How do you measure a horse’s life?

Dipper and my daughter, Indiana State Fair, 1996

How do you measure a horse’s life?  Is it in the 29 years you were blessed and honored to be trusted by such an exquisite animal?  Is it the 10585 days that you were greeted every time you went to the barn or pulled into the driveway with a hearty whinny?  Is it in the 15,242,400 hours that you spent learning how best that horse learned what you attempted to teach him? 
Do you measure that life in the things that the two of you accomplished?  Or do you measure it in the accomplishments that horse helped several young riders to attain?  Do you measure that life in what that horse taught you?
Dipper (known to the Arabian Horse Club as Dastardly Dip—not my choice of a registered name for him but he came already registered) came into my life when he was six months old and my son was seven months old.  I had always wanted a horse, preferably an Arabian.  I saw an ad in the local paper that was advertising a weanling three-quarter grey Arabian for sale at a ridiculously low price.  I dragged my then husband with me to go see this baby.  The paper said he was a grey.  The only baby in the small paddock near the house was a screaming strawberry, with black stockings, and cream colored mane and tail.  What grey he had were hundreds of tiny, tiny flecks of grey spattered in the strawberry.
We walked to the paddock and this baby walked over to us and he promptly put his head in my chest.  Those huge, liquid black eyes half closed when I started to rub his poll.  I stroked his face and slipped a hand under his chin and he immediately started to suck on my fingers.
His owner walked up, introduced herself and I asked where the baby was she had advertised.  She told me I was petting him.  The expression on my face must have said it all because she assured me by the time he was two, he would be grey—flea-bitten—but a grey, none the less.  We started to talk about this baby and why she was selling him.  She was getting out of horses and he was one of three she had left, but because he was so special to her, Dipper had to go to the right home. 
I’d already lost my heart to him, so I was doing my best to convince her that I was the right home.  During this conversation, the baby wandered off.  My husband put Jason down.  After a few moments, I realized that husband wasn’t holding Jason and looked for him.  He was under Dipper’s belly, using Dipper’s front legs to pull himself up to stand.  And, all this Arab baby was doing was turning into a pretzel to twist his head far enough under himself to see this tiny human. 
Dipper came home with me.  I knew NOTHING about training a horse, but I could read.  I never forced him to do anything.  Time and patience were my best training tools.  And I talked to everyone I knew who had ever owned a horse, ridden a horse, trained a horse.  What I didn’t know, I figured common sense would take us a long way.  And, baby, what a long way we’ve come.  
I taught Dipper how to be a western pleasure horse, because the then ex-husband said I could never teach him to pick up the correct lead and be competitive.  I taught Dipper to be an English pleasure horse because after a while, being a western pleasure horse wasn’t a challenge for him anymore.  I taught Dipper to pull.  I taught Dipper to first level dressage.  And then, because I had learned from this horse so very much about how to be a horsewoman and I realized that he was bored to tears, I taught him to run barrels.   
Who knew hidden within a horse with more sense and sanity than a lot of the humans I know there was a high octane contesting animal just waiting to turn and burn around three barrels?  Where he floated in a trot for English pleasure, rode like a rocking chair in a western pleasure lope, he turned a set of barrels as if he was a quarter horse spinning on a dime and leaving nine cents change.
Dipper taught both of my kids to be riders.  He had more patience than a herd of horses combined.  If an inexperienced rider was on him, he was the most placid beast on the planet.  A plow horse had more spark and fire than he did.  But, put an experienced rider up on him and he turned on the juice.  He took my daughter to State Fair.  He took two other riders to State Fair. 
Shortly after I married my DH, we had a fight.  I went to the barn where Dipper was stabled to clean his stall, but I picked up eight bottles of Budweiser before I went.  I don’t like beer, but I was so angry I was willing to drink it.  Well, one and a half beers later, I was plastered and Dipper finished the second bottle for me.  Who knew he’d like Bud so much—so I gave him another one, and then another one.  To this day, I couldn’t tell you who was more wasted.  I can tell you that neither one of us could walk a straight line.  I saddled him up to do some work on the flat.  At one point, Dipper stopped in the middle of the arena and I started laughing.  A moment later, I realized horses can laugh, too.  He stood with his head down, ears falling off his head, and his whickering was slurred. 
He loved to go out for long walks in snow storms.  He also enjoyed to go for walks at night.  A lot of horses don’t like to be ridden in the dark.  He liked those long rides and I think it’s because he trusted me not to let him walk into trouble.  I know I trusted him to keep me safe on those rides. 
He still puts his head in my chest, wanting his ears rubbed.  He still sucks on my fingers.  When we were done working or riding, he always put his head in my chest and I would rub his ears for several minutes, letting him know he had done a good job and he was done for the day.  He put his head in my chest today, after he choked for the second time in as many days, and wanted me to rub his ears.  He sucked on my fingers.  I know he is asking me to tell him he’s done a good job and that he’s done working.
In the morning, my DH will give Dipper the last shot to ease him from this life.  Before he does that, I will rub his ears again, and I know he’ll drop his head into my chest one last time.  One last time, he’ll suck on my fingers.  And, I will tell him that he’s done a good job.  He can stop, now. 
I know how I measure a horse’s life.  It’s measured by the size of the hole that will be in my heart after tomorrow and it’s measured by what I have learned about patience, and love, and gentleness.
Rest in peace, Dipper.  You have done everything I have ever asked of you and so much more.  No one could have ever asked for a better friend, better mount, or better first horse.  Rest in peace.

