Hay Creek Ranch
Nemo, South Dakota
For all my apprehension and anxiety about this trip, my week in South Dakota has been an experience beyond words. We have one day of riding left, and I have just a few notes and reflections to share.
The beauty of the Black Hills is quite a sight to behold. There have been times when I have been riding and I’ve just felt a bit overwhelmed by it all. The trees, the rocks, the flowers, the horses, the laughter of my loved ones, the breeze on my face — I have felt and experienced God’s love and grace in new ways, and at times I’ve been moved to tears. I feel so full of gratitude I could burst. I am truly humbled by the goodness, hospitality, and beauty here.
As we rode through grassy areas, I couldn’t help but marvel at the flowers. The daisies as well as my grandfather’s zest for life and adventure have reminded me of this G.K. Chesterton quote:
“But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
There are also beautiful wild lilies blooming. They along with my grandmother’s constant caution and concern have reminded me of Matthew 6:28. I have read somewhere, that maybe that passage is not only telling us of God’s great care for us, but the beauty of the lilies provides us an ample distraction from all our concerns and cares. If only we would just stop to revel in their beauty, to be taken in by their goodness. The lilies and the daisies, as well as my grandparents have been good teachers this week.
We’ve crossed a lot of streams, these cool streams and their sweet babbling are not only fun, they are necessary hydration for our horses. I can’t help but constantly think of the phrase, “streams of living water.”
Trails are a strange thing out in the Black Hills, ever evolving and changing. You can think you’re on the right path one moment and then get into a spot where you can’t see a trail in sight. Sometimes the trail forks and so you labor over which direction to take, only to have it join back together a little ways ahead. It’s both confusing and exhilarating. It’s a type of wayfinding that seems so deeply connected to how many of us make sense of life and how many of us navigate different seasons and phases. I am deeply thankful for both my guides and companions, and these amazing beasts that have carried us for miles and miles.
I lost my hat going under a tree on the way up one of the hills. So a little foolishly I hopped off, had strong words with Louie the horse, and proceeded to fetch my hat. As soon as I made my way back to Louie, he took off up the hill. I ended up hoofing myself about 75 yards up the trail. This was no easy feat. I’ve always known just how powerful these 1200 pound creatures were, and now I have an even deeper appreciation for what they do. And I’m not sure my family will ever let me forget my momentary lapse in judgement.
Speaking of the horses, my grandparents brought four. It is such a joy to be here with them and my mother, as well as a great aunt, great uncle, and cousin. The horses do a lot of work in carrying us and keeping us safe on the trail, but we do a lot of work in caring for them as well. We chore twice a day — cleaning out pens, giving them fresh water, feeding them hay and oats, giving them medicine and bandaging wounds if needed. We also brush them faithfully to make sure they don’t itch from dry sweat and we saddle them up with great care, making sure they don’t have any uncomfortable rubs and that we don’t fall off. It’s hard and tiring work, but it’s good work. We love and care for them, and they do the same for us. It’s a strange and wonderful sense of community and companionship.
I’ve been very disconnected from the outside world this week. We get little to no cellphone service and there is only one spot where we can get internet. This act of unplugging is a strange privilege. I feel way more free and relaxed, and recognize how easy it is not to care about the troubles of the world around me. It’s so nice to bury my head and act like the hurt and heartbreak of the world doesn’t exist. I hope that the refreshment of this trip provides me with more energy so I can continue to live out the call to love God and neighbor.
I think I will be processing this trip for a while yet, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to process this sort of experience with this specific community.