Thursday, January 24, 2013

.She Loved Cows.

All I can remember about her right now is that she loved cows.

Isn’t it amazing? You spend almost your whole life knowing someone and when it comes right down to summing up a life in a few words, it’s all a huge blank. All I can remember is a feeling…just a particular feeling deep in my heart that is the very essence of what she was to me.

We met in the third grade. It was in the park across from Horizon Elementary school in Jerome…I crawled in one end of a cement tube and she had crawled in the other, and we met in the middle. We were both chubby little brown girls with glasses. We were wearing the exact same outfit – purple tie-dyed stretch pants (her favorite color was purple) and a white top with fringe around the bottom. Instant best friends.

But I loved horses and she loved cows.

No matter what she wore – polka-dotted vintage-inspired pumps and red lips or her curly hair in a ponytail and shit-covered muck boots, she was always the same girl. She was always laughing, always joking, always texting. I always teased her about the fact that her phone never left her hand…it was constantly buzzing with incoming messages and calls. She was everybody’s friend, everybody’s angel, a ready shoulder to cry on, a girl with a huge heart who just wanted to help. She was a farm-raised, punk-rock Mother Theresa.

We were always on an adventure…we never had a goal or a plan. We’d just put on our mascara and head out the door, ready for wherever the night would take us. She called me Marilyn, I called her Audrey. She was classic. She was the most scattered, crazy, free-spirited girl I’d ever met; she always encouraged me to open up and live life and have fun. She used to think I was crazy because I wanted to settle down and be a ranch wife. She had no use for love in those days, so when she ended up married and domestic and I ended up a gypsy, wandering around unsettled, we laughed so hard at our Freaky Friday switcheroo. I called her my pin-up Betty Crocker. I remember when all we ate was chocolate pudding for a whole week because I bought an entire case on sale at Wal Mart…now she was whipping up culinary masterpieces in her little kitchen. She wanted a white picket fence, a clothesline, a ruffled apron, tattoos, piercings, and a closet full of heels.

And she always dreamed of having cows.

I love her with all my heart. No matter how far away we were or what arguments we had or how long we spent apart, we could pick up a conversation in the middle like we had spoken five minutes before. She’d text me the most random things and say, “I saw this and I thought of you!” and she’d always be right on. She knew my heart, sometimes better than I ever knew it. She was so much wiser and stronger than I think anyone ever gave her credit for. She could be in so much pain and she’d put a big smile on her beautiful face and laugh and find one tiny thing to turn her situation into a positive one. I always wished I could have her strength.

How do you write something like this? How do you say goodbye to someone you could never imagine your life without? When I sat down at my computer this morning, this was not what I had in my head to write. Life changes in an absolute instant.

I will always have that girl in my heart. I will always remember driving down the back roads in my 1988 Toyota Corolla with her riding shotgun, and every time we’d pass a bunch of Black Angus bulls in a pasture, she’d yell out “THEY’RE SO CUUUUTE!!” And we’d make smooch faces at them as we passed.

There are far too many memories and inside jokes and incidents and stories to tell…there’s no way I could write them all, or obviously even write a few of them into a coherent thought. There are no coherent thoughts to be found when someone is taken from the world so quickly and unexpectedly. There’s no way to prepare. We all have our memories of her, and I promise you there isn’t a one of them that’s bad. You couldn’t NOT love her. You couldn’t not feel better when you were with her. You couldn’t not have fun when she was around.

She wanted to be Holly Golightly. She wanted to be a Playboy Bunny (not to be naked, but just because they were so glamorous). She wanted everyone to know that her last name is pronounced Schul-TIES, not Schul-tees…and when she got married, she was adamant about hyphenating because she was proud of who she was. She wanted to be there for her little sister; she wanted to be the best Army wife that ever wore her husband’s dog tags. She wanted to be everything to everyone she loved…what she didn’t know was how much she was to all of us.

But what will always stick in my mind when I think of her, is this dazzling, glitzy girl in red lipstick and polka dot heels putting a big, crimson smooch on the snot-covered nose of an unsuspecting Angus bull.