Saying "Thank you."

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Turkey leftovers are d’rigour for the next couple of days—turkey casserole, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup.  Black Friday—that peculiar custom which is distinctly American—has been moved into Thanksgiving Day as retailers attempt to lure more and more shoppers into the stores and malls.  In a lot of stores, the Christmas decorations were out and on display by Halloween.  Sigh…
On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, I found myself asking why in the world I do this every year—prepare a feast that will leave everyone moving away from the table like bloated ticks—for lack of a better description?  Why do I put myself under this kind of pressure and stress?  Why do I clean the house within an inch of its proverbial life?  Why do I stay up until all hours of the night on Wednesday, baking up the treats that everyone in my family seems to expect for Thanksgiving—pumpkin, apple, cherry, and pecan pies, sweet breads, and even cookies?  Even though I have severe insomnia, the stress makes it worse. 
To try to justify this kind of masochistic behavior, I started listing the things I was thankful for.  The usual suspects were on that list: a DH who loves me, grandkids I would walk through fire for, kids I love beyond reason (even though there are times I would like the strangle one or the other of them and sometimes both at the same time), a roof over my head, family that keeps my life interesting, my doggies who keep me grounded, friends that I can share laughter and tears with, a published book and reviews of that book that make me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Those reviews are the point of this blog, even if it took this long to get there.  As someone who has written reviews—both for popular literature and for a literary magazine—I have an idea of the time that goes into writing a review, even if it’s only a sentence or two.  Someone took the time to commit to reading and then time out of a busy day to write those reviews for The Devil’s Own Desperado
I know how thankless it can be to take the time to write a review.  The literary reviews I’ve done seemed to only be met with comments of “What in the &*^% were you thinking when you wrote this?”  Ummm, okay, then.  Just because I didn’t write a glowing review of those works, claiming said work was the next incarnation of ____________________________ (fill in your choice of your idea of a literary classic), apparently I didn’t think when I wrote those reviews.  When I wrote a review of a work of popular literature, the silence was deafening.  (At least I wasn’t pilloried and then run out of town on a rail, after being tarred and feathered.)  However, one review that I did of a work of popular literature is now being used on a regular basis in a class on popular literature and the mass media at the university where I teach.  Seems I made such a compelling argument against the piece of drivel being taught as a “romance novel” that the instructor for that class uses it as a counter argument and then allows the students to make up their own minds as to whether or not that work is a romance.  I’ve heard from several students who have taken the class that were thankful that someone laid it out as to why that novel was NOT a romance.  (Yes, my work there is complete.  I have rebelled against the establishment and gotten others to also rebel.)
All those reviews though for The Devil’s Desperado on Amazon got me to thinking about those people who wrote those reviews, even the one that had me scratching my head, and asking the same question that was asked of me when I wrote literary reviews.  How often have these people written reviews for books they’ve purchased and read?  Quite a few of them have.  And, how many of them actually got any feedback from the author?  So, I decided that I was going to acknowledge those people who took time out of their day to leave a review for me.  Even if all I did was say “Thank you,” I was determined to leave feedback.  Even if I had to duct tape my fingers together so I didn’t type something along the lines of “What the *&^% were you thinking when you wrote this review?”, I was going to acknowledge those reviews and thank each one for taking the time to write a review.
If you’re an author and have a review of your book, how often have you thanked the people who reviewed it?  Think about it.  Reviews and word of mouth drive a lot of sales now.  Friends sharing responses to books they’ve read…sharing posts on Facebook about a book they really liked…ranking those books on Goodreads…Most of the time, a review isn’t acknowledge other than the author announcing “I got a good review from XYZ.” 
Try the personal touch.  Thank the people who reviewed your book, even if you aren’t happy with the review.  Someone took the time to read your book and then review it.  Tell those people you appreciate it.  Such a gesture may not sell more books, but think of the good karma you’ll be sending into the universe.  Karma—good or bad—always comes around.

