Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Women, Dogs and Horses Go Walking

The prevailing weather story across the country this summer has been the extremely hot and dry conditions.
With such conditions the sheer number of wildfires in the west has been daunting on so many levels.
We never had smoke in our area at any time last summer.
This summer we have frequently had smoky conditions, sometimes with the smoke being so thick that it completely obscured the mountains that surround this bowl that we live in that is known as the Big Horn Basin.
Yesterday started off no different from so many other days we have had this season - sunny, calm and very hot.
By late afternoon thick smoke was filtering over Carter Mountain and heading our way.
A couple of times since we have moved back to Cody my neighbor lady and I have walked together on our country road.
Both times we have been accompanied by our animals.  I walked my dog Jamie and she walked her horse Dixie.
On a smoky late afternoon two women walked with their dog and their horse.............
These pictures were all taken as we slowly walked down our road.
The area is surrounded by BLM land and small mini-ranches.
We live towards the end of the road and walked the half mile to the end.
At the end of the road is one more ranch that backs directly onto BLM land.
I had never been onto that property before and finally had a chance to see it yesterday as we slowly wandered with our respective animals.
Together Chris and I walked slowly so that Jamie could sniff sage bushes and then mark her way up the road and as Dixie stopped frequently along the side of the road to eat anything that looked tasty to her.
Grey smoke turned purple by the strong sun that was trying hard to pierce through it, hung heavily in the air..............
The happy-go-lucky Wyoming dogs of one of our neighbors.............
Dixie is a beautiful and shy horse who my neighbor adopted a few years ago.
She was an abused animal and still carries scars around her front legs and her chest as a result of getting caught in a barbed wire fence.
Over the past couple of months she has slowly gotten used to LC, me and James.
I still approach her slowly and quietly because she startles easy, but when she sees me she recognizes me and recognizes my voice, and she always approaches to see if I have a handful of hay or a handful of weeds for her.
Often I do.
The first time I brought Jamie close to her I was not certain how this sweet horse would react.  Or how Jamie would react for that matter.
I still am watchful of the two of them, and still ensure that Jamie does not get too close to her (especially too close behind her), but the two do not seem to mind each others' company...............
Smoky skies contribute to beautiful sunsets...............
At the end of the road is a ranch (that actually belongs to the owner of the happy pups in the picture above).
I was only on a wave-as-he-drives-by basis with the property owner but my neighbor knows him well.
I had assumed that when we reached his property we would simply turn around and head back, so I was surprised when Chris continued walking, heading onto his land.
He owns a small herd of horses and she wanted to see them.
As we approached the large dusty pen at the back of the property I was overwhelmed for a moment.
Between the beautiful horses, the smoke billowing slowly over Carter Mountain, the color of the BLM land and the color of the smoke against the sky, it was an unexpectedly beautiful and compelling scene.................
Puppy and pony both tied off at a safe distance from the other horses and from each other............
This friendly horse immediately walked over to me when he saw me and I smiled at him, spoke quietly and then reached through the fence to pet him.
He had no qualms at all about letting me touch him.
A glutton for attention and obviously spoiled, he immediately walked over to Chris after I stopped petting him.
A very sweet boy..................
I like this picture very much.
Maybe my favorite picture from our short walk..............
More pictures from the road as we headed back the way we had come.............
About 30 minutes after we made it home LC walked outside and took this picture from the porch.
A sunset picture of Cedar Mountain.
We see many beautiful sunsets during the summer in Cody but there is something very wonderful and unique about the watery, faded, subtle sunsets that we have seen on those days when smoke from wildfires in Wyoming and other western states filters this way................