She never stopped loving cows.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Although I grew up in what was historically a male-dominated world, I was lucky enough to never really experience chauvinism on any grand scale. I come from a family of very strong, very handy, capable gals and it never occurred to me that it wasn’t the norm everywhere for women to take the lead in any given situation. Of course today isn’t uncommon or unusual at all…women are running ranches, starting colts, featured in western magazines, riding broncs, cowboying on outfits, experts in agriculture, and they’re doing pretty much everything else that had been conventionally done by men and being recognized for it. It’s an awesome thing. But something I’ve noticed is that, even though it’s now widely accepted that we are just as able and competent as our cowBOY counterparts, we still get a lot of flak for being GIRLS.

Sure, we can trot out with the guys in the morning and work alongside them all day long, but if we take a few minutes to swipe on some eyeliner beforehand, we get shit for it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been heckled when I show up somewhere with my pink spurs on my boots, pink gloss on my lips, and pink nail polish on my fingers. Now, I’m not the type to get up two hours early to put on a full face of makeup before I go out to roll around in the cow shit, but I do like to remind everyone that I am still a lady and can be feminine without being any less tough.

I LOVE being a GIRL. I never leave the house without earrings on. My neck rags smell like Victoria’s Secret vanilla and orchid body mist. I keep a tube of lip gloss in my duck coat pocket. And though my hands are scarred up, my nails are ALWAYS painted…even if that polish is chipped 99 percent of the time. I like to soak in long bubble baths with pretty-smelling candles burning at the end of a long day, and I like to doll up, curl my hair, and pile on the bling for a night on the town. I don’t like to be told how to ride or horse and I don’t need to be babysat pushing a herd, but I do like to be led around the dance floor. I can drive just about anything and in pretty much any weather, but I like when a man comes to pick me up for a date. I don’t need him to saddle my horse, but it is nice when a guy holds a door open for me. I don’t think it makes me weak…I think it means I have class.

I don’t think we’ll ever hear the end of it from our buckaroos about our girlish ways (and I know we dish out as much as we take in good humor), but that makes no difference to me. My tack and gear will always coordinate, I’ll always take a few extra minutes in the morning to moisturize and spritz on perfume, and I’ll just wink when one of the boys makes a joke about my mascara’d eyes when I climb in the pickup to go feed, because I’ll know he’s paying attention ;)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

.Those Who Matter Don't Mind.

This is kind of a hard post for me to write because it’s something that has never happened to me before, and it took me a minute to reconcile it in my own mind.

Recently I was talking to someone I was just getting to know on the phone for the first time, and it wasn’t five minutes into the conversation that things went really far downhill really fast. Almost immediately, this person was telling me that I needed to change my approach and be nicer and sweeter. It took me by surprise and honestly offended me a little bit, because I hadn’t thought I wasn’t being nice. I was just being myself…I can be shy and standoffish when I talk to new people, but I’ve always been told I’m a sweetheart. During the course of what was actually quite a long conversation (over two hours), this person kept saying variations of the same thing to me, and it was extremely frustrating because I wasn’t being anyone different than I ever am. I really tried to stick it out and steer it in a better direction since first impressions aren’t always correct, but I ended up hanging up on this person in exasperation. It wasn’t a polite thing to do and it wasn’t very mature, but at the time it was definitely better in my mind to do that than to lose my temper and say things that I wouldn’t normally say to someone.

This person later told me I was a horrible person, and the most miserable, negative person they had ever spoken to.

I thought about this a lot and replayed the conversation over and over in my head trying to figure out what exactly it was I had said or done that was so awful. The human being in me felt horrible…even though I felt I didn’t do or say anything that was mean, I don’t like when people feel bad, especially on my account, and I wanted to apologize and do whatever I could to make it up to them.

On the other hand though, the realistic one, I know in my heart that none of it was true. I do my best to be a positive and happy girl. I have a big heart and one of the things that brings me the most joy is sharing that heart with others. I have worked hard to better myself and become someone that I can be proud of, and to be someone that I can be happy about being. I am by no means flawless or perfect, but I definitely do not go out of my way to put others down or make them feel bad. It is one of my strongest beliefs that everyone has the right to follow their own bliss and live the lives they want to live for themselves, and I would never look down on someone for doing that if the life they live isn’t harmful to others.

