Cowgirl Country

I can hear the tap, tap, tapping. It started
back in Feb. right after we decided to go to Steamboat
Springs, CO for the July fly out. What could
that be? It was incessant, a gentle knocking, the
kind that’s trying to make contact with your consciousness.
We checked out the obvious; dripping
down spouts, obsessive wood peckers, creaking
house. No luck. As July approached the tapping took
on a new resonance. It rocked from a softer staccato
to a pounding. Finally, isolating the noise coming
from the back of my closet, the culprit danced
out. There were my cowgirl boots, vibrating, romping
and rolling with the anticipation of a visit to cattle
country. These are relics from my days on the

In the heady, teenage years when voice
control, threats and bars on the window couldn’t
bring me to heel, my mother would ship me out to
the ranch in southern Utah. Parowan was my
Dad’s answer to ‘going back to the country’. He
had thrown the mantle of civilization out the
window and dumped it all for a piece of land out in
the middle of nowhere Utah. How fortunate that
my Mom had a place to ‘dump’ the recalcitrant
daughter. Initially I could only draw parallels to
Outer Mongolia and Alcatraz. No friends, no fast
cars, no illicit nights out in the hood. Work started
before the sun came up over the broken down
farmhouse, dusty hours driving tractor, delivering
parts to wheezing combines and chasing down
cattle in the middle of the night. (They wait for
the lights to go out before they break down the

And yet the beauty, the stillness, sunrise
over magnificent mountains, the satisfaction of a
well plowed furrow and fresh bales of hay, witnessing
the birth of calves and getting them on
their feet, the days supine under the cottonwood
tree immersed in a stack of library books, my first
pair of cowgirl boots that I could strut, tap and
saddle up in no time at all convinced me that if
you scratched a little bit you would find a country
girl in me. Cowgirl boots give one a look, a belonging,
a reason for being. They can be saucy, practical,
and uncomfortable or just like a second skin.
On the ranch mine were the cast-offs. The beauty
of these forgotten soles was that they had been
broken in and romanced in so that they had a
built in attitude. Just a little elbow grease removed
the caked on stink of manure, a little oil
found the shine of leather and a new heel found
level. Who needs fast cars when a girl can have
fast horses and cowgirl boots?

Steamboat Springs, in its heart of hearts, is
cattle and horse country. You can be seduced by
the glitz of million dollar ski chalets, and a world
class ski mountain. But take a drive outside of the
latte shops and you’ll see some of the prettiest
scenery around. Their winters may be deep and
long, but when the grass starts popping up and
livestock gets turned out, a magic unfolds. These
cows and horses are glorious with a diet rich in
grass watered from Rocky Mountain streams.
The real wealth in the areas is the ranches that
have been in the same families for generations.
The Elk and Yampa Rivers join on the Western
Slope of the Rockies creating a valley verdant
with water and minerals. Rodeos are the Saturday
night entertainment where local cowboys try
to win over the smiles of the girls. And afterwards
the boots start tapping to country music. These
boots are made for dancing!

Valerie and Mike , Beth and Rich, Gerry and Sarah, Kitty
and I began our Steamboat adventure
on the first of July in Wendover, Nevada. Most of
all, Wendover is a good place to get an early start
into the Rockies, it got us out of the coastal fog
and why not start the party early? Not much
going for a town perched on the edge of the great,
salt, lake, three casinos and people scurrying for
shade. But a beautiful flight, and lounges/ cocktails
around a pool are reason to get there. The
airport is actually in Utah with just a few steps to
cross back over into Nevada. Wendover was the
airfield, during WWII, where they planned and
flight tested dropping the ‘bomb’. There is a
museum in the terminal that is worth checking
out. Mostly old, boarded up buildings, ghost like in
their demise, resist decay due to the dry, salty

July 2nd began with some wild weather in
the Rockies that was feeding up from Hurricane
Alex in the Gulf of Mexico. There was a bit of
head scratching, options and alternates discussed
before we came up with a game plan. By flying
northeast over Salt Lake City, on over to Rock
Springs, Wyoming we could then drop down into
the Yampa Valley and Steamboat Springs. Thunderstorm
cells were floating along the west slope
like jelly fish on shore. When it comes to mountain
flying, big terrain and big weather are your constant
companions. Timing, patience and alternates
are the answer to making the flight work.
Some of us made it in early, some of us arrived
around 8:00 that evening after waiting out the
weather activity. Don came sailing in, 30kt
tailwinds, non-stop from Orland, CA. (We had to
wait for a trunon for the left main to be installed
on the Comanche.) Lots to celebrate at our first
dinner in Steamboat!

With nine people you can imagine how
many different directions we can scatter. Some
went biking up on the Divide, some of us went
hiking in the high country, some to play golf, some
to wander the sidewalks of town. There is just no
end to the fun in the area. Kitty, Sarah and I
hiked up into the flower bejeweled forests, and on
out onto the granite slopes for gorgeous,
dragonback views. We met up with girls on horses
with happy boots in the stirrups. Don and Girvan
tried biking the Continental Divide trail except
they had to turn back due to snow banks. Our
accommodations was a house way up on the
mountain which provided an excellent way to
gather, soak, relax, revel, eat, drink and be
merry. This place was palatial; 4 bedrooms, 5
bathrooms, 3 refrigerators, 2 dishwashers, elevator
and a hot tub big enough for everyone.
(Friends Kathy and Girvan came over from
Denver to join in the fun.) Town was hopping for
the 4th of July weekend and it was nice to cook
and eat without the crowds. Friends from Novato,
who live in Steamboat, joined the revelry each
night. The rodeo was in full swing, and the boots
were sashaying, yeehaw!

Usually the parade is not to be missed.
Kathy and Girvan had a hike in mind that required
an early start, so we missed the parade.
(There was no cattle drive this year like previous
years.) The hike was out to the southwest where
a long line of ‘flat tops’ dominate the sky line.
These are mountain tops flattened off at 11,000’
due to a hard sedimentary layer. The hike is
called Devils Causeway. You climb for a good
2000’ before you get to a skinny, 3’ wide, rocky
bridge between two flat tops. The drop off on each
side was 1000’. It definitely was for the rugged in
all to make it across and then back again. Over
beers, in the Royal Hotel in Yampa, we all wondered
why we push our limits. Sometimes the
edge of life gets too close! The town of Yampa was
busy grading their main street for cowboy polo.
When you have dirt streets all it takes is a grader
to level the playing field.

Back at the ranch a microburst had blown
through Steamboat, slamming doors and windows,
driving people indoors to safety. Somehow
the climbers lucked out of that bit of weather. By
night time the weather had made its exit and we
had an incredible hour of fireworks to watch from
our front porch. Steamboat has to have the best
fireworks you’ll ever see.

Our flights home were blessed with great,
clear wx. Don and I extended our mountain time
up in Thermopolis, Wyoming. I needed the healing
waters and wilds of the mountains a little
longer. The cowgirl boots are back in the closet;
content with memories of cattle smells and silky
horse hides. You could easily say these are the
best of times. We are so blessed. Great friends,

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