Older, aging, ranchers didn't ride horses during
the later part of their lives. Their bodies were stiff and uncooperative as
well as tired and worried with injuries enough to make them look for an
easier way to cover the miles around their properties. It was their business
to keep up a vigil of their lands. As they rode out across the stretches of
prairie, possible problems became apparent and the lighter buggy offered an
easier seat for them so a continued vigil could be kept. It was nothing like
the ride of today, though. Even the pick-up trucks, offer soft, cushioned
seats, now. Cars with built in sound systems bring music to please anyone's
choice of compositions whether it be country, rock or Beethoven. Those men
of that past generation were so dedicated to the land and their herds they
didn't need the comfort of today's world. There was something in the man's
make-up, that kept his mind alert, and focused. He could spot, in a
heartbeat, any situation needing his attention, whether it be a slight break
in a dam for a pond, a cow heavy with calf about to calve, or maybe too many
tracks of some nuisance varmint threatening his live stock. Age only made
him more conscious of problems he had visited once before.
Those thoughts crossed my mind as we sped over the now smooth highway
over the prairie. Mother was with me and she is the only one left of that
country society in our family for me. She was busy picking up on the history
of each curve just as Dad used to do.
“I see someone is still living at the old Donaldson place,” she noted.
And then again, “There's so and so's old place. I guess it has been sold
out. I know they are all gone, now.” Or maybe, “Dad said he walked by foot
out over those hills, all the way from Ralston to the ranch, one time.”
We were on our way closer to home now. The shadows of evening were
falling quickly with only a small burst of brilliant, tangerine, jewel like
sun setting under one of the hills. The flame of it was gone and now it was
but an orb with a glow above it. Even the semi-circle of light seemed to be
feathered into the darkening sky like an artist was touching it with a
brush, carefully blending any hard lines away.
Small cattle herds were lined up in a row across the bottoms of the
hills until they seemed to be but one mark across the grassland. Here and
there were patches of small wheatfields that looked to have been turned
under, no doubt, from the dry weather and their lack of growth. Little ponds
rested so quietly with no wind to stir any waves on their surface and they
were as slick as a mirror while reflecting their own piece of sunset and sky
upon themselves. And then, that sky seemed to suddenly go gray and dull. As
the sun had slowly found a place to hide under that hill its departure was
strong and heavy on the landscape. No wonder the ancients believed the sun
was a goddess, else how could her leaving cause such a colorless, dim,
Still, there was a pleasant, quiet feel about the terrain.
“Thank you, I enjoyed my ride, so much,” Mother volunteered a comment.
“The pleasure was all mine,” I told her, and I was being honest as I
slipped out from under the steering wheel and off the comfortable cushions
of our car.