A Handful of Dirt

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The National Finals Rodeo is in full swing now and technology has made it possible for me to see the action even if I can’t make the trip to Las Vegas with up-to-date coverage on television. (If I miss that, there’s always the internet.) Barrel racing has a special attraction for me since I barrel raced for many years, steer wrestling because that’s my brother’s event and tie-down roping because that was Dad’s event, but I wouldn’t miss the bull riding or bronc riding either. Although I can’t imagine climbing on the back of a brahma, I do get bronc riding since I have not been able to avoid a few bronc rides myself… 

Growing up on a ranch, I heard plenty of bronc riding stories. Mom, especially, delighted in the telling and re-telling of numerous “cowboy vs bucking horse” encounters she had witnessed and heard about. As long as the victim suffered only bruised body and pride, each story was punctuated with laughter – after all, that was the reason for telling the story! I learned then that getting bucked off provided everyone else with a good belly laugh and respect because apparently you couldn’t be a cowboy if you didn’t get bucked off once in a while. In fact, I so internalized these stories and the respect they garnered for the cowboy that, when I was thrown the first time from my horse at the age of five, I was proud of that accomplishment. But that’s another story. What I learned when I was very young, and still know to be true is this: As long as the rider is not hurt, cowboys laugh when another one bites the dust. And no one laughed any harder than Grandpa.

Grandpa, wiry, tough and quick, was a rancher and cowboy but he was also a bronc rider. In his day, topping off broncs was everyday work and one he was exceptionally good at.
Grandpa "fanning" a bronc
I did not see this of course, but I heard the stories. Often as not, the cowboy's horse of the day would start the day off bucking, reason enough to become a bronc rider, and part of a day's work. They must have enjoyed it though because, just for fun, they all got together on Sundays more bronc riding. The photo below was taken in 1918 at The Diamond Dot Ranch, where I grew up. Note there is no arena, no fences. I dare say it was pretty western.

1918 rodeo at Diamond Dot Ranch
Grandpa may not have found it amusing if he got bucked off (rarely) but nothing made him laugh harder than seeing or hearing about a rider’s unplanned parting from his mount. One of his favourite sayings was,"That's grabbing for leather and getting a handful of dirt!"

It didn’t have to be a horse, either. I remember Grandpa, in his 70's at the time, sitting on the top rail of the corral at the Diamond Dot Ranch (my home) watching a few of us ride yearling heifers. I should say we tried to ride the heifers because one by one, we all got bucked off in short order. My cousin, Gloria, landed so hard she couldn’t get up (knocked the wind out of her). I was worried, standing over her asking her to say something but I looked up and Grandpa was still laughing – so hard the tears rolled down his cheeks. I wish I had a picture but I don’t need one – I will never forget it. What I do have is a photo taken that same weekend. Grandma and Grandpa lived in B.C. then, but had made the trip  back to the Diamond Dot to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, the ranch they once owned, owned by my parents at that time and now owned by my brother and his wife.

August 5, 1962 - Grandma and Grandpa (Les and Gertrude Giauque) on their 50th Anniversary
Grandpa passed away the following January. My last memories of him are with Grandma on their 50th anniversary and sitting on the top rail of the corral laughing at us kids getting thrown in the dirt by some rank yearling heifers.

And some things just do not change. Although more cheering than laughing could be heard when the bareback and saddle bronc competition was going on at NFR, the crowd laughed when one of the horses in the grand entry started pitching and bucked off his rider in the middle of the arena. Not sure if the man grabbed for leather but I do know he got a handful of dirt. 

Losing My Place

Posted by Sharon

You know how, if you lose the book marker in a book you’re reading, it’s sometimes difficult to find your place again (especially if you’ve put the book down for a while) - you're either re-reading what you've already read or have jumped forward missing some of the story. Well, that’s kind of what happened to me – in the book that is my life, I lost the marker and I’m trying to find where I was again.

A good book surprises the reader with twists and turns that challenge the main character and that character meets each challenge, resolves it and, we hope, finds what he/she is looking for by the last chapter. The book wouldn't be interesting if it was any other way! I like to think life wouldn’t be very interesting, either if there weren’t some bumps and detours in the road. I’ve certainly experienced those! So when and why did I lose my place? Did I just hit a bump and run off into the ditch?

I’ve always been the kind of person who has goals – lots of them. I’m also the kind of person who has a plan – always. Plans doesn't always work out the way I want of course, but that never deterred me much before. I changed course, altered the plan and kept going. Not so lately. I'm spinning my wheels trying to find that marker.

Losing my place means I am questioning what got me to this point in my life, where I have arrived and where my story is going from here. I’m floundering around in self-doubt and uncertainty and that’s an unfamiliar and scary feeling. For someone who always knows where she’s at in her “book”, with an unwavering eye on several goals, finding my place again is crucial to my story.

And so this post is about planting both feet in the present and marking the place. By starting to blog again, I hope ideas, plans, enough for several ‘chapters’ of my book will follow. Are my weanling fillies, Perfect and Cameo, that lost marker? Maybe. They are the future of several Wildwood mares no longer with me; maybe they are part of my continuing story too.