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Veterans Memorial Park

One early evening last week I left LC and Jamie at the house and headed towards town.
We only live four or so rural miles from downtown Cody but it feels as though it is so much further because it is so completely "country" and not "city".
When I first left the house I had planned on simply heading to the grocery store
The Memorial Park is located right off the Greybull Highway, adjacent to the tiny Yellowstone airport and immediately across the road from Beck Lake.
On the spur of the moment I pulled into the parking lot of the park, parked my truck and climbed out, suddenly wanting very much to walk in this quiet place.
Instead of pulling into the main parking area I pulled into a side lot and as I stood beside my truck for a few moments looking out over the mountains I saw the Vietnam memorial.
Seeing it immediately made me think of LC.  He joined the military when he was only 17.  Spent time in basic training and then another almost year in specialized training.  And then he spent three years on the ground in Vietnam as part of a small unit.
By the time he came back to the United States he was a hardened war veteran who was not yet quite 21 years old.
A hardened war veteran who was not yet 21 years old.
My youngest son is a Canadian citizen and legal immigrant in the United States who spent four years in the United States Air Force and who served two tours in Iraq during that time.
I try very hard to not talk politics either with those I know or on this blog.
But I never ever lose sight of just how many people, over too many years and too many wars, have sacrificed for this country.
It breaks my heart when I think about it too much and makes me forever grateful...................
This memorial park is larger than many, and surprisingly large for a small town of only 9000 people.
It contains memorials to every war that the United States has been involved with since WWII.
It contains benches for sitting.  Lights for those who want to visit the park after dark.  Long pathways for wandering and looking and contemplating and remembering.
There is much green space within this park, and it overlooks Beck Lake, Rattlesnake Mountain and Cedar Mountain.
It is a beautiful and serene and respectful place.................
The WWII memorial is huge and expansive.................
There was no rhyme or reason to where I was wandering.
I was simply taking my time and wandering along paths without forethought, enjoying the quiet and enjoying an evening that was beautiful and finally cooling.
Eventually I made my way to the front of the park where the main parking lot is located.
The monument at the front of the park could never be mistaken for representing any other state but the Cowboy State.................
During the summer the days seem to become calmer and calmer as the evening progresses.
There was no wind on this day.  The sun was still shining and the water was almost mirror-still...............
There was a bench located close to the back side of the park, and it overlooked a section of Beck Lake. 
I sat down and looked out over the quiet.
Beck Lake spans the highway.  The section I was looking at is located adjacent to the memorial park.
Water accesses through a huge drainage under the highway and Beck Lake proper continues on the opposite side of the highway.
I had left the house planning only to stop at a grocery store - had not planned on stopping at this place - but I sat for a long time and eventually discovered that I was in no hurry to leave.
Eventually I began to slowly walk again and continued to thoughtlessly wander walkways in this special and honorable place..............
Yellowstone Airport is very small and with only one short runway .
In real and commercial transportation terms it means that only small commuter planes can land in this place.
More than anything else though, this airport is a place for private planes to land.
There are a lot of very rich people who live in Wyoming, a lot of very rich people who commute to vacation and summer homes in Wyoming, and a lot of very rich people who visit this region.
During the summer Cody has very busy airspace, and it is common to see three or four private planes land even during the brief time you are walking at Beck Lake Park or Veterans Memorial Park.
I stood and watched this small plane as it crossed low over the highway and approached for a landing..............
And snapped this picture as the plan crossed directly in front of my path, only a few hundred feet above me................
After taking many pictures of each of the monuments in the park I spent another few minutes taking larger pictures of the beautiful area.
I watched this couple for a few minutes before moving on.
They were not sitting close and the distance between them at first gave me pause.
But as I watched them I realized that they were simply and comfortably and quietly talking with each other...............
This monument is dedicated to Lt Shane Childers of Powell.
He was the first American service member to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and LC and I attended the unveiling and dedication of this monument during Memorial Day weekend last year.
That day was very cold, windy and damp and it was attended by many many local people who wanted to honor this young man.
There were so many people in fact, that on that day it was impossible to get a decent shot of the monument itself.
A link to that day:
The monument is located in a gravel area immediately adjacent to the side road close to where I had parked my truck.
As such it stands alone and away from the other monuments in the park and I have never been able to make up my mind whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.
In one way it stands out.  Sitting alone in remembrance of a young man who died for his country.
In another way the monument somehow gets lost in translation - sitting off the grass, sitting away from the other monuments, sitting off the walkways that almost compel you to wander the entire park.
And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can............Elizabeth Barrett Browning