I've been day dreaming lately as I continue to write the story of Falen and Rick living on a ranch in Montana. I've had this dream before about any area that is rural and "close to the earth". I did however learn my lesson from a dear friend and one of the best horse trainers in the country, Bob Kellert.
Back when Cathy and I lived in southern California I owned some very fine Morgan horses, all show bred. One in particular was maybe the greatest thing I have ever been privileged to be a part of and that was the two timed Grand National Champion, Darien.
I dreamed of a place where he could run free over acres. A place where he was the master of all he surveyed. I told any one and every one about my dream of ranch living at its best. I talked about it so much that one day, Bob said to me," Jim, why don't you come up to the stable for a weekend and work with me. You'll get a good dose of what ranch life is all about. I jumped at the chance.
I journeyed up US 101 from the San Fernando Valley north to Santa Barbara and a little ways further to Bob's majestic stable area overlooking the blue Pacific. Boots in hand and a couple of pairs of jeans and I was certainly ready for my "Home on the Ranch".
After a wonderful dinner prepared by his wife Lynn, Bob informed me that it was about time to hit the hay, so to speak, it would be an early day tomorrow. Saturday is the day most of the horses' owners come to visit. At a show horse barn, the weekend is almost hectic.
With a full belly and a wine clouded head I was lead into the guest room for a good night's sleep.
I just dropped off into dreamland when I was awakened by a pounding at the door. The old man in the
"night before Christmas" couldn't have jumped out of bed any faster than did I.
"What's the matter?" I yelled.
"Nothing," Bob said through the door, "Its just time to get up. Its 3:30 and time to go to work."
Oh my God. Work at 3am, a time I had been used to getting in, not up.
Needless to say, I joined Bob, raking stalls, walking horses, feeding and breathing hard and sweating all at about 5 am. Just as we finished our work, or so I thought, it was about 6:30 and the first of the clients began arriving. To make a long story short, we finished our day of work about 7:30 that night, just in time for another of Lynn's wonderful meals. Then a quick trip to bed, getting ready for another day's ranch work. By the way, Bob said, "Sundays were even busier.
I had learned my lesson and learned it well. Ranching is no job for the faint of heart and spirit. Monday morning I crept home a tired cowboy wondering how people like Bob could last seven day's a week.
This story proves one thing to me. The men and women who work on our farms and ranches are a different breed of people. Hard working doesn't even describe their efforts. I am adding to this list all of the professional Dog breeders, trainers and handlers. There is not a day that goes by that the animals can take a second place in our lives.
Writing the Bandit series is my way to "live on a ranch". Pay homage to the backbone of american workers. Shepherds who labor long days and nights with only their dogs and sheep to keep the company. Ranchers who search the pasture lands if one little calf is missing. And, the families that labor alongside making sure that each day is productive and pleasurable.
Now my ranch is one acre in Oak Ridge North, Texas. Falen and Rowdy keep me busy. I love every moment of it. But as a note to you ranchers and farmers who have joined my blog, " If you need me to work just don't wake me up at 3 am..." OK?