I’m just starting my lesson with Jane Savoie, after a perfect warm up, when an electronic rooster crows horribly in my left ear drum. My eyes fly open, and it’s pitch dark.
Aw, c’mon. Who set the stupid alarm? And why the horrifically annoying electronic rooster that crows loud enough to scare the neighbors?
I wanted that lesson with Jane Savoie.
I roll over, close my eyes, and climb back on Hudson.
Hudson…Hudson….? CRAP. I leap out of bed, grabbing my jeans in the dark, bang into the dresser, and trip over my shoes.
It’s five am. On a Saturday. The Saturday.
Today is the cattle drive!
It’s a relief that I know how bad I am at waking up. There are notes everywhere. On the bathroom mirror: NO COFFEE (and brush your teeth, ewww!).
The stove: Do NOT turn on! Go to fridge.
The fridge: Just ONE DIET COKE, and EAT.
The computer: Check the temperature, Get OFF the computer, go get your phone, stop stressing about the gear, it’s all organized. Put everything by back door.
The backdoor: You should be tripping on this: camera bag, cell phone, heavy coat, watch cap, use bathroom before leaving!
I’m going to have to hope adrenaline will take care of my entire-pot-of-morning-coffee wake-up method. In three hours, when I’m out in the middle of treeless hills and valleys with perturbed cows, having drunk an entire pot of coffee will have been a really bad idea.
I’m meeting Bella and Alice at the barn at 6:15. Alice is going to ride Hudson in the cattle drive. I could probably ride 5 hours of walking around, but chasing cows? My leg isn’t going to last that long.
It’s all good. I’m going to go photograph, experience, and enjoy the heck out of a Saturday morning. Plus I’ll get a remote idea of what a cattle drive is really like, something I would not get if I showed up to ride.
I follow my Hansel and Gretel trail of post-it notes out to the car. I’m instantly glad I didn’t decide to try to find the ranch by myself. I’m going to Bella’s, and will follow the trailer. Tule fog. Fog so thick nothing exists beyond an eight foot radius. So white, your headlights bounce back and blind you.
Originally, Bella gave me “country” directions. Directions that work great when you can see where you’re going. In the country addresses fall off mail boxes, street signs are turned or missing, etc:
Go past the barn, turn right on the second of the Field roads, follow the big hill on the right, left at the intersection with the switchbacks and boulder, right at the first street that goes uphill: first ranch on the right at the top of the second big hill.
In this fog, I have to be careful not to lose the road, and have no sense of uphill or downhill on a road I’ve driven every day for nearly ten years. I almost pass the my barn.
I pull in, the rig is idling: warming up. Alice is on her way down to the barn for Bella’s extra snaffle bridle. I follow Bella to the paddock to get the boys. They both look completely unsurprised. Dinero yawns, but is perky and happy. I can barely get Hudson’s blanket off, he’s trying so hard to help me. Their excitement about going in the trailer is palpable. I marvel that they associate the trailer with Fun and Good Things.
I have to hold both horses at the trailer door. To keep them from leaping in. Bella is checking divider locks and hay bins. “Dinero”, she says. And I hand her his lead rope. He’s inside the trailer, lining quietly up into his spot, before her hand is fully closed around the rope.
Hudson is jigging: Me me me me ME!
Bella stays inside, and steps out-of-the-way: “Ready. Toss the lead over his back.”
Hudson knows her words. He’s already leaping in, as the lead is in the air on the way to his back.
This still stuns me, having always had horses with Trailer Anxiety Disorder. This has to be a record. I counted: sixteen seconds to load both horses. Including tying, safety check, and closing dividers.
Securing rear doors were another 2 seconds. Twilight zone.
I notice both Alice and Bella are wearing mid-calf muck boots. I’m hoping my ankle high boots will be tall enough. The three of us look like little kids stuffed into every coat in the closet, topped by hats. I’m glad I’m not the only one who looks like I’m having trouble moving my arms.
We are out the driveway by 6:30. Cattle ranch is close-ish. Mount up time is 7:00. The sun won’t be up yet, but it should be somewhat lighter by then. I count the number of right and left turns so I can find my way out again. I won’t be staying for the entire day, just two or three hours.
We arrive: other rigs are there, horses already tied up, being saddled. I park and introduce myself around while Bella hunts for an open spot to unload. Nice folks.
My flash is making light. When I took the photo, I couldn’t see the person picking a hoof.
Below, Alice finishes getting Hudson ready. We’re higher up in the hills. The fog hovers low in the valleys, and is overhead, no longer obscuring immediate vision. For awhile.
To be continued….