Day 7

The next morning, Whitney, Peter’s oldest sister, takes me on a run not far from the ranch. We take Bella, who for the full five miles of our run, circles around us, briefly pausing at the tops of hills as if to say, "Hurry up, you uncoordinated sloths. I thought we were going for a run?" Whitney, at least, can power up the hills, while I, having been exposed primarily to cement and asphalt, feel as if I may have a heart attack before, after and during the mountainous inclines. (They say they are just hills, I say if you can't see over the other side, it's a mountain). Hills aside, the scenery is incredible. Rolling grassland with splotches of white and animals: horses and cattle posing for what could be nostalgic Old Country postcards. Winds bring a scent less appetizing from the cattle droppings, but it's brief and only momentarily obtrusive. We stop briefly to say hello to a truck driving by - it's Whitney's ex boyfriend's mother. They still chat, of course.

In the afternoon, Jim asks who'd like to help him round up the horses into a closer pasture. I raise my hand ecstatically, as all I've wanted to do since arriving is fulfill my inner cowgirl dreams. Jim's hard to read, but I imagine he's thrilled to have the only person capable of screwing up this simple task volunteer. Jim instructs me to get into the Caboda, a John Deere-ified golf cart contraption. We drive down to the horse stalls and grab two pails. Jim climbs over a fence to turn on water for the horses, and explains the pipe work they use to keep the water from freezing. Dallas’s palominos watch us from a nearby pasture as we climb along fences and I nod along, too anxious to meet the horses to comprehend ranch piping systems. We chug back up toward the house in the Caboda, veering slightly behind it. I open a gate for Jim by slipping a looped rope over a post and he drives through. Inside the pasture, what I think will be a complicated process becomes quite simple: "HORSE!" shouts Jim, shaking the pail. "HORSE!" And just like that, they appear. "Don't get scared, now," says Jim. "But watch their back legs." I watch as Diablo, Peter's horse, leads and five others follow. Moony, a black horse with a moon shaped spot on her forehead, gives me a snort. They reach us and follow Jim into the next pasture. "And that's it!" says Jim. Jim instructs me to drive the Green Machine back to the office area -really a glorified shed with a toilet- where he'll pick me up with the truck. "Go easy on the gas, and look both ways before getting on the road. Trucks do come around sometime." Ignoring his advice I hope in and gun it, slamming down on the gas and flying, laughing as I race the dog all the way down. Jim says nothing but I'm convinced I see him frown at my antics. Ranch girl I am not.