Fellow member of Women Writing the West, Amy Hale Auker, is a Texan now living in Arizona, a writer, mother, and cowboy.She writes and rides in the Santa Maria Mountains with her husband, singer/songwriter Gail Steiger. Her first book, Rightful Place, was the 2011 WILLA winner for creative non-fiction and Foreword Book Reviews’ Book of the Year for essays. Winter of Beauty is her first novel and will be officially released by Pen-L Publishing in October. Until then, the Special Author Edition is available only from Amy’s website.
Why I Ride
I love my work. I love to work. Not work out, with mindless, meaningless repetitions, but to do work that results in something of value. I like sweat and weather and eating only when I am hungry. I like how horses smell and how cows sound. I love lying down at night, truly tired, deep down in my bones, but fresh in my soul. I like cooking out of doors and sleeping without walls. All of this is a good thing because one of my main jobs is to help manage a herd of mother cows who are harvesting the things that grow out of the ground in our national forests. These cows live their whole lives out in the forest, eating and napping, gestating and lactating. Our job is to rotate them from pasture to pasture so that they have as little impact as possible while they are harvesting the grasses and forbs and browse. We harvest their increase, keeping a few heifers every year and selling the steers as beef.
And so, when it is time to make a move, I ride. I ride for long hours in the weather. And I learn to see the tracks in the dirt so I know if there are any cows in this part of the country or not. I learn to honor a cow’s ability to get around in the brush and the rocks. And I carry a pen and paper with me always…
for the golden moments, those moments I call Christmas Eve moments when everything that must be done is done, and the only thing left to do is to sit down and breathe, enjoy the sunset, drink a small toddy, smell the wood smoke, watch the cows we’ve gathered eat #1 alfalfa, talk about how the drive went and how amazing the sky is tonight. Yes. That moment. I collect them all day long. Perhaps I got one at sunrise when I finally got a cup of coffee, but before I put my mash’em flat on under my denim shirt. Or perhaps I will find one when I see a collard lizard catching some rays in the top of a baby cedar tree. Maybe I’ll have to wait for over an hour by Rincon Tank, holding the cows there while my husband
brings more, and a three day old calf will walk closer and closer to my horse, trying to figure out what we are. And I will laugh. Perhaps I will throw my loop well and true and manage my horse and my rope efficiently in the branding pen. Maybe I’ll get an attagirl when we are sorting off the shippers. Perhaps I will lie down in wool and canvas and watch a meteor shower as long as my eyes will stay open.