Why I Ride by Amy Hale Auker

Amy Hale Auker

Amy Hale Auker

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 WinterOfBeautySAECoveris 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 roscoesmand 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.

Feeding before the Storm

Feeding before the Storm

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…

My riding and my work as a cowboy feed my other work, my lifework.  Because I ride, I never lack material to write about.  I have a wealth of experiences and details to bring to the page.  And unlike other writers, I do not bemoan my lack of time to write because every moment that I am in the saddle, I am writing in my mind.
About the time my body is exhausted and I am sick of eating canned chili, the cows are moved and it is time to go back to my office.  About the time the walls of my office close in and I am am sick of facebook, it is time to ride again.  Or time to get ready to ride.  Shoe up all of the horses.  Examine each set of camp boxes and make lists to supply them for the long haul.  Toilet paper, coffee, ibuprophen, canned peaches, Spam.  Yes, Spam.  Ride all of the fence lines in the pasture we are going into.  Fill the propane bottle to fuel the branding pot.  And THEN we ride.
And even when the day is long and the ride is hard and things go wrong, I am looking

Amy's wedding bracelet

Amy’s wedding bracelet

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

Amy with husband Gail Steiger

Amy with husband Gail Steiger

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.

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Amy is very generously giving away one copy of Winter of Beauty and one copy of Rightful Place, to be chosen on or about Sept. 20th from people who leave a comment.  Please state if you have a preference of which book you’d like.
From Winter of Beauty:
The winter Bride wears diamonds. To those down below, she appears to be sleeping, locked inside a chastity belt of cold. She naps lightly behind the veil of ice and snow, letting it shield her from the sun and throw it back into the sky. But her chill is only skin deep. Inside her hidden folds and caves and recesses, the heartbeat of her lives and breathes and curls around the seeds of what will be. The winter Bride is pregnant, gestating the future, smiling quietly at the snores of the bears and the mountain lions, allowing all of the fertile places to swell and burgeon with the life that is to come. The winter Bride is holding a flood in deposit for the sun’s withdrawal in spring.
This is the canvas on which Amy Hale Auker paints the lives of her characters. Shiney, the ranch owner; Monte, the foreman; Rafe, the old hand; Jody, the new hand; Blake and Brenna, who can’t seem to grow up even though they have a houseful of children. These, and many more, are waiting to show you how they live, love, work, and play in the shadow of the Bride.
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Amy is pleased to announce the two winners of her books:  Tom Swearingen is to receive Rightful Place, and Eunice Boeve will receive Winter of Beauty.  Thanks for the comments, everyone!
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 You can find Amy at the following sites:
And you can buy her books at
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25 responses to “Why I Ride by Amy Hale Auker

  1. Hi! I forgot to have Andrea mention above that I would love to answer some questions about what I do… either writing OR riding. If I am unplugged, I’ll answer them when I get back! Love hugs and all that jazz… Amy

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  2. Amy, I loved reading about your experiences while out on the range and how you “write” those experiences in your mind. As I read, I thought, yes, this is what I do sometimes, write in my mind. Somehow we’re able to retain those images easily in order to include them in our writing, and therefore draw out the emotion needed in our words. What comes to mind is an experience of walking through the woods on a moonlit night and how much one “can” actually see guided by this light.

    As a city girl born and raised, I was reminded, too, that I love the smell of horses and the sounds of cows. The way these creatures and nature co-habitate always makes me ponder…

    Should I be chosen to receive one of your books, I would select Winter of Beauty as I already own a copy of Rightful Place. Will you be at the WWW Conference? I’ll bring my copy for an autograph!

    Thanks, Andrea, for another great blog! Loved getting to know Amy :)

    Alice

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    • Alice,that bit about writing in your mind is so fascinating to me. I’m constantly doing that. One night I got up from bed seven times to get what was in my head down for a book I was writing. I used to think I was the only person who did that writing in the head business :-)

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  3. Hi, Alice! Thank you so much for your kind words. I will not be able to attend the conference this year, but I have high hopes for the next.

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  4. 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.
    Those words of yours sing to my soul. Even makes me tearful. If my life had not taken the turn it had, I might be writing those very words. My dad was a cowboy who died when I was very young. I love the smell of horses, and I do write in my head, like Andrea, waking to scribble notes on the pad by my bed. I’d love either book, so if I win, surprise me.

