Monday night I did something I haven't done since we moved back to Montana. I came home after work and roped. At night. In the winter.
It's very dark and very chilly at night in the winter. Even inside our indoor arena, which does have lights but is not heated except by a big woodstove where you can leave your snowboots so when you're done roping and take off your cowboy boots it doesn't feel like you're shoving your toes into hollowed out cubes of ice.
You can also thaw out any appendages that went numb immediately after you peeled off your extra heavy winter coat so you were capable of swinging a rope without wrapping the loop around your head. Which doesn't mean I don't wrap the loop around my head when I'm not wearing a coat, but shedding it does seem to reduce the frequency.
To be totally honest, it wasn't very cold last night (although--now that I think about it--if you're going to insist on total honesty you should probably be reading someone else's blog). It was above freezing. Downright balmy compared to some of our practice sessions back in the die hard days.
The die hard days began the moment I started dating my husband. I suspect Greg needed chute help a whole lot more than he wanted a girlfriend. Lucky for him, he got both (and don't bother trying to make him say any different because he's not stupid and he has to share a very small house with me). Anyway, we were both determined to spend every spare moment and spare dime roping. Even some dimes that weren't so spare.
Top secret relationship tip: shared insanity is the key to long term happiness.
We started dating in August, which meant we had about six weeks of decent roping weather before the ground froze. It also turned white. Fear not, Greg had friends with an indoor arena a mere forty miles away. At least two nights a week I'd roll in from work at six-thirty and find the horses and calves loaded and the pickup running. As long as the visibility was at least twenty yards, the temperature was above ten degrees and the snow plows had been out, we roped.
Greg had a 1983 Ford F250 pickup with a diesel engine. By the time I came along, ol' Black had a lot of miles and years on it, but it still ran like a champ. Everything but the heater. The heater had never worked worth a darn. Typical diesel, my future husband said. Before he bought it everybody had warned him how those diesel engines ran cold, and boy, were they right.
We'd get done roping at around nine o'clock, ice crystals floating in our bone marrow, and climb in ol' Black to be greeted by a lukewarm stream of air. I stashed a sleeping bag in the cab for the trips home, and not just because I was suffering from sleep deprivation.
We must've made that trip a hundred times that winter. And the next. And maybe the next after that, until we found an arena closer to home. My husband even proposed to me in that old black pickup (actually it was more like his buddy asked us when we were gonna get married and on the way home Greg said, "Whaddaya think? Should we?" and I got sort of google-eyed and said, "Right now?" and we decided not to talk about it again for awhile.) Other than the touching romantic moments, I shivered through every mile.
Then one day the temperature gauge went wonky. The needle flopped over and died without a quiver. A couple days later, Greg hitched a ride into town to retrieve ol' Black from the shop at the Ford dealership. On the way home, he flipped on the heater and heat came out! Real heat. Enough to make a person consider peeling off their insulated gloves and unzipping their coat and inch or two.
The minute Greg got home, he called the shop. "I've had that pickup for almost ten years and the heater has never worked. What did you do?"
The mechanic hemmed and hawed and finally said, "I turned the thermostat around. It was installed backwards at the factory."
Greg wasn't just warm when he hung up the phone--he was downright hot.
**Yeah, I wish that was our indoor arena. No such luck, just a picture I borrowed of the Lake Kookanoosa Arena near Eureka, MT.