The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-Girl.

Category: Ranch Kids (page 1 of 4)

To My Cousins. . .


We are the red scoria roads and ponderosa covered hillsides of the Tongue River Valley.   We are every flavor of Shasta, slurped down in the midday sun, outside of the dusty branding corral.   We are tree forts, baling twine, and lost matches with green beans out of a can.   We are the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and Montana of 1882.

We are all of these things.  The accumulation of childhood memory and generations of American experience.  We are all of these things and so much more.  Our lives have blossomed and spread beyond the soil of our youth.  We have grown far and we have grown apart, yet we are still the sum of the years that proceeded us and the years we shared on the Quarter Circle U.

Regardless, of how far we go and how far we grow, we will always be rooted in those experiences.  We gather around the familiar green cookhouse table and share particular versions of our childhood, each with our personal biases and understandings.  All together for the first time in however many years,  we are comfortable with the people we have become.  Comfortable enough to let down our guard and layout our individual fears and insecurities, too build a more complete picture the childhood we shared in this place.

I sit and listen, as our stories begin to overlap.  Each story rises in the air above us,  melting into the those that came before.  Each story, enough to stand on it’s own, creates something greater as it  joins the others around this table.  I sit and watch, as these stories grown out of childhood, create the scaffold of irrefutable strength that frames our adult lives.

Like the stories we tell, we are enough to stand alone.  We have gathered friends, spouses, and children around us.  We created lives of purpose and love, I am proud of the people we have grown into, but together we become something greater than our wholes.  Thank you for this evening around the cook house table, thank you for a childhood filled with magic and dirt, thank you for being outstanding human beings.

I love you,



5 Things I’ve Learned From My Brothers

I failed to post or acknowledge National Sibling Day.  I didn’t realize there was such a day.  How about you? When did April 10th become National Sibling Day?  I am clearly behind the curve on more than one front.  I’ve been giving thought to lessons I’ve learned from my younger brothers through the years.


1. “My saddle is too slick.”

There is no guarantee of safety in life.  Just because your “saddle is slick” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ride fast.


2. Help a guy ride a goat once in a while.

Kindness and helpfulness are infectious, pass it on.


3. Wear your Superman jammies to the grocery store.

Through the years, I’ve lived with Zorro, went grocery shopping with Superman, and zipped Spider Man up on more than one occasion.   Zorro, Super Man, or Spiderman whatever speaks to your personal sense of style, go with it.  It isn’t what you wear, it’s your attitude that matters.  Confidence speaks for itself.


4. Forgive.

Sometimes your brother knocks you down and steals your toys, love him anyway.  Life is best lived with your whole heart.  We are irresistible to others when we embrace that philosophy.


5. When you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough and that’s okay.

Don’t be afraid to express your discomfort with a situation.  At a certain age crying and screaming aren’t acceptable means of communication, but by no means should you stop communicating.  We are each unique individuals, but we all share the common need to protect our boundaries.  Clearly expressing ourselves is the first step.


Thank you, brothers.  I would be incomplete without your influence.  I probably wouldn’t know any fart jokes, either.




I’m tired|My Beautiful Messy


My name is Rachel and I am a Candy Crush addict.

It started innocently enough, as a distraction from blogging and bookkeeping.  Before long the beguiling game began interfering with my daily life.   Every game is created with the intent of snaring players.  They entice you with bright graphics and the undeniable satisfaction of instant gratification.  I am a relatively self-aware, educated adult.  I know this.  Yet, I am reeled in time and again.  Slipping into a trancelike state and resurfacing hours later, the menial chores of motherhood piling up around me.

It creeps up during the school week.  The itch to escape into fiction and fantasy arrives as the lights of the school bus appear.  I am in denial.  If I escape into a book or Candy Crush, I don’t have to face niggling responsibilities of a housewife and mother.  I know mindless game playing is a symptom, not the  disease.  It is the manifestation of my dis-ease, my unhappiness with life in two households.

We’ve shuffled to cow camp and back to our home in the valley with regularity these past four years.  Trying to strike a balance, with family, school, and social lives.  The importance of every extra-curricular event or birthday party is carefully weighed against the number of days that have passed since our family has been under one roof together.  We’ve cobbled together a sense of normality, despite the coming and going.

Amidst all of this back-and-forth, I’ve lost track of “real” life.  I don’t know which is my “realest” reality?  Is it Mom-the grocery shopper, vacuumer, folder of laundry, cook, and taxi service?  Is it Rachel-cowboy-girl, rider, and roper with the cowboy crew?  Where did Rachel, the artist and academic, go?    I am tired.

Candy Crush is not the cure.  I know this.  Laundry still must be done, meals must be prepared, and sometimes you just have to vacuum the floor.  Or not.  Go Fish, a garden hose fight, or horseback ride may be necessary.   This fatigue and disenchantment will pass.  I know this, too.

I will take a deep breath.  I will remind myself to live in the present.  I’ll practice mindfulness, inhabit the little moments, and enjoy my family now.  They are better measures of a life, than any labels I might apply to myself.

Just one more game. . .



“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
Elizabeth Stone

A few wispy clouds leisurely make their way across the cornflower blue of a late summer sky. I’ve ridden my pony, petted the dog, fiddled with the velcro fastening of my shoes, and climbed over the middle of a gate. Despite knowing it is a cardinal sin in our family, good citizens always climb a gate near the hinges. Or better yet, they do not climb over gates at all. I am bored, ready to go to the house and eat peanut butter and jelly. I am done with the barn for the day. Mom is not. Through the dusty haze, I see her executing perfect circles on horseback. She is a craftsman, with tortured attention to detail, as she readies her mare for cow horse competitions.

This seemingly endless exercise in horsemanship finally draws to a close. Satisfied with their partnership, she rewards Ruby with a pat on neck and dismounts. From beneath her signature broad-brimmed ball cap, my mom beckons me to her side. As a treat, she lifts me into her saddle for ride to the barn. Without warning, the world becomes a blur, and my three-year-old body is in a heap on the ground. Ruby stands a few feet away, her eyes-wide, her nostrils flared. Before I can process what has happened, my mother has fallen to her knees and swept me into her arms. As the shock wears off, I begin to cry around a mouthful of red-brown dirt. Behind her glasses, Mom is crying too, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” More indignant than injured, I begin patting my mommy’s shoulder. We are both shaken. Despite the scare, I am utterly aware that I am loved.

This incident shapes my earliest childhood memory. It is etched into my brain, the physical details so strongly embedded in my mind that I can show you the exact spot the Ruby incident occurred. However strong the physical details of that day remain, the intensity of my mother’s emotion is a stronger memory. Despite the indignation of a mouthful of dirt, I’d always felt my mother had overreacted. Then nine-years-ago this month, I became a mommy myself.

I didn’t choose parenthood, it chose me.  It was a difficult adjustment, but from the first moment I held my son, my life has changed in the best possible ways. In comparison to my journey to motherhood, his transition from a beautiful baby into surprising big boy seems sudden. I understand the ferocity of my mother’s love and know the fear she felt at that moment thirty years ago. My son and I have had our share of ‘Ruby’ moments, I am certain there will be more.  Despite this, I am grateful for the blessing of motherhood.   Our children, as independent and individual as they maybe, will always be a part of us.

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