Morning In the Montana Mountains

This morning we got out on our horses and rode for about two hours into the Mortimer Gulch. My horse is named Sampson, and a fine steed is he, knows the way and has lost what I heard was an annoying habit of suddenly trotting when the rider didn’t expect it. No that didn’t happen, just as easy ride/walk among the startling scenery of the rocky mountains.

The only bad thing was the smoke from the 7,000 acre forest fire that has clouded up the valley and cast a huge haze over the distance. I heard some people saw burning pine needles falling from the sky.

One of the riders is a woman in her early 60s named Wanda. She is a regular rider and has her own stable of horses in Indiana. She spends a lot of time traveling abroad. She works as a lead volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, helping poor people build houses. She was just in Tajikistan, spent many many weeks in Uganda, Senegal, Kenya and other countries and will be going back to the ‘stans in a few months for more work. “I just love it,” she said, “it makes you feel so great to be able to help people out.”

It was inspiring to hear her tell her stories about a pickpocket in Senegal who reached into the pocket of her khaki pants only to come up with a kleenex — and Wanda’s strong grip on his wrist. He spit on her shoulder, they glared at each other, then he ran away.

“The street kids in Uganda are doozies,” she said, when asked about which country has the most tenacious beggars. “I think Kenya is the worst, they just never let go.”

We’re all assembled for our lunch of burritos,then a short rest, and I’ll be back out on Sampson again. This country brings out an appreciation from both visitors and locals… they just can’t get enough of the ridgelines and the mountain peaks and meadows.

People here seem to be in a great mood most of the time. In a small and lovely little shop in Augusta called Latigo and Lace, the owner told me a saying that sums this place up. “Montana is like a small town with very long streets.”