Monday, August 31, 2009

Mustang Jo


I am so fortunate to have a sister and very fortunate to have a sister like Mustang Jo. (Her name is Josephine Lynn. For me she's Jo, but for many others she is Mustang Jo because of her love of horses.) There's about seven years between us in age. I remember growing up and always tagging along behind her. She was the coach for my young women's softball team when I was a girl. She did a darn good job, too. I played third base. Not very well, I might add, but she'd never tell me that.

We're not at all alike. She took after our father: Italian complexion, dark hair and brown eyes. I took after our mother: Swedish complexion, light hair and blue eyes. She loves fishing on a river, riding on cattle drives and trucking across the nation in a semi-truck. I've fished the river once maybe twice, have gone on one cattle drive, and I've sat in the passenger seat of a semi-truck. I've done all this with my sister by my side.

Let's talk about fishing ... I remember Jo asking Mom and me to go fish the Snake River with her in a canoe. Sounded like a wonderful adventure. That is until we started carrying the canoe to the water. We had to scale several barbed wire fences and walk across the railroad tracks. The canoe was heavy and was easiest to manage upside down over our heads, so we could hold it with both hands. I remember as we were walking down the railroad tracks I said, it's a good thing trains don't use this track much. We all laughed. We finally launched the boat in the river just as a freight train zoomed past. All three of us turned pale and gulped.
The cattle drive ...You have to realize, I'm a city gal, scared to death of horses let alone a charging bull. Wanting to give flavor to one of my books, I asked my sister if I could go on a cattle drive with her. Jo gave me a small mustang to ride named Dusty. The horse and I were quite the pair. I'm fairly tall and to see this tall woman on a short horse was a funny scene, but that was okay. Dusty was gentle and sort of took my directions. The first morning we discovered one of the bull's had wandered off, but not too far. We knew where he was for he bellowed like he had a sore tooth or something. Jo climbed on her horse and told me to ride mine to the corral and open the gate so she could herd the bull in. Well, in haste I'd put the saddle on Dusty and because I was in a hurry (the bull had Jo in his sights and was bellowing while kicking dirt in the air) I didn't tighten the cinch properly. When I tried to get on my horse, the saddle slipped...so on foot I hustled over to the corral gate leading Dusty behind me. Had a devil of a time opening the gate, but finally accomplished the task all the while watching the bull charging after my sister, but at least the ornery beast followed her into the corral. Once he was with the other cattle his interest in Jo vanished.

And the semi-truck...Jo gave me a tour of a semi she was driving for her son. Sadly I have never gone on a trip with her.

My sister has adventure in her soul and she has a gift. She's a cattle whisperer. Really! She has developed a way of herding cattle that is low-stress for the animals. If a rancher uses her method his cattle will weigh more which will mean more money in the long run. Ranchers all over the mountain west have asked her to teach them how she does it. Her company is called Rocky Mountain Range Riders. A year ago Jo was featured in the magazine Stock Dog. Her low-stress herding technique was highlighted and the writer even included Jo's dog, Pepper. You'd love Pepper. She's a great cattle dog. To watch Jo and Pepper work cattle is like watching Charles Russell paint the old west.

It was my sister's birthday Saturday. I called to wish her a happy day, but got her answering machine. I don't know where she was...and yet I do. She had to be out on the range on her horse with Pepper following close behind. I hope she reads this and knows how much I love and admire her.

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