Friday, June 26, 2009

Letters in the Post

I must say it's really grand to move somewhere and then write letters to friends far away and receive cards back. They are like gifts in amongst the bills. And I am reminded of how many people I really care for and who care for me. It's easy to forget when your friends are spread from Michigan to England to Tasmania to Missouri to Arizona to Oregon to California to Texass to Florida and so on. I always think, like most, that I only have a handful of really true friends. But moving away assures me I have many more than that and maybe many more than most and that's a a really great feeling. Especially when I don't have siblings and only a mother and father as family still alive. I once again feel very blessed by my friends who are all very unusual and great people. I have lived many places and gathered a great group of people I call family friends. Sappy girl. Yup, I am, and always have been. But it's true and I just thought about it a lot today.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I simply feel very blessed. Nam myoho renge kyo. All light. Grandmother's death day is summer solistice. Told her to go to the light and she died at noon on the longest day of light in the year. Every year there are celebrations all over the world. And this year I saw an Indigo Bunting on her day and I know it was her. Have your doubts if you wish. I don't.

It is so amazingly beautiful here. Take your breath away gorgeous. And around every turn is another vista, as dramatic and as different and as special as the one before. The vastness cannot be captured in words. I've taken more than 200 pictures and cannot bring myself to delete any of them. It's surreal. Camping on top of a mountain on the Indian Reservation, not another soul in sight. Just natural ooooah. Coyotes singing like I've never heard. Lightning shows that made me force myself to keep my eyes open till wee hours watching in awe.

Waking to dawn at 5 a.m. and feeling totally alive.

it's something. That's all I can say.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Second Verse Edited and Cut to the Bone

Well, Billings Gazette is going to publish my article, edited to almost nil, due to a world with short attention spans and longer article only good for BAD news, case you never noticed. I'm thrilled to be published again though anyways on my first try.

Here's the short version...

LOCALS BE PROUD by Virginia Little, Ph.D.
I recently moved to Montana from Michigan.I am writing this article because I know how when you live in a place for too long, it's easy to forget what's right in front of you.

Shortly after arriving in Shepherd, I found the Pryor Cafe in Huntley. The waitress, Robin, immediately made me feel welcome with her friendly, sharp-witted personality. The cook, Kurt, aka Eddie Haskel, makes his own sausage and customizes each order.

The woman at the Huntley Post Office offered to send me a vest which matched the fabric of my Cowgirl purse. I was a complete stranger to her. Her generosity astounded me.

The next day I met Becky, the owner of The Trading Post in Huntley. She politely declined to purchase the decorative horseshoe picture frames I make but suggested I could receive The Yellowstone County News for 3 months free as a new resident.

I had to go to the emeregency room for an allergic reaction. My new neighbors immediately insisted I call if I needed anything. Very reassuring.

Other neighbors offered their roping arenas for my use anytime, even after I nearly got trampled by a stampeding horse while taking pictures. They weren't worried about me being in their way, only that I might get hurt. Again, folks looking out for someone else before themselves.

Not only does Montana have unsurpassed beauty with its mountain vistas, abundance of BLM horse trails, dramatic sunrises and sunsets, and winds rippling like waves through prairie grasses--the people are kind, generous, and thoughtful. It's unusual in these times and deserves commendation. Montanans are a great example of why we will survive these difficult times.

Locals: You live in a small town with a big heart. Be proud. Kindness matters and can change the world.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Life on Horseback

Here's where I picnic. Tom, my Cowboy and Gracie, my sleepy baby...

Life in Living Color

A day on horseback..

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Out here in Montana

Written by Virgina S. Little, PhD., Technology and Education, Learning and Change in Human Systems

Hello Readers:

I’m a gal from Kalamazoo, Michigan; Yes, there really is such a place. If you’re old enough you may recall the Glen Miller song, “I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo”.

Slightly over a month ago I moved to Shepherd, Montana with my two horses and my little fox terrier. I’ve always loved the West and have previously lived in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and California.

Every morning I sip my coffee at the Pryor Café and read the Yellowstone County News or The Billings Gazette amused by some of the headliines and bylines from the area. Kurt, the cook, makes me homemade sausage and plate size pancakes or poached eggs with green chiles. He spoils me with his cooking and light hearted comments which start my day with a smile.

Robin, the clever and cute waitress made me feel at home the first time I walked in the place. She tells me stories about her granddaughter and laughs about life. I’m sure her humor and charisma draws in many customers. I watch the men in cowboy hats or caps and flannel shirts give her hugs. One she calls “grandpa.“ Now that she knows my truck, she has my coffee waiting for me on the counter as I walk in. She’s good at what she does and likes her job. She works hard. Unusual these days.

