today i met my new friend andrea at her free house (no one pays for housing anymore you know) and she took me up to the ranch to do some work to earn a horseback ride. we roll up to the place which appears to be an enormous tent structure surrounded by a dozen thin horses tied to small trees eating out of buckets. introductions are made, cheeks kissed, and the owner of the place, kelie, asks
"do you ride?"
"yes" i reply.
"neck rein? push with the outside leg?"
"yeah." I say.
"ok, i'll put you on that appy an test you out"
i saddle up a redheaded mare with freckles named marty who seems docile enough as i climb on her, walk her over to where kelie is standing. she points toward the tent and says "turn her that way". i lift the reins, lay them over her neck and she turns, light as a feather. before she gets three steps in, kelie waves and nods, then turns back to her scattered flock of people horses and dogs. test over, passing grade.
everyone's on, ready to go when a mysterious man shows up in cowboy gear looking for kelie. she shrewdly askes him if he does drugs. confused, he shakes his head and they walk off for a private chat. she comes back, mounts her gelding and chirps "traveling", the signal for us to move out.
the first order of business is to move the herd of 'wild' horses from one pasture to another, greener one. this is accomplished with much confusion, galloping, and one horse running through a barbed wire fence. ok, i thought, this is reckless horsemanship, and my senses perked up, ready for danger. after the skinniest horse i'd ever seen was roped and given a de-wormer, we moved the herd into their new pasture and the trail ride began.
picture the deepest blue ocean you've ever seen as your horizon, then paint rolling grass covered hills spotted with cattle leading up to a snow capped mountain, don't forget some puffy white clouds to temper the sun, and a gentle steady breeze to make you comfortable in a sweatshirt. place your feet in the stirrups atop a dashing dappled mare and urge her forward into an easy lope across the lush pasture as you breath in the clean air, smiling because there's nothing else you want to do. this is my winter in hawaii.
after crossing rocky rivers, floating through the downiest evergreens, and riding out the buck before the run, we returned to the ranch for burgers, beers, and story. the people are rugged, the burgers are as local as they get, and the horses are getting by alright. they do this every sunday, and i'm invited. it ain't paradise, but it's pretty good, and i went home sore and satisfied.
it's uncanny how many wishes have been granted to me this week: a comfortable place for me and freyja to live indefinitely, a piano in my house so i can start playing again, horses i can ride on a regular basis, friends who hurt my gut with laughter--i got it all, and i got it all for free.
i've been given the key to the island, and in record time--less than 2 months. this is what makes traveling worthwhile. taking the challenge to find my place, trust the process, and record the memories.
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