By: Tonya Stevenson
This spring we were given the opportunity to pasture cattle on the mountain with our son. He lives on one side, we on the other about 60 miles apart. We took turns driving up and riding through our cattle all summer. When it was 90-100 degrees here, we’d head for the mountain to check cattle, and you might need a sweat shirt. We saw antelope, deer, elk and even big horn sheep.
The work was good for our horses, and we rotated several to give them more experiences. I had hoped to just take a trailer load of three horses a piece and stay up there riding horses a couple of days. However, chores and business never let that plan materialize. Instead we’d run up in the afternoon; several nights we didn’t get back to our trailer until after dark.
We had our own little branding with kids, grandkids, and friends. All of the grandkids rode that day. Lane brought along his four year old son a couple of days to ride on Fox, a horse who took Lane to National High School Finals in calf roping and bulldogging.
Lane told me, “I thought maybe this summer would let us make some memories together working cattle.” It did that. When he said it, my mind ran through mile upon mile of treasured cattle trails Lane and I had ridden together. Memories he doesn’t remember much of, but his momma does.
Lane, like all of our kids, rode before he could walk. He was totally content to rock along in the saddle in front of me all day long. Of course, I carried food, diapers and appropriate clothing for the weather. Before long he’d start asking for the reins and guiding Dusty himself. Like his sisters before him, at two he claimed his own horse and left Mom behind.
Lane’s first horse was Smoky, an old calf roping gruella gelding of his uncle Randy’s. That summer when we gathered the Jimmy’s pasture below the Ferris Mountain, Lane rode Smoky for eight hours. Another night as we were riding back to the house after dark, Lane was falling asleep horseback. I didn’t trust the horse I was riding to put a kid on, so I climbed on behind Lane’s little saddle. He lay back against me and fell asleep. Otie says, “You’d have thought we’d burned them out riding, but all our kids still can’t get enough.”
That fall when the work moved to the meadows, closer by the house, Smokey got ornery turning for the house, refusing to let Lane stop him, going just fast enough to keep us from catching him. One day as I was helping Tasha (six), get her mare across Little Sand Creek, I heard a holler. Lane was hanging off Smokey’s breast collar.
“Lane, what are you doing?” I asked, as I dismounted and threw him back into the saddle.
“Smoky bucked.” Lane exclaimed.
I had laughed. Tavia, then 4 years, had been riding Smoky running barrels, poles and goat tail tying since she was three. Smoky had never bucked with her. Nevertheless, stories of his younger days caused me to watch over my shoulder as we hit a trot to catch the cattle herd. Sure enough, just a few strides out, the old booger swung his head sideways, even as I warned Lane to pull him up, Smoky dumped him.
Tavia volunteers, “I want to ride a bucking horse.”
She was on Check, whom I had ridden in barrel racing as a little girl. We switched and rode on without further mishap. I didn’t trust Smoky for Lane anymore. A brand inspector from Casper, Sam Skyles, offered his old red roan rope horse. Blizzard was a perfect match. He went easy, stopped easy and took great care of Lane.
T Lane told me, “Mom, I think Blizzard loves me.”
I know Lane loved Blizzard. They started trotting barrels (for a rainbow sucker he’d lope home) and poles in Wyoming Junior Rodeos that very fall just before Lane turned three. Lane continued to ride Blizzard until he was five, when he graduated to Perk. We kept Blizzard until he died. Perk was a lot of horse-Lane won WJRA All-around titles and saddles on her, using her to head on up to his senior year in high school.
Life is funny that way…how I can look at this 6’2” young man, a father himself and still see a little snickering boy sitting with me on a tree limb while his sisters scoured the camp area below, trying to find us in a game of hide and seek. We saw a brand new spotted baby elk stashed in the sage on the ride home that August 5. It seems but August 5th this year.