Crazy…

I’m crazy.  It’s that simple.  I’m flippin’ insane—certifiably, round the bend, toys in the attic CRAZY! 
November is always crunch time for the fall semester at the university where I teach freshman English, so what did I do?  I decide to do NaNoWriMo.  Yep…I’m crazy.  For those of you reading this blog who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month.  In other words, committing to NaNaWriMo means I’ve committed to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days.  I should be committed!  Crazy…said to the tune of the Patsy Cline hit…
I’m about 20K words into a work in progress.  It’s rough.  Really, really rough, but that’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo.  Shut the internal off and start writing.  A long time ago, I wrote a contemporary romance that I know will never be published—aside from the fact the thing is so incredibly dated now it’s not funny.  But, I love the hero.  And the heroine.  Love them both so much they still haunt my dreams.  If you look up “alpha male romance hero” in the dictionary, you’d find my hero’s picture there.  But, despite being an alpha, he is broken.  Incredibly broken…shattered and damaged and so full of self-loathing and recrimination it’s a wonder the man can function at all.  And she is more than his equal.  She’s tough as old shoe leather when it counts, but full of belief in him.  She literally pulls him out of the depths of a hell he’s allowed others to create for him.
So, for NaNoWriMo, I decided that as an author, and therefore the Great Creative God in my hero and heroine’s world, I was going to pick them up and transport them into an historical romance.  I toyed with the idea of a time travel.  I mean if I was going to pick them up and plop them down in a train careening westward across Nebraska (NEBRASKA????) to the Wyoming Territory, maybe it should be a time travel romance. 
Nah.  That wasn’t working for me.  So, 10K words into that, I pitched that idea out the window of that rapidly moving train (when it wasn’t stopped about every 90 minutes to take on more water and fuel for the steam engine) and started playing the old “who, what, where, why, and what-if” game. 
I’ve always had an affinity for those men who donned Confederate grey and homedyed butternut.  Not the generals, or the politicians involved, mind you, but those men who fought out of a sense of duty and patriotism for their home states.  (Robert E. Lee turned down the command of the Union Army and said he had to be faithful to his state of Virginia.)  I read somewhere that more than 90% of the men who donned the grey never owned more than five acres and never owned a single slave.  They were fighting for State’s rights.  Like Rhett Butler, when he leaves Scarlett so he can go off and join the Southern Cause, I find my heart belongs to lost causes and underdogs. 
So, my hero became a Confederate.  And she’s a Yankee…damned and all.  Well, maybe not damned.  I’m still trying to figure out if I can get a dragon into this whole mess. 
At any rate, here’s a small blurb from this work in progress:
Allison Webster ran out of the train station, cursing herself.  How had she managed to miss the porter’s call for everyone to board?  The train was belching black smoke from its massive diamond stack and pulling away from the station.
“Wait!”  Allison ran as fast as her heeled boots would allow her, small carpetbag banging against her leg.  “Please, wait!”
She caught the caboose, but the train was picking up speed.  Allison gave a burst of speed and closed on the last boxcar.  A man poked his head out of the car.  Even running for all she was worth, she caught his grin. 
“Toss that bag up here and give me your hand,” he shouted, holding his hand out to her. 
Without thinking of the consequences, Allison tossed her little bag into the car and grabbed the offered hand.  With one pull, he lifted her into the air and swung her into the livestock car.  Momentum carried her forward, and she fell to her knees in the straw.  At least the bedding was clean, she comforted herself, and she hadn’t landed in anything distasteful.  She knelt in the straw for a few moments to catch her breath.