I listen to the locals banter over politics (primarly based on the support of the far-right conservative and hard for a moderate liberal to tolerate but I listen and try not to comment too often.) As I hear them kid each other about this and that, it’s clear they’ve known each other a long time. There’s a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere where people can joke around without taking themselves too seriously.

I decided to write to the paper about what it’s like being a recent transplant because I know how when you live in a place too long, you sometimes forget the magic of the place and what’s right before your eyes.

I ride my horse most days out at Shepherd Ah Nei. I don’t know what that means in Indian yet, but I mean to find out. The prairie wildflowers are all in full bloom in a full array bright colors and types. Peeking above the tall grasses which ripple in the wind, coyotes pop up their heads and pointy ears before scattering off over hillsides. Antelope (aka speed goats) run along with whitetail deer and away from the horses. Each time I’ve been out I’ve seen a bright blue Indigo Bunting, just one. They’re good luck, my grandmother once told me and rare where I come from.

And the sky, oh yes, The Big Sky, reaching from horizon to horizon with mountains beckoning in the distance. Mares’ tails clouds sweep across the gleaming bright blue and shade the afternoon sun.

My Cowboy and I sit under pines and look down at canyons and up and out at the mountains while birds sing symphonies to us. The song of the meadowlark is unmistakable, sounding like a robin who has had singing lessons.

It’s the kind of beauty that brings a feeling words cannot touch. It’s similar to Great Lake Michigan. You can tell people it’s like a fresh water ocean with real waves and so vast you cannot see across it, but they don’t really get it till they’re there.

The Yellowstone River, higher than ever in history, carries trees downstream by the sheer force of nature. It’s something to behold. Under the water are hidden treasures, agates, which a kindly bearded fisherman told me you find by standing towards the sun so you can see them glint. He found three and gave them to me. I was as excited as the first time I found a geode on the banks of Lake Michigan when I was a little girl.

“Thanks a lot!” I exclaimed. “I like little river pebbles too. I glue them on horseshoes.”
“Well, if you see my truck down here again, stop on down. I have a whole collection of little rocks I’ll give to ya.” Wow, I thought. That’s really nice. I smiled and said, “Bring me rocks and I’ll make you a horseshoe picture frame.”

There’s a real sense of community in Huntley and Shepherd. When I first arrived I had an allergic reaction to bug bites and had to go to emergency. The next door neighbors called and said if I needed anything not to hesitate to ask them. Made my mother and I both feel a lot better knowing somebody was watching out for me, especially being so far away and having just left not so long ago.

The neighbor guys practice roping and offered to let me ride in their arena anytime, even after I got in their way taking pictures and nearly got trampled by a stampeding horse. I found it so exciting to watch. Apparently they are extremely good at it. I notice their oversized heavy silver belt buckles and championship saddles. They teach the younger ones how to rope as well and are patient, understanding, good teachers. I should know. I trained teachers for many years.

Then the other day I stopped into the Huntley Post Office. I had a couple packages to mail and needed some stamps. The woman behind the counter noticed my small purse made of a red cowgirl fabric.

“Where’d you get your purse?” she asked. “It’s really cute.”
“A friend bought it for me in New York City for $4,” I replied, “Can you believe that? I found a neckerchief in Wall City, South Dakota and it cost $15, three times what the purse cost! Go figure.” We laughed, shaking our heads.
“I have a vest of the same fabric,” she offered. “I should mail It to you.”
I thought she was kidding. It was just so nice. I was just a stranger.
“That’d be great,” I said, “I’d love that. Could I pay you for it?”
“No, no” she scoffed. “I’ll send it on to you. I have lots of vests.”

Later that day I recounted the story and found myself wondering what it might be like if the whole world was full of such generously kind people, those who would offer a hand to a complete stranger, or a vest or a box of rocks. I reckon we wouldn’t have so many troubles if that were so.

It simply seems to be the norm in this part of Montana, particularly Shepherd and Huntley. But I also have to mention Shipton’s Big R in downtown Billings where the staff is more than helpful and friendly. Recently a young girl who works there gave me a Cruel Girl special gift assortment intended for those blowing a wad on Cruel Girl clothing. They didn’t have the jeans I wanted but she gave me the gift anyway. Just plain nice of her and rare in these days and tough times.

