I grew up in the town of Bitterroot, Wyoming.
My Pa worked for a big rancher by the name of Spencer. Mr Spencer was the owner of thousands of head of cattle, which were spread out over thousands of acre’s of Wyoming graze land. Pa rode fence for Mr. Spencer and wasn’t home much.
When Pa was home life in Bitterroot was good. Pa always brought a present when he came home, usually just an arrowhead he had found or a carving he had whittled, never anything store bought but that didn’t matter to me. I was happy just to see my Pa. Sometimes I felt bad for not having a present for him, so I’d look around for a interesting rock or a stick I thought he’d be able to whittle into something. Whatever I brought, Pa would take from me and say “Why Son that’s sure fine.” I will never forget his rugged bronze face or his wide bright smile. More than anything I was happy for Ma, I know she got lonely when Pa was gone.
Then one day we got word that Pa wouldn’t be coming home ever again. Mr. Spencer himself rode into town to tell us. Pa had been lightening struck. “The boys buried him up on Mustang Hill, I’ll take you and your son out there if you want.”
Ma was too sad to speak and Mr. Spencer was not a man of many words so after a few minutes he got on his horse and rode away. Ma cried herself to sleep that night, I guess I did to.
I was just 8 years old when my Pa died. Looking back, I guess I was angry, at who I didn’t know, maybe God, maybe just the world in general. I began to get into trouble, not bad trouble, I got into fights and skipped school. When I was 10 I stole a horse and rode out to Mustang Hill. I rode around until I found my Pa’s grave. Mr. Spencer had marked it, just a plank board cross with my Pa’s name carved into it but I was grateful to Mr Spencer for marking the grave, Mr. Spencer was a good man.
I knelt down in front of my Pa’s grave and once again cried myself to sleep. I awoke to the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. From atop Mustang Hill you could see for miles, the far off mountains of Montana, the winding silver image of Badger Creek and the Town of Bitterroot were all visible from here.
Standing there on Mustang Hill I felt a closeness to my Pa that I had never felt before. In that moment I understood my Pa and that made it easier to accept his death. Under the circumstances my Pa was right where he would have wanted to be. He rode the land, he died on it and now he was buried in it. My Pa would have thought that to be just fine.