This painting was a wedding gift from my cousin Myrna. (Technically, she is my mom's cousin but she is my age...the result of big Mormon families!) For the last 25 years it was in the plastic frame I put it in when we first got married. It sometimes hung on the wall but was more often tucked away because it was hard to find the right spot for it. I finally got it framed properly and I love to see it now in it's place of honor. Myrna is a talented artist and has done some commissions and murals as well as sold some of her work. But this is a priceless work of art, not just because the artist is dear to me, but because it captures a time and place in my life that is filled with good memories.
This is a painting of Roanie and laBruja--horses that belonged to Myrna. She lived in Ramah her whole life and I went there to visit on holidays and in the summer. To me, Ramah was the Wild West, the last Frontier. People there had farms and ranches and horses and cows and chickens. I was a city girl so it was exciting to visit Ramah--it was a different world. Myrna tried to teach me to be a cowgirl. She taught me to catch a horse, saddle up and ride. I learned to cinch the saddle tight the hard way: one time I didn't get it tight enough and when I swung my leg over, I kept going and slid upside-down with the saddle. Myrna had seen it coming and got a good laugh. To her all of that was as natural as breathing. To me it was as natural as a city girl on a horse... at first anyway. But over the years she didn't give up on me and eventually I got pretty good at it.
We moved to Ramah right before my junior year of high school. It was pretty traumatic for me but at least I had visited enough to know what I was in for. The best times over that two years were when Myrna would show up at the feed store (we lived in the back of a feed store--that's another story in itself), on la Bruja. My younger siblings would come running, "Myrna's here! She's got her horse." Since horseback was the only way she traveled, of course she was on her horse. We would ride double down to the pasture to catch Roanie for me to saddle up and ride.
Roanie was an old cow pony. His main purpose in life was rounding up cattle. He barely tolerated me. The thing I had in my favor was he was a little old and slow...most of the time. Myrna and I would ride around town. Ramah had only dirt roads and more horses than cars. Sometimes we would meet up with other friends for a game of pony express at the baseball field. A big empty dirt lot--no fence, no bases, no stands--they keep it simple there. This game is like capture the flag but on horseback. This was where old Roanie showed his competitive side. He would speed up as I went for the flag and then come to a screeching halt to turn and run away. The first time he did that, I flew up and over his head and landed in the soft dirt. He stood there looking down at me as if to say, "You sorry city-slicker--hang on!"
When it was time to round up Uncle Alden's cattle from the mountains and bring them down for winter pasturing, Myrna asked me if I would like to help. I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, Roanie was a trained professional. We started early in the morning and spent the entire day bringing them in. Roanie would plod along behind the herd and then suddenly take off after a stray. If I wasn't paying attention I would get jerked around and almost fell a few times. He would bite any that were lagging behind and nudge them along. I didn't even need to hold the reigns, he was very intent on doing his job.
At the end of that long day, we took the saddles and bridles off the horses at Myrna's place, then rode the horses bareback to the pasture. Roanie had worked hard all day and he was sweaty. I was sweaty and dusty too so I couldn't really complain. We headed for the pasture and Roanie plodded along slowly until we turned down the road toward the gate. Then he took off like a shot. I barely had time to grab some of the hair of his mane. I was literally hanging on for dear life. He was heading for home like it was the Kentucky Derby. I couldn't get a grip on his sweaty back with my legs, so I just flew out behind him flapping in the wind like long-johns on a clothesline. I was afraid he was going to keep going and sail over the fence. Luckily, he came to a screeching halt at the gate and stood there innocently waiting for Myrna to open it. I slid off his back and smacked him on the rump. He turned and nudged me and trotted through the gate.
Well, my cowgirl days are behind me, but a few years back I went to Ramah for Myrna's wedding. She took her time finding the right guy. After the ceremony and before the reception, I was standing on the corner across from my Grandmother's house and Myrna rode up on a horse. I asked her where her new husband was and she said he was helping her mom get things ready for the reception. She was riding one of la Bruja's offspring. She offered to let me ride a horse she was training. She said, he likes to run, you just have to reign him in. I was relieved to see he had a saddle and bridle.
By the way, Bruja is Spanish for "Witch". Pretty sure Roanie means "Devil".