Me, with my two favourite horses Bella (closest) and Trigger, at the Cottonwood Ranch 2013.
Time off always sparks my creativity. Maybe it has to do with the amount of books I devour then? Goodreads told me yesterday that I’ve read 24 900 pages across 83 books during 2019 (but of course not all the books I’ve read are mainstream enough to even be on Goodreads, so the actual number of pages and books are much higher.) Maybe all the stories I read pushes my own stories to the surface? This morning I woke up thinking about something that happened 6 years ago in the year of 2013, around this time of the year. I don’t think that I’ve shared this story on the blog before, but it is one of these stories that will stay with me. That I will tell my daughter when she’s older.
I lived by the end of a dirt road outside Cottonwood, in northern California. It took me 40 minutes of driving down dirt roads before reaching the small town of Cottonwood, where the nearest gas station and small grocery store was. I leased a small ranch where I housed horses that had been through a bad period of their life, usually due to human stupidity. At the beginning I did not like the dry ranch at all, the drought kind of made it look ugly, but I came to love the place. My daughter was 1,5 year old and for the most part a doll. On this particular day however she was teething and had been unusually unhappy, there was a lot of crying. In fact there had been a lot of crying for three days and neither of us had slept much at all. All I wanted to do was to close my eyes and sleep. My daughter kept on crying. I had no idea where my husband was, he had been gone for weeks, and forgotten to tell me where he was. Of course he didn’t answer his phone. That was pretty much normal.
I decided to drive in to town and get groceries, and pick up a couple bales of hay since we started to run out of both. At the time I was driving a big, old diesel truck, and the reassuring sound off the strong engine caused my daughter to fall asleep almost immediately. I turned up the volume on the country station I was listening to as they started to play Merle Haggard’s Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star.
I had many things I wished for that day. In most peoples eyes I had everything. It is true that I was blessed with a wonderful daughter, and to be surrounded by horses (I loved that part,) and of course being in California is a big adventure. It is also true that I rarely knew where my next meal would come from, and I couldn’t take my daughter out of the US at the time. Holding on to the little pride I had left, I simply did what I had to do, and tried my best to keep a positive attitude about it. I was deep in thoughts and instead of taking the turn onto Main Street, I drove out on I-5 towards Redding, the next big city. I had a lot on my mind with a failing marriage and 17 horses to feed, an infant daughter, and at the time no current job permit. My daughter slept the peaceful sleep of a child, and for a minute I felt that peace too. We reached Redding way too fast. I went by the feed store first and had them load up as much hay as the truck could handle (12 bales carefully loaded in perfect balance.) I really didn’t want to wake my daughter up, since she’d barely slept at all for three whole days and was exhausted, but I had to get the groceries before leaving town. I simply couldn’t afford to drive into town more than once a week, or if I pushed it twice a week. I had no idea where my next money would come from. I did some Equine Photography, but there was a lot of bills to pay.
I woke her up, and she looked around quietly with her big eyes, until we stepped into the store… The grocery store was crowded. My daughter was not happy. I grabbed the bare minimum of things we needed as fast as I could, while my daughter for the most part cried her lungs out. I got in line for check out as fast as I could. People were looking, and I imagine that the two of us were a sad sight. The line just stretch out forever. I unbuckled my daughter from the cart and danced with her to the music blasting out from the speakers around the store. I don’t remember what they played, I just remembered trying to make her happier. Anything to stop the crying that made both my head and boobies explode (the milk never seemed to dry up even though I stopped breastfeeding when my daughter was 13 months old.) It worked. Luckily. I figured we had around ten minutes of waiting before it would be our turn to pay for our groceries, and make our way back to the safety of the sound of the trucks engine, and hopefully some more sleep for my Princess.
The gentleman in front of us, a typical northern California gentleman that is, with a cowboy hat, pearl snap shirt, and boots started talking. At first I barely registered what he said in my state of sleep walking. He continued talking, not in a pushy or flirty way, but in a kind way. He complemented me for being a wonderful mother, and told me how beautiful my daughter was. We exchanged some pleasantries about the weather and upcoming holidays. I do not think that I ever seen him before, but there was something familiar about him. I had my hands full and as he paid for his groceries we said our goodbyes. As the door closes behind him the grocery clerk, a woman in her 50’s, asks me if I knew who the man was that I had been talking to for the past ten minutes. I told her no, we didn’t know each other. She then smiled and said: Sweetheart, that was Merle Haggard.
Do you have a story from your life with a special place in your heart, that you will tell your children, and grandchildren one day?