The night before, my roommate and I danced with two cowboys at the Silver Dollar bar. Later we all went to the diner for coffee and there the guys explained a cowboy's attachment to his hat, while I listened and learned about a culture so foreign to me. When they dropped us off at our trailer, they asked if we wanted to go elk hunting with them the next day. I said OK, but my girlfriend declined. I thought they probably won't show.
But they did, two Wyoming cowboys in a pickup truck. I jumped in and we drove off to pick up the horses. It was 1969 and I had lived in Jackson Hole for a few months. While I had spent time with other locals, artists, writers, as well as some guys with long hair from San Francisco, I had never bothered to get to know a Wyoming working cowboy. I probably thought them too different from me, coming from Sweden, living in Princeton, in the midst of that mix of East Coast establishment types and university intellectuals.
But there I was, in an old pickup truck, and I knew this was an opportunity for me to learn about cowboy life, for real, not the movie version. So I listened as they talked about the war and the time they served in Nam. I learned a little about who they were, what they believed in, what was important to them, and how their daily lives went. All of it very different from anything I had known before, but in the end I liked them both.
Somewhere along the way, we picked up the horses. I had been riding horses all my life, English saddle mostly, but I also knew how to ride a horse with western tack. Little did I know that this would be a completely different horseback ride from any I had ever experienced before.
It was a beautiful, crisp fall morning in Wyoming when we set out and headed for the mountains. Sounds of the rutting season were all around us, from elk, moose and other critters of the forest. My cowboy friends worked as guides for the hunters that came every fall, so they knew where to find their elk. Actually, in addition to the large National Elk Preserve, there were elk to be found everywhere around Jackson Hole from what I could see.
The mountain got steeper as we climbed. The path became narrower and narrower and soon ended at a deep ravine. The guy ahead of me turned his horse onto a ledge, not much wider than the horse, the deep chasm to the left and a solid mountain wall to the right. I thought, you gotta be kidding me! I guess I forgot to tell you guys I'm terrified of heights.
To be continued next week.......
Source: Wikipedia & Bing Photos