Posts tagged: Horses
I was instantly awake when I opened my eyes to a clear, bright, Montana morning. There was no swimming through murky dreams to surface into consciousness, stretching and yawning and blinking. One minute I was asleep, the next, I wasn’t.
Through the open window I could see the peaks of the eastern edge of Glacier National Park in the distance. It was early, but the sunrise had already stained them, tinting the bands of stone with soft color.
Still lying on my side, one hand beneath the pillow under my cheek, I studied the mountain range visible over the stream that rippled past the hotel and fed Saint Mary Lake. The sound of water rolling over stone washed the air.
As I lay there, gazing at one of the tallest mountains, I noticed on its face a shadow shaped exactly like a pony in full gallop. Not in the amorphous way a cloud might resemble a leaping dolphin to you, but a steam engine to the person lying on the grass beside you. The image was stark and clear. It was as if someone had painted the silhouette of a wild, running, horse directly onto the side of the mountain.
I blinked but it was still there when I opened my eyes. I turned away but it was there when I turned back. I got up, walked around the room for a minute and then got back into bed. The pony was still running. Convinced I wasn’t imagining it, I surrendered and lay there watching until the sun shifted in the sky and, finally, the pony was gone.
I’d spent a week immersed in Blackfeet tribal history and customs and I was still pondering what I had seen and heard.Young Blackfeet climbed the same mountains searching for the vision that would give them direction, on a quest to find an answer to the riddle of who they are. Some still do. It crossed my mind that the mountain might have brought the vision to me.
The day before we had driven up to a high meadow overlooking a canyon and watched as men rode out to round-up a herd of horses. The cowboys were bringing in the herd so they could choose bucking horses for the night’s rodeo. They disappeared into the horizon but soon rode back over the ridge driving the herd down to the pens. We felt them before we saw them. The horses ran like the wind and the ground shook with the thundering of their hooves.
They were driven into a corral and the mares and foals were separated into one pen and the rest were “spilled” into anther.
A magnificent stallion, strong and powerfully built, as black as anthracite with a while blaze on his forehead, protested his capture. He reared and kicked, tossing his wild mane and lashing out with powerful hooves. He bullied and chased the younger stallion, butting and kicking with his back legs, biting deeply into the younger horse’s back.
The foals whinnied, close at their mother’s sides and the mares circled protectively. Three recently neutered palomino geldings stood at the fence and watched, nickering softly.
A tall, soft-spoken Blackfeet horseman with the unlikely name of Mouse Hall, called the shots. His crew worked fast, seemingly able to intuit what the horses would do next, calling out “Come here Mama” or “Get in there little fella.”
When the stallion - “the crazy s.o.b” - raged at his predicament they pulled in a mare and foal to calm him, to reassure him that even penned, quivering and pawing in fear and impatience, he was still the master.
I sat on the fence, lost in the wild beauty of it all. Finally, the horses were loaded and ready to go.
The sound of hoofbeats was still echoing in my mind when I closed my eyes. It’s guess it’s no wonder that I opened them to see the shadow of a pony running across a tall Montana mountain.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.