Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trail of the Infirm

Wasatch Mountains

Visitors from all over the world come to Utah to see the state's natural attractions. Who could resist visiting romantic sounding places like the "Trail of the Ancients?" Tourists from all over the world hang their heads out RV windows to catch a glimpse of cliff dwellings, red rock deserts, high mountain meadows, and Navajo herders. The most iconic symbol of the American West is a man on horseback. Wherever we ride, tourists snap pictures of Dangerous and his buddies. They stop to ask the horses names frequently mistaking them for working cowboys. With today's digital technology, pictures recording our outdoor adventures instantly stream around the world.

Modern Day Cowboy

Anyone receiving those pictures gets to see great horses, beautiful scenery, and cowboy gear. I suspect their imaginations conjure up images of Butch and Sundance riding the outlaw trail. While we still ride the same trails today, a close look at the horsemen in those pictures reveals a changing West. The adventure these days isn't dodging Pinkerton Agents or gathering a large herd it's staying in the saddle. Over time, something has happened to the icon of the American West. At age 63, Dangerous is one of the youngest riders on the High Plateau.

Aging Horsemen

Riding the range with an aging, infirm bunch of horsemen is what I call real adventure. You never know who will fall off their horse injured or dead. Take for example our last American Fork Canyon ride. Dangerous was by far the healthiest and youngest of the group, and that isn't saying much. Getting on and off Dottie is a challenge most days, but is especially difficult with a separated shoulder. Before our ride, Dangerous talked with one of our neighbors about where we were going. As I understand the conversation, the neighbor was incredulous about our planned trip. He wanted to know how a guy with a separated shoulder was going to assist the other two riders. Kent and Kent are a bit older than Dangerous and have a few medical problems. The younger Ken, 73, is recovering from brain surgery and has a pacemaker with a defibrillator. Older Kent, 77, has survived a heart attack, stroke, and has a pacemaker. Our neighbor wanted to know who was going for help if someone fell off.

Outdoor Funeral Flowers

So, the next time you see a horseman riding a mountain or desert trail take a close look at the face under the hat. You will probably notice that the horseman is getting along in years. As you talk, get him to tell you about the tall rock he used to get on his horse, and once on, how his arthritic hips hurt. He may also tell you if you find him lying along the trail to drag him into a patch of columbine, and tell his wife where to find him because he isn't giving up riding just yet. I hope these old boys continue to ride because it is difficult to imagine the icon of the West replaced by a mountain-biker or four wheeler. Love to hear from you!


Gloria said...

I am going to nominate you for some award somewhere. That is one good piece of writing. As I laughed my way through the entire thing, Don kept saying "What?" "What?" He'll get to feast on it as soon as I step aside.

Bluester said...


I keep telling you, you've got to get a colt started during the next couple of years. What are you going to ride when you're 91? You think "What's her name?" or that "spotted horse" will still be around? Not. I just happen to have a nice looking two year old for you. And, you get a free goat with the purchase and two bales of hay. It's my version of "Cash for Clunkers". You give me cash, I get you a, horse,... maybe a mule. Best from the Fremont, Blue and the guy that makes him dinner.