With only one month or so left of my internship here, I wanted to take a moment to write down some of the highlights of my experiences—both to share with you in the moment and for future me to fondly recall them. As I recount these experiences, I am reminded of a book shared with me at a camp I worked at last summer called I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor:
“Sometimes people ask me, “aren’t you lonely out there with just the desert around you?” I guess they mean the bear grass and the yuccas and the cactus and the rocks. I guess they mean the deep ravines and the hawk nests in the cliffs and the coyote trails that wind across the hills. Lonely? I can’t help but laughing when they ask me that. I always look at them, surprised. How could I be lonely? I’m the one in charge of celebrations.”
A while back, a few guys from the Wild Idea Buffalo Company came up to harvest some of their bulls. Brett, Callie and I drove out into the pasture to meet them and help out as we were needed. That day, I had the opportunity to witness the humane slaughter and processing of about 10 bulls as well as the hard work and coordination of the crew behind it all. I sat quietly in the pick-up as the shooter held his breath, waiting for the right shot, I watched as the buffalo hides were stripped and drained, I met and talked about the science of meat-processing with the health inspector (who happened to be from Savannah, GA and loved boiled peanuts), and I was offered elk jerky by one of the crew members, awkwardly declining as I explained my vegetarianism. I learned about different types of hawks from one of the guys whose father-in- law happened to be a professional falconer, and I listened as everyone swapped crazy horse stories while we drove around the pasture. The sun shone so brightly that day, and the grass was particularly green.
One of my first weeks here, Steph, Brett and I rode out into the pasture together. We rode all morning, going through the buffalo herd and into the horse pasture with the herd of 35 horses that I had only seen briefly from the backseat of a pickup. When we got to the herd, it was a most beautiful sight. Thirty-five horses came up to greet us, curious and attentive. The air was still warm with remnants of summer and their coats were sleek, glistening as they jogged and loped over hills, following us to a gate. As we crossed the highway to go back home, I looked back at the herd backdropped by the rolling hills of the plains and felt as though I was staring at a Bierstadt painting.
There was another day when Sam was visiting from the Chico Basin ranch in Colorado and Brett was dealing with an especially challenging horse that needed some miles under her feet, so the three of us set out in the back pasture to lope a few miles. As Brett took off on his spicy roan mare, Sam followed on her beloved P.B. and I, in the back on L.B. It was a cold, gray day and my hands and toes were frozen, but the feeling that arises from the loosening of reins and rhythmic synchronization of movement between horse and rider is enough to make you forget about the weather. It was a dream. Growing up, I can’t tell you how many pastures I’d seen through the window of a car and imagined myself galloping through them on the back of a horse.
Sam stayed for two weeks, and the second week of her stay we decided to play cards together every night at 6 pm. Those nights were full of laughter and warm drinks, and I went to bed each night with my heart fuller than the last. So, for those of you who ask, “aren’t you lonely out there?”, I simply respond:
“I celebrate with horn toads and ravens and lizards and quail, and friend—It’s not a bad party.”
By Savannah Robar, a horsemanship intern at the Wilder Ranch, SD.