That same day at the Pryor Café, I met Nancy, the woman who owns the local Trading Post in Huntley. She carriers a remarkable array of goods: clothing, jewelry, antiques and more. I had some decorative horseshoes I’d made for fun and to sell for a bit of pocket money.
Nancy told me she had too much merchandise in her store already but to stop in and sign up for 3 months of free issues of the Yellowstone County Newspaper. She suggested I watch the paper for the Art in the Park and wished me luck selling my “art”. Another good turn and good wishes and one which prompted the writing of this article.

I find it quite remarkable. It seems to be “The Way” here and it’s to be commended. July 25th is National Cowboy Day. Here’s a version of that “Cowboy Code” that seems so engrained here:

An Old Cowboy's Advice
* Keep your fences horse-high, pig-tight & bull-strong.
* Keep skunks & bankers & lawyers at a distance.
* Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.* Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.
* Meanness don't jes' happen overnight.
* Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
* Don't corner something that would normally run from you.
* It doesn't take a very big person to carry a grudge.
* You cannot unsay a cruel word.
* Every path has a few puddles.
* When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
* The best sermons are lived, not preached.
* Most of the stuff people worry about is never gonna happen anyway.
* Don't judge folks by their relatives.
* Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
* Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't botherin' you none.* Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
* Sometimes you get, & sometimes you get got.
* Don't fix it if it ain't broke.
* Always drink upstream from the herd.
* Good judgment comes from experience, & a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
* If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
*A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deer Tractor.
* Live simply.  Love generously.  Care deeply.  Speak kindly.

Remember: Be glad to live in such a beautiful and warm place in a world where most people just look out for themselves. Think I’ll stay for a spell, if you don’t rightly mind.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home, home on the range...

Indigo Buntings. Good luck. Small bright blue bird which is where I get my name Indigoginny. Favorite bird. See ONE every time I ride. Good luck, that. Grandmother told me so. Rode for 5 hours today. Sore butt but wonderful ride. Up and over rocky hillsides. Across wide plains. All the wildflowers blooming in a myriad of colors and styles. One white with three petals and orange and yellow center. Like a wild lily. Lots of purple, yellow, orange, white, but all different. Bright orange butterflies. Smell of sage. Meandering. Looking out at the horizon instead of down at the ground.....a cowgirl's dream day. Came home and made a pork roast, gravy, roast potatoes, salad with avocado, onion, cheese, fresh greens, corn on the cob dripping with butter, real butter. mmmmmmmm....Big cowgirl butt. Yup. Like to eat...and play and work.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Under the Big Sky

When they say Big Sky Montana, they aren't kidding. It's like being in a 3-D planetarium. The horizons are so far off, as far as the eye can see, and strewn with mountains in a 360. Rode out for a couple hours yesterday and saw antelope, aka speed goats, and a coyote popped up his head and ears before scurrying off. It's like being in an old Western movie. No people. Just sage, prairie flowers, wildlife and the breathing of the horses. I love to gallop on the wind. I really do.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time and Trust

Worked with Midnight, a rescue horse, Paso Fino, this morning. First time he let me touch him. The fear in his eyes cannot be mistaken. I can only wonder what horror this poor horse experienced. He jumps at the slightest movement. Runs and hides behind the other horses whenever possible. He's so sweet and gentle and majestic. Who could have had the wickedness in their heart to do whatever they did to him? Unthinkable to me. We both have trust issues so maybe he and I can learn from each other.
The two horses in the front are Roman, on the right, and Rocky, left. Midnight is in the back, as per usual. Roman is only 3 years old and huge! Bigger than my 9 year old gelding, Chance, who is too tall for me to touch his ears. Roman is like a big puppy dog. When he is lying down, you can lay on top of him and rub his ears. Sooo sweet, he is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alone but only a bit lonely

Moved to a new state where I don’t know anyone. Surrounded by the comfort of my horses, the mountains, my little fox terrier. Only the sound of the keys tapping, horses squealing as they get to know one another and establish who’s alpha. Only one mare and four geldings. Two quarter horse paints, a Rocky Mountain, a Tennessee Walker and a Paso Fino. Beautiful to see them run, play, fight in the 60 acres of pasture out my window. Too cold and wet to ride right now. Life in Montana begins.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Holy horses!

Farrier came and shod the horses today. My gelding, Chance, reared, bucked, did NOT want his back feet touched. Battle finally won with yes, a big alpha struggle. He may weigh 1200 pounds and is so big I cannot touch the top of his ears, but I won out in the end. Some days though it feels good to be tired and to win a battle.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Big Sky Girl

I finally found my way, to Montana and to this blog. I just moved here, know no one, and the tapping of these keys may allow my head to quiet, getting the thoughts out. And new places inspire new words. So, I will write. But tonight, I am finis.