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Wisdom & Grace: A dream come true


A dream come true. A dream come true. That’s what happened to me a couple of weekends ago. Something that I thought would never be possible for me again … happened. I rode a horse.

After three knee replacements, I thought my horseback riding days were gone. But thanks to the gifted talent of local orthopedic surgeons (Dr. Cleary for the left knee and Dr. Donaldson for the right knee), I can walk and move better than I have for years. Shedding 65 pounds has helped tremendously, too.

I tell my family that I was raised in the saddle. I rode horseback soon after I could walk to the corral. First, I took my turn on Midge, a black and white pinto Shetland pony that my sister and brother had ridden during their learning years. I graduated to a big old bay horse named Penny and a palomino named Taffy. But my very favorite horses were Roxie and Rosie, black and white pinto saddle horses that Dad also used as a team to pull a sled or a wagon. They were cow savvy and could do just about anything. In fact, if you were chasing a cow or calf up a fence line, you’d better be hanging on because they could sense when the cow was turning back before you did, and you’d better be hanging on, because they could turn on a dime.

One of my very special times of my youth was riding with my dad. He usually rode either Roxie or Rosie and I rode the other. As we would walk the horses to check the cows in Red Rock Coulee, he would share his wisdom and stories of his youth growing up in the Simpson area. I can still hear him say, “Never run your horse unless you need to get somewhere fast. Otherwise they won’t be there when you need them.”

And then he would add, “Don’t ever, ever, ever get on a horse in the barn. Do you hear me? Never.” Then he would go on and tell of gathering cattle or sheep for Billy Simms or other neighbors.

My granddaughter, Kami, was given an older palomino named Candy last fall by Tracy Mork Bowles. We put her out with the cows and she enjoyed the alfalfa throughout our easy winter, but we always felt she could use some company and cows just didn’t work for that.

Connie Cox heard that we might be looking for a horse or two. I’ve known Connie forever. In fact, he gave me my first airplane ride. Connie’s dad and my dad were friends and Connie remembers, “My dad was taking 70 head of horses to Chester for a rodeo. Your dad and some other cowboys were helping. I was about five or six years old and at night, I’d nestle down and sleep between your dad and mine. Everything was going pretty good until they got to the Cottonwood Bridge over the Milk River.

“Those 70 head of horses wouldn’t go across that bridge for anything. They’d keep turning back. This went on for hours. Finally your dad got on his other saddle horse and headed to the bridge. Low and behold! He and the horse went right across the bridge! The 70 head of rodeo stock followed.”

Connie didn’t want to sell his horses. He still uses them three or four weeks a year. But they needed some grass. So, a couple of weeks ago, he brought them out. While the reservoir was still frozen, my husband, Rod, turned them out with the cows and Candy. Connie brought Bear, a black horse, and Moe, a bay. Candy seemed thrilled to have the company. Now they are across the road enjoying the prairie grass.

Kami and her little brother, Kace, came and stayed the weekend with us. Rod helped catch the horses while I got out my favorite saddle and bridle. Kami used the saddle that my siblings and I used.

I rode Bear and Kami rode Candy. It was a dream come true … at least for this grandma. We rode down the lane and out on the road and then up the section line. All the time I was remembering the treasured times with my father. We walked the horses and I shared some memories and a little bit of wisdom with my beloved granddaughter Kami. The day was beautiful and being able to ride again and share a special moment with my granddaughter was a gift I will treasure for the rest of my life.

When we got back to the barn, Rod and Kace were waiting. We took the horses and the grandkids into the bigger corral and Kami got on Bear and Rod picked up Kace and put him on Candy. I tied a knot in the reins and handed them to Kami.

Around and around they went for nearly an hour. All the time I watching them: remembering days gone by and thanking God for the opportunity to ride horseback again. Thank you, God. It was a dream come true!

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” Psalm 103: 1-5

(Ila McClenahan is the pastoral care and activity director for Northern Montana Health Care.)


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