Tony Vagneur: Change is constant no matter which meandering path it takes
“The big old cedar post is gone now as the new owners tore everything down. I have no idea on when it was set, but it was many years before my birth. It is gone now — the new owners tore down all the improvements made by generations of previous owners.”
Jody Bagley, my Wyoming friend, writes the above opening sentence in a recent story he penned, one mostly about training young horses, colts and fillies alike, on the family ranch where he grew up. The cedar post was important to that early training.
“If I stand out there in the middle of one of my hayfields, I can remember events and emotions that have happened there over my lifetime. Those things don’t mean anything to anyone else, but they give me a deep attachment to that land, which, over my lifetime, makes it priceless to me.” Billy Grange, Basalt.
It’s about change, and the seemingly little things that trigger memories of events that have occurred over the years. These are memories, experiences if you will, that have accumulated over a life lived in one area, or at least a majority of it, so far.
Years ago, a friend and I were having a conversation about how it might be to pull up stakes and move to friendlier ranching country, one with less expensive land and fewer people, where we could ramrod bigger spreads.
“But, you know,” he said, “it really wouldn’t work because at our age, we wouldn’t have the stories.”
Oh, we’d have stories, but they wouldn’t be germane to the new area and although people would politely listen, the stories wouldn’t have the same depth and tie to the land as would local tales.
There’s a cedar post at our cow camp, one used years ago by range rider Al Senna to tie snorty horses to before mounting up in the morning. A similar use as the one Jody Bagley mentioned above, although it’s outside the corral. Once in the saddle and with the horse settled down, Al could untie the lead rope and be on his way, smoothly, he always hoped. I’ve been doing the same thing for years.
Over time, different people have pulled up to the cabin and tied their horse to the most obvious place available, that old cedar post. The other day I was thinking maybe I’d pull it and put in a couple of posts closer together, just to make the run of the fence a little neater. Nope, almost right away I thought it to be a bad idea — there wouldn’t be that tangible reminder of the image of Al and a high-energy horse early in the morning.
Headed up to that cow camp, it’s a stretch to say Woody Creek hasn’t changed much, but most of the changes have been so slow we sort of get used to them. The tragedies become apparent almost immediately, like the torn down houses, some of which should have been deemed historic.
The second log house I lived in, built in 1949, was razed several years ago, for no apparent reason. The land hadn’t been sold, it hasn’t been replaced, and the one thing they couldn’t take away (at least not yet) were the two maple trees that sit to the west.
They stand, tall and proud, clinging to life high above the water table. I remember when my dad planted them, to shade the house from the afternoon sun, and it became my job to water them every day. I recall it well, hosing down the saplings, a chore at the time, but one I enjoyed once the water hit the dirt.
I have time, sweat and young boy tears invested in those trees and it would be a calamity to see them destroyed or die from lack of water. To paraphrase Billy Grange, it probably wouldn’t matter to anyone but me.
And on and on it goes, newcomers coming along with better, or at least different ideas. It’s like the meandering of a mountain brook over time, not well choreographed, but inevitable just the same. It changes, it all changes, but nobody says we have to like it.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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