Rob Harrison is a fellow writer. I am amazed how he turns his memories into these vivid stories. Here's his latest.
A Ranch Boy's Memory
I remember a night where nothing out of the ordinary
happened. Pete, his father and I took shifts checking the cows. Pete shook me
awake and made sure I was out of bed. I stumbled down steep stairs. The warm
kitchen smelled of a banked wood fire smoldering in the cook stove and strong
old coffee simmering in a pot. I put on insulated coveralls, large
felt-insulated boots, and a heavy hooded wool coat. I swallowed a few sips of
bitter coffee and headed for the barn. The snow squeaked underfoot, punctuating
the frozen stillness.
In the dusty old log barn, the sturdy gray mare turned her
head toward me as far as the halter rope would allow. The whites of her eyes
showed in the dim light of the
single flyspecked bulb. She was already saddled. I slipped on the bridle and
tightened the cinch. Outside, it was tricky getting on the horse with the
clumsy boots on my feet – they wouldn't go into the stirrups, but a fence rail
helped me get aboard. From there, I did nothing; this little horse could walk
the circuit of the calving field in her sleep.
The night was a dimly lit Arctic still-life – ten below,
maybe twenty – no wind at all. I felt the hairs in my nose freeze as I
inhaled. The stars shone as a milky blanket of lights, not close enough to
touch as is often written, but tiny pinpoints far away like they get when it’s
that cold. The foothills of the Rockies lay half a mile away and, after my eyes
adjusted, I could make out individual trees without moonlight.
The cows stepped aside as I
rode through, wet noses lifted to me with only mild interest. This time there
were no cows in labor and no calves to deal with. If there had been a new calf,
I would have herded the cow and calf into the lean-to. If something seemed
wrong with the calf, I would have taken it, across the horse in front of me, to
the house where there was a big box with blankets next to the kitchen stove.
The cow would follow and be put into the milk cow corral. None of that
In three months, these cows
and their calves, along with the bulls, would be taken to summer pasture on the
forest grazing allotment. I liked to think of the bulls as smoking cigars and
playing poker all winter in the bull pasture. When the bulls were let out with
the cows, this cycle of life would begin again. I thought it marvelous that two
hundred cows needed only five or six very busy bulls for procreation. Happily
worn out in the fall, they would go back to their cards and cigars.
I sat the horse, feeling her muscular stride under me,
listening to the crunch of her steps in the crusted snow. When the snow was off,
she would join the other horses. I remembered the joy of their nickering when
they met in the summer pasture, how they ran, their necks pushing against each others',
turning suddenly as one, then running again, finally stopping to sample the new
It became clear as the
crystalline air that this winter, this sleepy waiting, was giving way to a
season of feverish, joyous creation. I was sixteen then and could feel the
ageless forces welling up in me. Nature would have her way and I would relish
the reckless spring of my life.
Take a look at Rob's story posted on December 30.