After several gulping breaths, she pushed herself to stand and turned to the man who had rescued her.  He stood in the open doorway, leaning a shoulder against the frame, his back to the landscape beginning to move faster past them.  He wore a threadbare grey greatcoat, the elbows patched, the cuffs frayed.  The remains of gold braid spiraled along the collar and cuffs.  A battered, sweat-stained cavalry styled hat covered his head and shaded half his face.  Even though she couldn’t see his expression, Allison had the most uncomfortable feeling she was being looked over and sized up.  Self-conscious, she ran her hands down the front of her skirt.  “Thank you,” she managed.
He dipped his head.  “First time we stop to take on water and wood, you can go on up to the passenger cars.”
The train lurched as it picked up even more speed and Allison stumbled forward, falling into him, the length of her upper body pressing against the wall of his chest.  She grabbed his upper arms to steady herself and looked up into his face.  Eyes the color of cobalt Italian marble bored into her.  Dark beard stubble covered his lean, hollowed cheeks and hard jawline.  She couldn’t look away from his face and seemed frozen in place.
A muscle clenched in his jaw and something icy filled the depths of his eyes.  His hands closed on her waist.  She couldn’t stop the small squeak stealing from her. 
Without any seeming effort, he lifted her and set her down a foot or so away.  “Go sit down over there on that hay bale, before you fall out the door, or worse, knock me out the door.”
Allison nodded vigorously and cautiously walked to the hay bale in a corner of the car.  She sat down, then dropped her head to the wall behind her and shut her eyes, all the while trying to recreate a semblance of order to her hair where several strands had escaped the chignon at the back of her head.  A few moments later, she glanced over to the opened door.  Her brusque rescuer had his back to her. 
“Do you know how long before we stop to take on more water and fuel?”
He twisted his head to look at her over his shoulder.  “Probably about an hour.”
“Thank you, again, sir.”
“Try not to make it a habit of missing the train.”
When the train stopped to take on water at the first jerkwater little town, Allison admitted to herself that it had been the longest hour of her life.  Her attempts at any conversation were met with silence at the worst and at the best, noncommittal grunts.  He grabbed her bag and set it next to the door and waited for her to walk to the wide door.  Allison slid down from the car, took the strategically placed bag and before she could offer her thanks, he stepped back into the shadows.  A moment later, the door slid shut.
****
A.J. watched the little slip of a woman make her way from the boxcar with as much dignity as it appeared she could muster.  The memory of that tiny waist in his hands and the slightness of her build had startled him.  When she met his eyes, he’d been taken back.  Eyes the color of melted chocolate widened and her slender, feathered brows lifted.  Bright color flooded her cheeks when he told her to have a seat on the hay bale. 
He had watched her discreetly tuck several strands of gold kissed walnut hair back under that ridiculous hat perched on her head.  Realizing he had been staring at her, A.J. turned his back, letting the rapidly moving landscape occupy his gaze.  She was lovely, he had to admit that.  And, it had been a very long time since he had looked at a woman and not compared her to Cathy.  He had sworn, as he knelt at Cathy’s grave that there would never be another.  Now, a little slip of a thing had gotten in past his carefully constructed battlements and stirred something in him he would have sworn an oath to be long dead and buried beneath a live oak in Kentucky.
 Sliding the door shut in her face hadn’t been the most gentlemanly thing he could have done, but he had long ago given up being anything that might even resemble a gentleman.  Hell, he’d given that up somewhere in upstate New York, in a hell on earth called Elmira.  If he’d harbored any hopes of regaining anything that came close to gallantry after watching men fight one another like animals for a scrap of moldy bread, egged on by not only their captive brothers in arms but by the guards who placed bets on the winners and losers, all hope died when he collapsed to his knees at the graves of his wife and daughters. 
Yep…crazy…

