Continued from Cowboy Up:

Yry was the bottom rung of the chore ladder. She was assigned to whatever needed to be done on a particular day, from mucking out the horse barns, cleaning the chicken coop—a dreadful affair, feeding the pigs, tending sick animals, and even driving a tractor and an old hay wagon. Her horseback riding experiences from New York provided rudimentary skills, but western riding was different from the stiff, posture-perfect riding she’d been taught. She liked the casual, western style much better and adapted quickly to her surroundings. The freedom, the fresh air, and the vast open space was intoxicating.

One of her favorite chores was riding fence when she was usually alone to relish the solitude. The endless tan prairie stretched in all directions. Initially she thought it all looked the same, but in time she recognized landmarks the way a lover recognizes the features and gait of his beloved. A gentle rise here; an abrupt hill with a smooth, flat top and steep, jagged red sides there; patches of prickly pear cactus; rocky outcroppings—all road signs by which the locals navigated. And everything was enveloped by the intense blue sky. The sight of that blue sky sliding down to greet a distant horizon that was visible in all directions was astonishing to a city slicker, accustomed to a jagged, concrete horizon. IMG_4356

Alone in the infinity of land and sky, Yry reveled in the utter silence of the prairie. There was nothing but the steady shuffle of the horse’s hooves across dry grass or clip-clopping over a sheet of rock; the occasional warble of a meadowlark; the weets of a startled sandpiper, skittering off helter-skelter, dragging a faux broken wing; the mournful call of a dove; or the distant downward whistle of an airborne raptor to interrupt her meditations. Her mind roved for hours, wrestling with ideas about life, love, religion, and philosophy. Every plant and every rock held a story of its own. In the afternoons, puffy clouds built up, multiplied, shape-shifted and dissipated in the big blue bowl overhead. Best of all, for a change she felt genuinely independent. She was doing something with her life. This time was an apprenticeship. No one was looking over her shoulder in disapproval. She was FREE!