Going West And How It Was Won

I waited for a warm day to travel the chilly plains of South Dakota. After a couple chilly days visiting with my family and avoiding the Canadian cold front, I headed across the great expanse.

It was still cold. It is still cold. Even with my wool hat and sheep skin I can still feel the chill. My method to avoiding the cold was to stop in every small town with a gas station and add an extra layer of fabric to my body until I was sufficiently warm. The worst part though was my hands. No matter how many layers of clothing, no matter how many finger bends and streches one does, fingers don’t unthaw at 40° while riding down the road. The problem was the thin leather gloves I own. As perfect as they may be for riding they certainly were not made for cool weather.

After about 125 miles I couldn’t do it anymore and pulled into an ACE hardware store in one of the random South Dakotan small towns. They had nothing for warm gloves, but the town was also home to a Hardware Hank which did have a supply of warm gloves.

I have small hands. I am a smallish individual one might say (that’s why I ride Little Wing, The Savage is a small bike). The leather riding gloves I own were the smallest that were sold at the store I bought them at. In South Dakota, home of the cowboy and farmer, it is practically impossible to find a small work glove. The best I could do was a medium cowhide glove with Thinsulate lining. The glove is atleast 3/4’s of an inch longer than my hand so the overhang is rather comical. However they are warm. They have helped my frozen phalanges immensely.

The advantage of the to-big cowhide work gloves I am now wearing is they have added to the Western movie that I am narrataing in my head. The buffalo, saddelbags, plains and wind have helped with the script as well.

I love Westerns. In fact, the reason I am obsesed with the idea of riding through Montana is because of all the romantic ideas I have sifted from Westerns.

I am quite fond of Cowboys. One might say I love them. Wayne, Eastwood, Redford, McQueen..
I wanted to marry all of them. Well, at least I did before I realized what that meant. Because the truth is, I don’t want to be the partner/’sidekick’ to a cowboy, I want TO BE a cowboy. Two totally different things.

Now as a girl it makes much more sense if I say I want to be a cowgirl, but that is false. Based of the romantic ideas Westerns pump out, I don’t actually wish to be a cowgirl. Sure, Annie Oakley was cool, but she wore skirts. In my daydreams I wear pants, speak out of the side of my mouth, can ride any horse, rope any cow, and I don’t have anybody giving me any guff about my gender. Romantic, I know.

I don’t actually know how to ride a horse or rope a cow. I don’t have a Clint Eastwood squint, and people still mention my gender on the daily. The only thing I have going for me is the pants. I am currently wearing my Wranglers.
I love being a girl, but I want the advantages and freedom of a cowboy.

Though, right now, riding around the plains and mountains of the West, saddlebags on the back, sheep skin drapped over my saddle I feel pretty much like the star of my own Western.

My favorite part of the ride was passing over the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. The bridge looks so long, but feels miles too short. Riding under those great beams, the pillars of the bridges ‘walls’ hugging me on either sides, it felt like a beautiful cathedral or something. The beauty of the natural world surrounding the man-made beauty, and then me on Little Wing – the mechanical bit of beauty – it was fantastic.

The ride on the bridge came after the new gloves. That was about the time I started enjoying the beauty around me again. It wasn’t soon after that when I noticed more buffalo ranches. Coming over a hill (there are a few around that area) I saw a buffalo in the middle of the road. It was HUGE, almost larger than life and probably a mile ahead of me. It took me a minute before I realized it was moving ahead at the same rate as I was, and since I was viewing its profile and not the rear of the animal I came to the conclusion it was larger than life. I sped up to get a better view and saw that it was actually a semi-trailer filled with round haybales. What I was seeing were the backs of three large haybales that were stacked in such a way that they formed the head, humpy back, and rear end of the buffalo. The wheels on the trailer gave the appearance of legs, and my over active movie writer imagination had turned it all into a living creature. So, I just rolled with it.

Over every hill and around every curve I was met with the Buffalo Deity, as I affectionately dubbed it. My Western movie took a turn for the abstract somewhere near Gettysburg.

At some point my Buffalo Deity left me. It sped up to pass another semi-trailer and I was left alone, with only the real cows and horses to keep me company.

Little Wing and I hit warmer climates probably 50 miles later. 50° and mountains coincided. Well buttes. The mountains came later.

It is cold out there now, but I hear tomorrow is going to be warmer. I’m continuing West. My Western movie hasn’t resolved itself yet. This cowgal hasn’t conquered enough renegades yet. Or maybe I am the renegade in the movie. Than again, maybe I’m not a cowperson at all. Maybe I’m just me riding around the country on Little Wing. I guess we will see. How will the movie play out?


3 thoughts on “Going West And How It Was Won

  1. Armed only with her pen and ink, she set forth across the rugged country…..alone, but for Little Wing;
    Miles and miles and miles of time…time to dream, wonder, reflect and record ..
    Ah, youthful spirit!


  2. (Sung to the tune of “The Streets of Laredo.”)
    I see by my outfit what I am a cowboy;
    I see by your outfit what you’re a cowboy, too;
    We see by our outfits what we are both cowboys;
    If you had a outfit you could be a cowboy, too!
    -Peter S. Beagle
    Gray from Portland


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