I met up with my Aunt Tamie and cousins Mandy, Tori and Brodie (and half of their neighbors) in Brown County, Indiana, just south of Bloomington, in order to ride horses and camp out. I left with a sore ass and greater appreciation of a country lifestyle.
I arrived on October 20th, my 29th birthday, and greeted the family. Brodie instantly made me a drink and I was never without one for the rest of the trip. I met the country crew and my bright ski attire clashed against the dirty browns of Carhartt gear.
As the night wore on and the drinks got stronger, the boys hitched up a scoop shovel to a horse with some rope. Rides were given for the rest of the evening with everybody's rears dragging through the wet grass. It was certainly a spontaneous source of fun as my cousins yelled out, "You need to change your britches!" Where am I?
Now I have to say I've seen a fair bit of this world and have experienced some very different cultures, but the cowboy culture consists of a special breed of people. They are a people who work hard and play hard. They treat their animals, well, like animals and there is not a vegetarian in sight. I have always admired my cousins for their way of life and it was fun to indulge with them in it for a weekend.
The next morning we fried up bacon, sausage, potatoes and eggs for breakfast and packed the saddle bags full of dear salomi, cheese and beer. That should hold us over for the day. We saddled up and headed off into the huge trail system back in the woods.
I learned how to hold the reins and a beer simultaneously and was made fun of for wearing a backpack like a tourist. The rest of the boys had on chaps and cowboy hats. I had a good horse, Cody, and was comfortable even when he decided to gallop (which usually freaks me out). We talked about anything and everything and passed around bottles of whiskey and peppermint liquer. Nothing was taboo and the Fall weather made us relax and enjoy the sunshine.
I now understand the term "A long day in the saddle" because after 10 miles of riding, my butt was in sore shape! All our bodies were hurting, so we drank a little more.
I haven't eaten so much red meat since I was a kid. Every meal consisted of sausage, salomi or hamburger meat. And again, all washed down with a beer.
Our second day in the saddle took us to the quaint little town of Story, Indiana. It was a cute village with one thing to do: get a drink at the bar. There were so many horses hitched up there when we arrived we had no place to park! Finally a tree opened up to tie the leads to and into the bar we went. We stayed for a few hours and racked up some tabs and as dusk approached, we decided it was a good idea to get back to camp. My cousin, Brodie, got on his mule and a few feet up the trail fell off of it. We had to get him a ride back to camp and lead his mule back with us. Then, a neighbor who celebrated her birthday with a few too many white russians, puked all over her horse. We were certainly a junk show, but our trusty horses led us back all in one piece. It was a little funny riding a horse drunk, but I'd have to say it's much safer than being on a bicycle in the same situation!
We made it back and sat around the campfire. It was cold weather, but the trailers had heaters and so provided a bit of comfort. We packed up early in the morning and got the last stubborn horses into the trailer for the long ride home. I went my separate way back to Kentucky while the fam headed back up to Northeastern Indiana.
I love that I had the opportunity to be with my family. We talked about anything and everything and just enjoyed being with each other and the horses for the long weekend. As I adjust to life back home I realize that this is what it's all about.