One of the biggest lessons that is recurring in my life right now is that you can’t please everyone. Not everyone is going to like you, not everyone is going to agree with you, and no matter what you do, there will always be people who will look for the bad things about you instead of seeing the good things. It certainly doesn’t feel good, and I’m still not great at just letting the negativity roll off my back like water off duck feathers, but when I think about the people that do know me and do care about me for exactly who I am, I know that I must be doing something right. I am surrounded by more wonderful people than I could ever wish for, and that can’t just be a coincidence.

It’s such a cliché, but you really only have to answer to yourself and do what makes YOU content with yourself. The people who disagree with that or try to make you feel guilty for doing so are people that do not need to be in your life, and the people who truly deserve to know you are the ones who will be supportive of that no matter what.

As Liz from Buckaroo Barbie tweeted me, “…if you’re pissing someone off, then you’re doing SOMETHING right!”

And you know what? That’s pretty damn true.

I don’t have any anger towards the person that said those things to me…they have gone through their own trials in life and have worked hard to become the person that they want to be just as I have. It’s their right and privilege. They didn’t have to take to heart what they perceived as negativity towards them, and I don’t have to either. We’re both free to forget that ugly conversation ever happened and get on with life. I wish them luck.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

“Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow.” – Fernanda Miramontes-Landeros

“Always when judging who people are, remember to footnote the words ‘so far.’” – Robert Brault

Thursday, January 3, 2013

.An Introduction.

I’m just a girl.

I loathe to use the word “woman” when I talk about myself because I simply don’t feel like I’m there yet…never mind the fact that I’ve reached the quarter-century mark and I’ve had a stray silver hair here and there since I was twenty.

When I think of a woman, I think of someone who has her shit together – steady career, car payment, and steady man; maybe even a baby or two. When I think of me, I think of this wayward gypsy soul who more often than not forgets to brush her teeth before she goes to bed. My nails are always chipped, my bed is never made, and my laundry is rarely folded. “Real” jobs (read: in town) give me massive anxiety attacks because I’d rather talk to cows, horses, dogs, and sagebrush all day than have to wait hand and foot on another human being…I’ve been suffering from depression since I was 15 years old and I still haven’t quite gotten a handle on it.

I write my every thought down in a 98-cent notebook from Wal Mart (covered in peace signs, by the way, because I am inexplicably obsessed with them) and without it I’d go crazy from all of the things that bounce around in my head on a daily basis. My camera is always within my reach and my only goal in life is to take photographs that will show the rest of the world what I see in my adventures…I want to tell the stories of my life with my pictures. I can’t stand coffee but I drink Dr. Pepper like most people drink water. I refuse to eat pickled beets.

I drive a hand-me-down GMC pickup which currently has a broken heater (but the radio works!) and there’s usually a spotted dog riding around in the back. I have a hand-me-down colt that is the absolute best thing that ever happened to me. I have a hand-me-down Resistol and a pair of hand-me-down chinks – both given to me out of love (or something like it). My boots were brand new a lot of years ago, and I can’t bear to part with the pink Kelly silver spurs I’ve worn since I was a teenager…even though I get crap wherever I go just because they are pink. I can’t rope worth a damn.

I am drawn to men who are as wild as the desert I live in…the kind that make me think, “he ain’t right but he’s just right for me.” I’ve never had a “normal” relationship and I think that if I did, it would never work out. When I’m with someone, I know we’ll never settle each other down but I think that’s the beauty of it – we’ll run wild and free together and I tend to see so much of my own soul in them. I’d be ashamed of myself if I ever tried to tame them, and I’d never tolerate them trying to change me.

Sometimes I wish I could be a grown-up woman so that I never had to disappoint anyone and could always do what’s expected of me, but that’s just not who I am at my core. I did my best to be her for a long time and I was miserable at the deepest part of me – if I tried to be that person again, I’d probably smother and turn to dust.

I’m just a gypsy cowboy lady.

I’m just a sunflower growing out of control along a gravel road.

I don’t think I’ll ever grow up, at least not in the “traditional” way of growing up. But over the years I’ve grown a soul that can’t be tamed, a heart that cannot be stopped from giving all the love within it, and a pile of wisdom that only can be earned through real experiences. I’m sure this life is not what my dear parents had in mind when I came into this world, but the good Lord built me from a mold that He saw fit to break when He was finished -- the only thing I can do is live how He put it in my heart to live and hope that someday everything I am will create something that makes my loved ones proud.

After all…I’m just a girl.