Frozen Winter-wonderland

We’ve been in Wyoming in the late fall and early winter, experienced a very early season blizzard, but we’ve never been there when it is full on winter.  That’s on my bucket list, to experience Wyoming’s winter.  Some people may tell me at this point that I need my head examined, that winter in Wyoming can be dangerous, cold, dark, and dreary.  And, how is it different from winter in other parts of the Midwest?
I keep telling DH that we need to make a trip to Wyoming sometime in the winter to experience Yellowstone.  No, Yellowstone doesn’t close for the winter, even though most of the roads going into the park are closed.  Even a few of the famous lodges are open and often aren’t booked years in advance.  There are ways to get in—one is the famous Snowcoach.  I mean, really, how cool is this?  There are even night excursions for what has to be arguably the most intense star-gazing experience of a lifetime (short of actually taking flight in a rocket ship).
What I can tell you about Wyoming’s wild open spaces in the winter is the silence is so intense it is frightening if you’re not expecting it.  But, during a snowfall, something magical happens.  That enveloping silence changes with the sound of falling snow, a shushing sound as flakes drift through the air and fall to the ground.  If feathers truly could have a sound as they settle to earth, it would be the sound of snowflakes slowly surrendering to the pull of gravity.  That falling snow muffles all other sound, filling the air with its own music and overwhelming the awesome silence of a slumbering landscape.
Yellowstone in the winter is transformed, the landscape mantled in shades of stunning whites, icy silvers, and shadows populated with deep blues, purples, greys, and black.  The tourists are gone for the season, so the park does now belong to the wildlife and those hardy enough to brave the shattering cold.  Portions of the landscape never freeze, because of the thermal activity so close to the surface.  The geysers still bubble and percolate, Old Faithful still hisses and spews her magnificent fountain of super-heated water and steam into the air, and sections of the Yellowstone and Firehole Rivers steam with heated water re-entering the rivers.  These “hotspots” in the ice attract the wildlife, offering year round drinking holes and the rising steam offers places to warm shivering bodies. 
 
Now, I just need to convince the DH that I have to mark this one off my bucket list.  

Women Voting? Are They Insane?

If I said I was sick to the death of politics, I’m sure most people in the United States would agree with me.  As someone who voted in the general election just the other day, I have a right to vent about the process.  Twelve years ago, when we elected George W. Bush (and, yes, for inquiring minds, I voted for him and voted to re-elect him), I said at the time that the archaic system we have here of the electoral college needed to be scraped and actually allow the American population to vote for the President—not the electors who would then vote for the President.  I knew at the time, if we had a “one man one vote” system for the Presidency as we do for EVERY OTHER elected position in this country, that election would have ended very differently.  Al Gore would have been our President.  The thought of Al Gore as our President nauseated me, however, the system seemed inherently unfair to me at the time.  It still seems inherently unfair and outdated.  Before anyone starts calling me names here, I will note that if we had a “one man one vote” system in this election for the office of President of the United States, nothing about this election would have changed.  We would still have the incumbent returning as President of the United States.

I had a history major in combination with my English major as an undergraduate and I still don’t understand what this country’s founding fathers were thinking when they decided that for the office of President, the American voting public would not vote for the President but would vote for an elector to then vote for the President.  I’ve often thought the reason the founding fathers did that was because they were certain that the average voter just didn’t have the intelligence to make the right choice when it came to who should be President.  (And, no there will not be a snarky comment here about whether or not that opinion has changed in light of the just ended political campaign and election results—all though, I think I just did make a snarky comment…oh, well.)

In keeping with the theme of voting and staying in Wyoming, here’s a brief history of voting rights for women (gasp!) in Wyoming. The Western suffrage story began when Wyoming transformed a dream into reality in 1869. That year, the twenty-member Territorial Legislature approved a revolutionary measure stating: “That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory, may at every election to be holden under the law thereof, cast her vote.” William Bright, the bill’s sponsor, had come to share his wife, Julia’s, belief that suffrage was a basic right of American citizenship.

Esther Morris

There was no organized suffrage campaign, and not a single parade, debate, or public display. But women kept vigil outside Governor John A. Campbell’s office until he signed the bill into law. Eliza A. “Grandma” Swain of Laramie claimed the honor of casting Wyoming’s first female ballot in 1870. Esther Morris of South Park City and Caroline Neil gained fame as the nation’s first female justices of the peace. The next year Wyoming’s women sat on juries, another simple but revolutionary inroad for women’s rights.

Why would a western backwater like Wyoming, where there were more antelope than people (still are, actually), challenge the nation to embrace such a controversial experiment? Was it a publicity stunt to attract more settlers? A political ploy to advance partisan causes? A panicked effort to counteract the votes of newly enfranchised African American men in western territories? (The last is the least probable, as Wyoming has usually embraced the notion that a man be judged on the content of his character and not on the color of his skin and the American Civil War and the politics involved with that fiasco were far removed from the thoughts of the average Wyoming citizen.) There were many reasons offered in 1869, and no one explanation satisfies historians even to this day. It is clear, however, that Wyoming women embraced their right to vote and staunchly defended it against all threats.

