Joker’s Ridge…

I re-post this in honor of a true cowboy…a man of the earth and of his word. My brother-in-law, Winn Brown, passed away today. We could not be more different, yet we shared a love of my sister and of truth and the simple things in life. I salute you…and I know that you and Joker are together again.

What do cowboys do when their closest buddy…their friend for life…their horse…becomes old and begins to fail? They can’t just cart them off to the home for old horses to hang on forever…waiting to die an undignified death.

Cowboys do what is difficult…they face reality and slowly walk their friend up to the top of the hill and say goodbye. Sometimes they are hauling the carcass…and sometimes they must administer the final farewell shot in love.

It hurts…but their way is much better than the dispassionate urban style of taking an animal friend to the vet for a sterile shot. I know…I’ve gone that route with several well-loved pets. I didn’t have the courage to do the job myself…and could barely stay to watch and say goodbye. And the pain of taking an animal from the home they love to a sterile hospital seems wrong somehow.

Looking a friend in the face…knowing you will be both the cause of their final heartbeat and the reason they are no longer suffering, gasping for breath or agonizing in pain with every step…must be difficult.

I bring this up because I visited Joker’s Ridge last week…Joker being my brother-in-law’s favorite horse. He was dispatched many years ago atop a barren hill on the ranch. Winn’s voice breaks when he speaks of this…

…many more have joined Joker since. The hilltop is strewn with bones, from fairly fresh to some old enough to disintegrate at the touch. There is the occasional bottle of beer, as if someone stood watch in respect, waiting for the sun to say goodbye…

…a shotgun shell…

…hide mingling with bones…

…a gentle wind that disturbs nothing…clouds building for a storm that never comes…

…goodbye good friend…


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