Blogs and tales by Warren R. Smith

Elle on the Trail

Elle is a cowgirl. Life is good on the range. Sure, it gets plenty lonesome at times but its slow and lonesome in a good way.

This morning is cool and the blue mountains stand tall where the sun rises. In the scrub cattle chew noisily on mesquite beans. Further out some stand in the shallows of the Rio Grande nosing the water. They low with contentment. Cattle on the range don’t moo. They low. There’s a difference as any cowgirl could tell you.

Sasparilla is grazing out there too. That’s Elle’s horse, a chestnut brown mare. Like a good friend Sasparilla comes whenever Elle calls – always ready to hit the trail again, together.

The horse could make her laugh too. Yesterday at sundown it had been a long day in the saddle. Elle was so tired and sore she could only unsaddle her horse and spread out the sleeping roll for bed.

She hugged Sasparilla’s neck and whispered goodnight. The horse nudged Elle’s dusty jacket lifted its great head under the stars with lips stretched out as if to kiss the moon. This made Elle laugh. In a little while the weary cowgirl was under a set of wool blankets while the camp fire crackled. What a strange thing for a horse to do, she thought.

In the morning Elle sat on a rock bluff overlooking a dry wash that terminated at the river. Breakfast was done and the pots and pans put away. Elle had time to just look at nature and breath deep, a cup of coffee warming her hands.

Along the stony wash, some fifteen or twenty feet below, a road-runner jogged along. He paused to look and listen. The feathers on his head raised up like a fan, like an Indian Chief head-dress. In a moment the feathers went back down and he jogged along some more, pausing the same way time and again. He never knew he was being watched while hunting for breakfast. Elle knew enough to stay quiet and not interupt his concentration. There’s a lot to know being a cowgirl. Patience and quiet is pretty high on the list.

And riding the range isn’t for everybody. Thank God. But Elle is not only a genuine cowgirl. She is a new kind of cowgirl. The road-runner disapeared around the bend. Elle thought it was a good time to see how mother was doing.

Elle took a cell phone out of her pocket. What would you expect from a new kind of cowgirl, smoke signals? No sir. And I say good for her. But she had been on the trail tending the cows and talking to Sasparilla so long she didn’t know anymore what day of the week it was. She hoped she picked a good time to call. Against her ear the phone range once, twice, three times.

The road-runner reappeared carrying a limp lizard in his long beak. He was trotting along full of business now passing just below where Elle sat.

The phone picked up. There were muffled voices before a shout of Happy Birthday.

“Hey!” said Elle.

Startled, the road-runner jumped back and dropped the lizard. Caught. No? He cocked his head looking up at her. Elle didn’t care.

“I forgot it was my birthday,” she said.

“Well, we didn’t,” said her mother. Ready everyone? Ready Elle?" Grandma and grandpa was there with other family. With a count and more or less together they broke out in song. “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. You smell kind of funky, and your horse thinks so too.”

Thirty minutes later after talking to possitively everyone Elle slowly saddled up Sasparilla. She gave the mare a big hug across the neck once more. “Do I smell funky Sasparilla?” she asked softly. The horse lifted its head to the sky and extended those great lips. Can a horse do duck face? Apparently yes they can even if they do quiver their lips trying.

On the trail again with the sunshine warm on her shoulders and the cattle moving along a gentle breeze came in from the south. It would be a hot day but Elle knew, better a hot day here than anywhere.

“Sasparilla,” said Elle. “I think its only fair to mention now. You smell kind of funny too.”