cool-off before we hastily throw some burgers on the grill at dark and crawl under the sheets.
I call it the magic hour.
Others call it evening. Sunset. Dusk. Twilight. It’s that fleeting time where the sun moves slowly toward the west side of the world, promising soon to sink below the horizon, but not before it casts long shadows, turns the hilltops to gold, calls out the dragonflies, kisses the coulees with cool air, and fills our nostrils with the scents of crisp clover, wildflowers and grasses.
It’s the perfect time to grab your horse and head for the hills. Because if it was a windy day, the witching hour calms the breeze. If it was a hot and muggy day you might find yourself some cloud cover at the cusp of an oncoming thunder storm. If it was a sunny, 80+ day and you are out during the perfect time, you will literally feel the temperature dropping around you and your skin cool down as you ride or walk in and out of the draws and up the hill to catch the sunset.
We wait for it here, the magical hour, as we wipe our brow, salty and glistening from a day of work or play. But it’s all about timing, and we have turned it into a science.
See, if you jump the gun too early in the day, you will be saddling your horse in the intense sun of the late afternoon. The flies will still be nasty, you will be sweating profusely, your horse will be stomping at the pests and heat and you might get a little cranky riding toward that sunset waiting for the orange ball in the sky to move along already.
If you head out to the barnyard too late you will be rushing things trying to race the dark. And by the time you get on and move out you will have missed the the moments where the sun highlights the black backs of the cows on the side hill, the air shifts and cools your skin, the sun changes from yellow to pink and the deer might be moving and emerging from the thick trees. And your ride will be cut short, because once that sun touches the last hill your eye can see, it gets dark fast.
So you can see why it’s a craft can’t you? You can see why we watch the sky, take notice of our skin and the shadows and when the sun is in the just the right spot, more west than middle, more down than up, more moderate than hot, we pull on our longer sleeves, head to the tack room to grab a bucket of grain and saddle up.
We climb on and head out along the edges of the oak groves and stay in their shadows while the sun moves a little closer to the edge of our world.
And when we’re cooled down we climb up to the nearest hill to see if we can catch a deer as it moves out of the trees to graze among the clover, to watch the dragonflies dart and dive, to catch the moment when the landscape turns from a painting with all the right highlights to a mysterious shadow with a strip of orange hovering above it.
And before that sun greets the other side of the world completely, we turn and head back home, cooled off, satisfied, decompressed, a little tired, a little hungry, a little more alive…
Because it turns out there are others who are waiting in the shadows for the cool down, for the sun drop, for the magic hour…
for the dragon flies…
And we don’t want to miss their show…
Bravo my crazy cats.
Bravo, bravo, bravo magnificent world.