Howdy Folks! Riding in the New year was a tradition we didn’t do as often as we used too. Grandpop had a year every now and then, in recent years, when he just wasn’t up to it. And I worried since he’d retired ol’ Blue a few years back his heart wasn’t in it so deeply any more. He’d spent a long time brushing Blue this morning, explaining to him it was best he just stay in the barn and sit this one out. Frankly I’d have been satisfied to stay by the fire and sit it out too. But this year again “riding in the New Year” as Grandpop always called would be just him, me and two fine looking geldings.
Riding in the New Year was a tradition he and Mom had started the very first year they settled on this ranch. For a few years it was just Mom and him, then I came along and Mom strapped me on in front of her and toted me along. “She had you so bundled up I worried you couldn’t get a breath of air,” Grandpop told me every time he tells that tale. I rode with them every year until I moved away and drifted into those years when I was certain I was far to busy to come home and ride a horse in the freezing January weather. I always wondered why it had to be extra cold on New Year’s Day.
“You know it brings good luck to uphold a tradition on New Year’s Day,” Grandpop swung into the saddle with the ease and grace that defied his 85 years. I swung up too, and just as every time I watched him do anything, I hoped I’d be that spry when I was his age. Our hats tied down with scarves we set out for what I hoped would be a short ride. But I knew better.
A cold, sleet-filled blast nailed us as soon as we cleared the barn. Grandpop twisted in his saddle and flashed me his jolly grin. “Gonna be a brisk one I reckon, son.” He aimed his horse for the three foot drift between the barn and tractor shed. “Something about riding through the deep snow brings out the kid in me. YeeHa!” He tossed his arms in the air and they plowed through the drift, then set out in a trot along the fence line. I saw the cows huddled in the ravine below, safely out of the nasty wind. Secretly I wished I could join them.
“New Year’s Day,” he yelled above the wind. “Lots of things start over then, but I always figured lots of good things just carry on too.”
We rode side by side along the fence, then cut away aiming for the hillside trail up to the mountain. I figured my hopes of a short ride were dashed and settled in for a cold morning’s ride. My younger brother had planned to ride with us this year, but he and his sons were still hauling hay to the cattle. At least they had the truck cab to warm up in.
It took over an hour to get halfway up the mountain. Grandpop pulled up at the first overlook. Ice glazed his hat, face and mustache, and clung to our horses’ muzzles and manes. I chuckled to myself when I realized I could barely feel my feet. The view, though, was worth the cold. The company, too. Looking out over the windswept valley, sleet and snow blowing sideways, it truly was a sight to behold. “Worth every minute of these frozen toes.” I told him as I dug into my saddlebag, pulled out the thermos, and fighting the wind, poured our celebration coffee. Then passed the cup to Grandpop.
“Happy New Year World! To God Be The Glory!” Grandpop held the cup high in a salute, took his drink, leaned toward me and handed me the cup.
“Happy New Year World! To God Be The Glory!” I saluted the world, and finished the drink. Then poured our second cup. We sat together there and drank until the thermos was empty.
“Glad ya rode with me son.” He turned his horse and started down the trail as we continued riding in the New Year.
Gitty Up & HAPPY NEW YEAR WORLD! To God Be The Glory! … Glad ya rode with me. ~ Dutch Henry