How strange they are, all green and kaleidoscope colors in the cold twilight. Flash, flash, cascading across the sky. Even Ginger stopped and watched the northern lights. After a few minutes, she snorted and signed almost saying, let’s go home now, let’s go in.
It’d been a long day and when we got to the barn, I was so stiff I couldn’t move, couldn’t swing my leg over the saddle without feeling like I was going to fall down if I touched the ground. I’d been riding since sun up, moving the cattle up to station C. C is for Cavendish but that’s a story for another day.
Ginger is a Mexican horse. She’s almost as old as I am now and loves to roam outside pushing cattle. She’s got a copper chestnut coat with a white sock on her left hind. She stands tall with straight legs and a round barrel. Her face has white flakes all over it that give her a look of being freckled. The first time I saw her was at the spring cookout and hoe down. She was probably three years old and playing in the trough. The water was splashing up and over everything as she pawed it with her front hoof. She raised her head and looked to the sky soaking herself good. Thump, thump, thump, splash! I liked everything about her and when I offered a peppermint over the fence rail, she came right to me. I ruffled her shaggy mane and offered $50 for her.
I brought her back to the ranch where Rusty and me trained her to herd cattle. Ginger has smooth gaits and moves lightly over the ground. She tucks her nose in and moves like a fancy dancy horse. We don’t canter too much. Life on the ranch is mostly about listening to crickets chirp in the grass. When we do, it’s so sweet to feel her take off. When I get the cue just right, it’s like lifting her up and bouncing into the canter. She shifts her weight back and with a big shhhhhhhhhwiiiiiiiishhhhhhhhhhh of her tail, off we rock. She rolls, rolls, rolls along the trail. I love Ginger.
Anyway, spring is trying to arrive early here in Montana. The cattle started shedding out already and get restless easy. It’s after lunch now and Ginger and me were nosing the herd down the north slope when it started to snow. The wind had been turning from the northwest all day. My belly was still warm from the split pea soup and I was dozing in the saddle. Ginger walks so nice and light, she kinda rocked me into a trance. The mooing cows and quiet clouds made it feel like siesta time. Ginger “tripped’ on a stone and woke me up just as I was about to slide off.
We looked at the clouds and I swear one was shaped like a big angel. The wind was singing in the prairie grass ruffling Ginger’s mane. She snorted and trotted on. The flakes started falling fast. I heard a big rumble overhead and saw another big cloud roll in. We shivered a little and caught up with the herd.
The big flakes of snow fell on the cows. I watched all the designs form on their black coats. How can each one be different? How can that be? A rhythmic sound started up from all around us. Ginger pranced a bit and turned around looking for something then she looked up at the clouds. I guess it’s true, the angels really do dust heaven out and we were here to see it. Oh wow! They must have gone back to creation cause the mother of all snowflakes fell on the back of cow tagged number 360. I pulled out my rope and measured the flake. Fifteen inches across. I called john Henry and said, hey look at this! John Henry called Caspar over and we all stared at the thing. Wow, the biggest snowflake ever in Montana is on the backside of a cow.
100 miles from nowhere near Fort Keough MT 1887