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    • Eunice, I am so glad you commented. I find so often that people wish they lived closer to the land. One of the things I like to reply is this: Plant a tomato, hike your national parks, eat locally, find out where your meat comes from and WHO raises it and HOW, and feed the birds outside your windows, learn all of their names. I am glad our songs harmonize. Amy

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  5. Ah, Amy, your words make me miss being outside all day and into the night. I have to sit in a lounger on my back deck – IN THE MIDDLE OF A CITY – to watch shooting stars. Keep collecting those “Christmas moments.” I have a feeling that’s what enriches your writing. kcf

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  6. Beautiful, Amy! I’m so looking forward to reading Winter of Beauty!

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  7. Hi, Heidi and Karen. Thanks for stopping over! Tomorrow I ride and might not be able to keep up with comments, but I promise I will be back… maybe with a Christmas Eve moment to share.

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  8. Enjoyed your blog. Your life sounds fascinating – and exhausting – and fulfilling.

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  9. What a wonderful article of your life. The hard work, the dust, the long hours, but you feel so good inside even when your body and bones are aching. We had only two cows, horses and a dozen chickens and I loved it loved the smell of the cows and everything about all the animals. It is sad that some city folk never get to experience the smell or see the animals in person. Thank you for this great story and look forward to reading about those ones that were in your head on the trail.

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  10. I’m another “write in the head” person. I think it started with long car rides as a child. I couldn’t read because I got car sick, so I told myself stories instead. Still do it. If the story engages me for more than a couple of days, I write it down so I can use it when I finish writing/editing/promoting my current projects.

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  11. I didn’t know until just now that there’s to be a book give away. I left a comment above, but didn’t mention that if I win the “lottery” I’d love to have Rightful Place….just saying. kcf

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  12. Hello, everybody! We’ve had yet more rain in the desert and so we have more mud! Yesterday was a long hard slog, but we got to take showers and sleep in our “real” bed, though I have to say that I never mind sleeping in our bedroll under the stars. Today we ride out again. I am sorry I can’t keep up with all of your lovely comments… but it sure does make it fun to get back home and read my email. I spent a lot of time with cows this past few days and I have to say that I really do enjoy watching them sort things out in their social structure. We lost two bulls and a little cow on the drive yesterday (probably my fault) because she is “in season” (has a small calf following her) and boy does she smell good! The bulls kept giving her way too much attention for her comfort and she kept going out into the trees to escape them… and in particularly difficult place (lots of brush and rocks and very steep) we failed to see her slip away with the boys in tow! Ah, well. We’ll get them next time around. Such is the nature (literally, ovulation!) of our jobs. Hope all is well with you. See you next time I get to the office. Amy

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  13. Horses my first love, writing my second. I am a wrider!

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  14. Amy,
    The post shows the beauty and intensity in your use of language. The natural setting is always a character in my writing tho’ I haven’t anything like or near your experience with animals. I also write in my head to solve writing problems or to entend the story. And much of it occurs at night, in a dreamstate that awakens me.
    I don’t have either of your books and would be honored to receive either one.

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  15. I really enjoyed your post. Born and raised on a ranch, I could relate personally to your experiences. I’ve written a lot of fiction but no memoir, although I’ve often wondered how I could put my family’s 100-year-old history on our ranch into a form I could pass down to my children and grandchildren so the stories wouldn’t be lost. I’ve love to read either of your books. The beauty of your words shine through in this post.

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  16. Good wet Monday morning to everyone. We are headed back out to camp tomorrow, but for now, I am here to answer any questions or just smile about riding in the rain.

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  17. Beautifully articulate. Thanks for sharing. If I win I would like a Rightful Place. Already have a copy of Winter of Beauty.

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  18. Amy, loved what you wrote & how you think when riding & working, that you write while riding. Yep, I sing while riding. My old horse, who came back to me after 12+ years apart, recognized me in stages. One of them was my singing while we rode. I used to rehearse my evening performance during the day on his back. Your writing puts us all where you are, what a gift! Thank you for putting your gift out there for us.

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  19. This article has touched a chord in me as have most things I’ve read that this author has written. Her books & the things she writes about touch something deep within me.
    She is my favorite author… I am a 60 something city girl & these books touch me like no others! Amy writes so beautifully…its poetic…
    If you haven’t read her books, I highly recommend them! She is an amazing cowboy!

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  20. Hi, everybody! I am finally back from riding and sleeping under the full moon. Harvest moon was spectacular this past week. Actually, it made sleeping a challenge since I could have read a book by its light on two nights. And, I got to really get to know Orion. Did you know that right now, Orion is directly overhead at 5am? I had a wonderful time memorizing how all of his stars fit together? Please accept my apologies for being late on the giveaway. I have put the names in a hat and will get someone to draw two out. I’ll let Andrea post the winners today! Thank you for showing up. I am so glad to meet new readers.

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