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Wisdom and Grace: A delicious pot of coffee


“Your dad and my dad were friends,” said long-time family friend Connie Cox. I’ve known Connie Cox all of my life. I remember the day he landed in the field just south of our house and treated my brother and me to our first airplane ride.

Our family friendship was reunited a few years ago when I happened to run into him and asked, “So what have you been up to Connie?”

“Oh, just looking for some pasture for some horses,” he answered.

Well, I know a good deal when I see one so I answered, “We’ve got the pasture. Bring out your horses!”

Connie and his wife Linda brought out “Bear” and “Shy.” And blessed we were! They are great cow horses, the kind that if you’re chasing a cow or calf down a fence line you better be hanging on to the saddle horn. Because a good horse can sense when that critter is going to turn back before you can. You better be hanging on or you will find yourself on the ground watching the horse follow the cow back to where it should be going. Besides being great cow horses, we can also put a grandchild on them and the horses are as gentle as lambs.

Then Connie began to share the rest of an amazing story beyond, “Your dad and my dad were friends.” My dad was Wes Whaley and his dad was Art Cox. My dad was raised at Simpson north of Have, near the Canadian border. Dad loved horses and I am told he was one of the true cowboys from that area. Art had a ranch there near Wildhorse Lake, near Simpson.

“It was 1939 and I was 6 years old. My dad had a contract to take bucking stock over to a rodeo at Chester. Your dad, Wes, was asked to come along to help trail the horses across country from Simpson to Chester. There were some other cowboys, my dad, your dad, me and a guy driving a car that followed and cooked for us. There were three hundred horses.

“We camped out at night and I remember sleeping between my dad and Wes. I was warm and I was safe.”

“Our first obstacle was the Milk River bridge west of Cottonwood,” Connie continued. “We were there for the longest time and we could not get the horse to cross the bridge or the river. We tried and tried for hours. Then Wes got on his other horse and I don’t know how he did it, but we got them started and every last one went across the bridge.”

“Every morning the guy in the car cooked a big breakfast. One morning the coffee was especially good. The cowboys enjoyed cup after cup of that good coffee. It was getting close to the end of the pot so one cowboy lifted it up for the last drop … and out plopped the biggest, fattest mouse you’ve ever seen!”

We had a good laugh over the mouse in the coffee story. I imagine many others have also as it is one of Connie’s favorites.

Sometimes I just stop and thank my Lord for allowing me to live in this beautiful country that I and many others affectionately call “Up North.” But it is not only the beauty of God’s creation that I appreciate but also the opportunity to know people like Connie Cox. I’m so grateful that our paths crossed the day a few years ago that he was looking for some pasture. And I’m thankful my husband, our daughters and our grandchildren have gotten to know Connie and Linda … and Bear and Shy.

Connie and Linda come and get the horses when they are needed to trail or work cows on their place. When they are not needed for a spell, Bear and Shy come back to the North Country. We use them to work our cows and the grandkids thoroughly enjoy them. Even our granddaughter Katy from Miles City can’t wait to come to the Funny Farm and ride Bear.

“I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1 and 2


Ila McClenahan is a retired chaplain and activity director living on the farm where she was raised in the Amos community north of Havre.


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