The news spread rapidly in 1869. Although Susan B. Anthony’s call for eastern women to migrate en masse to Wyoming went largely unheeded, she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled to “the land of freedom” on the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad in 1871. Tourists and journalists made regular pilgrimages to the territory, like anthropologists observing an exotic tribe. Some were on the lookout for that “pestiferous freelove doctrine,” which eastern critics of women’s suffrage feared so heartily. But they were hard-pressed to find anything that shocking in Wyoming. By 1888, national suffragists were still anxious to tout the therapeutic effects of suffrage in practice, hanging convention banners declaring that “the vote of women transformed Wyoming from barbarism to civilization.” Harper’s Magazine ran a story describing Cheyenne women in their Sunday best, politely registering voters door to door as if promenading through Central Park.

Life for Wyoming women went on, despite the exaggerated eastern publicity. Town women organized small schools and churches and tried to keep saloons under control (good luck with that!). Hardy ranch women survived the labors and wild adventures of raising cattle on dry windy prairies or in the snowy Rocky Mountains. Horsewomen rode astride in trousers, tracking and shooting elk, bobcat and pronghorn. Families crowded into dusty sod houses for shelter during blizzards. A handful of African American women found work in Cheyenne as laundresses. For most women, the right to participate fully in their community’s politics became a fact of life as necessary as working, eating or breathing.

Nellie Tayloe Ross

Wyoming statehood, in 1890, brought the frightening prospect that opponents of suffrage would rescind the right in the new constitution. Women lobbied hard against such threats. Two-thirds of the voters (all male) approved the proposed constitution with suffrage intact. The suffragists’ powers of persuasion held up even when statehood was threatened in the face of congressional opposition. When the U.S. Congress, strongly opposed to women’s suffrage, threatened to withhold statehood from Wyoming, Cheyenne officials sent back a  staunchly worded telegram stating that Wyoming would remain out of the Union 100 years rather than join without women’s suffrage. On July 10, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill approving Wyoming as the nation’s “Equality State.” Wyoming voters went on to make history in 1924, when they elected Nellie Tayloe Ross, the nation’s first woman governor.

(source for this entry: http://theautry.org/explore/exhibits/suffrage/suffrage_wy.html)

Winter in the Medicine Bow and Snowy Ranges

early snow in the Medicine Bow

We had a hard freeze the other night and that got me thinking about my next blog entry.  I want to continue to take you on a virtual tour around this state I love so much but I also want to connect it to The Devil’s Own Desperado
Colt and Amelia’s story is set in the town of Federal, but Federal isn’t a town any more.  It’s little more than a wide spot on a north-bound spur of the Burlington-Northern Railroad.  Federal has an impressive view of the Medicine Bow and Snowy Ranges of the Rocky Mountains. 
Centennial Peak
Winter in this part of the country has an annoying tendency to arrive early.  Two years ago, the DH, darling grand-daughter, and I were in Wyoming the first week of October and already there was a lot of snow up on the Snowies.  (There is a reason they are called “The Snowy Range”—and it’s just as much from the snow and glaciers that cover the heights as it is from the sugary white quartzite that the peaks are made of.)  Darling grand-daughter said she wanted to go up to the top of Centennial Peak and play in the snow.  DH and I suggested that she might not want to do that, because it was going to be very cold up there and windy.  She was adamant about it, so being good grand-parents, we bundled her up in her winter coat, pulled her gloves on her, and headed up Highway 130 into the Snowies.
We stopped at the observation area of Libby Flats and let her get out.  The first words out of her mouth were, “It’s cold up here!”
No kidding.  Really?
She played in the snow for oh…thirty five seconds before she had enough and wanted back in the car and was begging me to turn the heat on. 
The Medicine Bow and Snowy Ranges are truly a year ‘round outdoorsman’s paradise.  Crystal clear alpine lakes and mountain streams afford trout fishing during three seasons.  Spring and summer invites hikers, bicyclists, and horsemen into the Medicine Bow and Snowies.  Cattle are moved into higher pastures to graze on the alpine grasses.  Fall brings in the hunters and those who want to see the mountainsides lit with the golden light of turning trees.  In preparation for the deep snows of winter, the cattle are rounded up and brought down to lower pastures.  Winter sees people on snowshoes, skiers, and snow-mobiles enjoying glistening powder.
early snow storm near Centennial, WY
This is the backdrop where I set Colt and Amelia’s story—the rugged, harsh, beauty that rises into the south-eastern skies of Wyoming. 
I’ll extend the invitation to come visit Wyoming.  It is forever wild here.