Walker Branch

At six o’clock, we gassed up the four-wheeler and the five of us piled on…yes, insanely illegal…but for pasture trailing, perfectly okay!  So, here we go, bumping up the ruts of the steep hill behind our house to the swinging gate that is just wide enough for our atv to squeeze through– intricately stacked rock wall stretching out up the hill to our west and down the hill to our east…grass at its most beautiful–thick and green with sprinklings of purple, pink, and blue wildflowers clumping up here and there… As we tear across the flat bank of the fishing pond, we see the horses–all 17–grazing, their silhouettes stunning in the golden sunlight. Sigh. Mares, colts, yearlings and geldings belonging to us, my father-in-law and s&bil. Four-wheeling into their midst, our gray roan gelding, Legend, friendliest of the herd, noses us all and nips at the white plastic bag I’ve strapped to the atv’s rack–its content’s a secret from our 3 girls… He won’t leave us alone as we try to coax the baby colts near enough for our almost 2 year old to get a “pet”… All the horses have tangles in their manes, a few cuckleburrs…but they’re loving a summer of freedom and prairie grass. They get to laze and graze from April to September before we bring them home to the block of horse pens stretching down from our horse barn. Then it’s hayburning time. “Hayburning” a hole in our pocket book! We’re not in the horse business for the money, that’s for sure. Horses just don’t bring much $ these days…but it’s a lifestyle my dh loves and wants for our girls.

After satisfying ourselves that none of this year’s foals have hurt themselves running through fence, and that the horses aren’t out of their salt and mineral blocks, we head to Walker Branch. One of my most favorite places to play and the girls have no idea! The white plastic bag that the they and Legend were so enamored with contains water mocs, a towel and a change of clothes for our toddler. Walker Branch is this wonderful bubbling creek that meanders around and through a gravel bed. The stones underfoot are water smoothed and slightly mossy in places…and to one side is a sheer vegetation-covered cliff-overhang, to the other, gravel and a  bluff of tall prairie. When we arrived, the sun was a foot above the horizon…perfect for casting our shadows over the glossy brook and its sand-brown rocks. Of course, we immediately start looking for crawdads and minnows and are not disappointed. The biggest minnows we’ve ever seen are soon bumping into our sandal encased feet, soft slimy things…5 yo is pulling back screeching while the rest of us are in awe and trying to catch one of the slippery things on its way past! No luck!

I kept thinking, when are the bugs going to start biting? Anyone who has been to our state seems to first of all notice all the “stinging” varieties of insects…be it chiggers, mosquitos, etc. Amazingly, none dared ruin our outing tonight. We followed the water till the creek widened and deepened…not once seeing a snake…saw some tadpoles though! When we’d gone a fourth of a mile through the creekbed, we turned around and ended our water-fun with a lesson on skipping rocks. Yes, there is definitely a technique and passing it on from generation to generation is a necessary thing.

There is something so sacred and pure about being in a pasture before sundown. Acres of green, hills of it stretching forever…and the sounds of nighttime growing increasingly louder… We dried the girls’ legs off and switched their water shoes for their boots and tennies. At exactly this moment of packing up our fun, a chorus of frogs started chirruping from the creek.  Loudly. Wow. My dh says, “I bet it’s 8 o’clock”…I just look at him. He grins. “What do you want to bet?” He pulls out his pocket watch and smirks. Turns it to me. 8:01 pm.

On the way home we swing through a herd of black bald face cattle and get a head count for fil. 68.

Came home via the gravel road so we could avoid the three pasture gates. Saw a deer, panicking, her head darting alertly. On the other side of the road ran her crazed fawn…white spotted back and everything.

What more could a person ask for?

Mary

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