Not bad at all. That strange glow in the air is a phenomenon they call "sunrise", perhaps you've heard of it? I'm pretty sure the last time I was up this early I was timing labor contractions. But starting my day with that view is almost enough to turn me into a morning person. I even hummed a few bars of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'". I had to hum; I was too sleepy to remember any of the words.
Our little adventure started yesterday morning, when we headed out of my city toward Ree's ranch, her meticulous directions clutched in my hand. I have a poor track record with maps (ask Hubs about the Unfortunate Memphis Incident Of 2006), but I figured that surely three college-educated women with a working knowledge of Google Maps could find Ree's place.
We meandered our way through the prettiest patch of Oklahoma I've ever seen–tall trees, rolling hills, winding roads. Then, very suddenly, we crested a ridge, only to find that the curves and hills behind us abruptly opened right up into the wide-open, flat, treeless ranch land ahead. "Girls," I whispered, feeling every bit like Ma Ingalls, "I think we found the prairie."
(I appreciate the beauty of expansive prairie land, especially the giant sky, but–at the same time–I'm strangely unnerved by it, as well. I feel a little "exposed". Perhaps it's a function of growing up in the cozy hillls of Arkansas. Perhaps I am psychologically unable to function without a silhouette of a Target in the horizon. Perhaps I'm just one endless parade of neuroses.)
Ree had mentioned that we'd turn off the main highway and drive "a bit" before we reached the Lodge. So we were picturing, I don't know, maybe a long driveway.
We turned off the main highway, and we drove. And we drove and we drove. And we drove some more. Everywhere, as far as we could see, was beautiful, wide-open, gently rolling prairie. Hardly a tree in site. Just grass. And cows. And an endless amount of blue sky. We were speechless (a rare occurrence) at the vastness and beauty of it. A horse (a horse!), taller than my car, stepped out on the road in front of us, then slowly he sauntered off. Melanie pointed out our next turn, and so I flipped on my turn signal. MY TURN SIGNAL. You know, just in case that one truck we saw 15 miles ago needed to know what we were doing. Suddenly and painfully aware of the "city girl" labels stamped on our foreheads, we started giggling. Then laughing. Then snorting. We were laughing so hard I had to pull the car over. Delirium had set in. (It's prairie madness, I'm sure. Just like the original pioneers, except with an air-conditioned Honda).
But we forged ahead, meeting up with Ree at the Lodge. She showed up bearing a giant dish full of this–between that and the unhealthy amount of chips and salsa I've eaten in the last 24 hours, Sophie and Melanie may have to roll me home. We spent a quiet afternoon and evening with Ree, laughing and talking and generally discussing The State Of the World (and sighing some sad sighs over this). When we parted last night, she let us know she'd be picking us up at the crack o' dawn this morning to work some cattle. I thought that perhaps "work some cattle" might be ranch-speak for "sit on the deck and read a good book with my feet propped up".
In fact, "work some cattle" is ranch-speak for "work some cattle". Marlboro Man kindly offered to saddle up some horses for us. As tempting as it was to climb up on a horse for my very first time in front of a bunch of professional cowboys, I decided to ride in the car with Ree and Sophie (though Melanie, feeling the need to represent the state of Texas well, gave it a very honorable effort).
Here is the point in this post where I would like to describe to you the morning's events, but my questionable grasp of ranching terminology makes a it a little difficult to communicate. So instead, I'll just tell you that we watched a whole bunch of very strong cowboys do this:
Mostly, we just tried (successfully) to stay out of the way, and we tried (unsuccessfully) not to ask too many questions. Our best source of information was Ree's oldest daughter, who is remarkably well-informed about various and sundry ranch-related issues. When we found ourselves standing in a pen with several newly-branded-and-vaccinated (and understandably cranky) calves, Ree's daughter quietly advised us that "if they run at you, just wave your arms."
If they run at me?
Alrighty. I'll be sure to remember that while I'm dropping to the ground and crying in terror.
It was only shortly thereafter that one calf, especially frustrated by the morning's events, seemed to zero in on Sophie, Melanie and me as the source of all his problems. Is it my imagination, or is he giving us a dirty look?
I thought about telling him to wipe that scowl off his face, but then Ree's daughter told me he weighs three times what I do, so I changed my mind.
Now I'm at the end of this remarkable day (not really at the end, but when you're up at 4:45 a.m., mid-afternoon feels like the end of the day). My feet are propped up on a comfy couch in the Lodge, and I'm looking out over an incredible view. Ree is headed back up this way in a little while to cook for us (oh yes, please!)
Do you think my family would notice if I decided to stay here just a little longer, like, maybe a year or two?
(Ree, Melanie, me and Sophie)