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“Did I ever tell you our horses once tried to eat Mom’s car?” he asked.
“C’mon, David!” Rosemary replied, trying not to laugh. “I don’t know much about the country yet, my love, but I don’t buy that one. Horses eat grass, and hay and oats. That’s all. Oh, I’ve seen them nibble on fence rails, too.”
The young couple was on horseback, stopped on a rise overlooking a herd of cows with their spring calves. David and Rosemary just moved to a ranch on the plains of eastern Colorado his family had owned for generations . A few months earlier, his parents had asked David to manage the sprawling 21,000-acre ranch were he’d grown up.
They both agreed, eagerly. Rosemary was a city girl but loved the outdoors. She wasn’t too sure at first about leaving all the urban comforts and friends she enjoyed so much, to learn ranching. But, characteristically, she was determined to become a full partner with her tall, handsome husband.
As the young couple sat astride favorite horses that day, they were excited about their new life on the ranch. It was spring and they were celebrating their first wedding anniversary.
At that moment, David didn’t know he was in for a very big surprise that day.
The spring calving season had ended, and he’d taken Rosemary to show her how a herd of mother cows somehow instinctively knew all about babysitting. He told her she would see small groups of cows spelling each other off taking care of newborn calves. The rest of the mothers, meanwhile, would go off to graze in the pasture or go to a nearby creek for water.
Rosemary hadn’t believed the car-eating horse story, and wasn’t about to believe the babysitting yarn, either.
“It’s true, my love,” he laughed.
“One winter when I was young, Mom drove home at night in a white-out blizzard,” David said. “Her car went off the road in a huge gust of wind and ended up in a corral next to our front yard.
“Mom had mistaken the open corral, for the gate into our front yard. She got stuck and had to leave the car. Dad was away. She didn’t know that a few horses had taken shelter from the storm in the barn beside the corral.
“Mom came out the next morning and saw the horses had been nibbling away at the car’s bumpers and moldings and the side mirrors. Cost us a few thousand dollars to get it fixed.”
“Oh, come on, David!” Rosemary exclaimed. “I’m not that gullible.”
“It’s true, my beautiful bride,” David smugly. “It turned out the horses were nibbling at the road salt deposited on the car from driving. Their teeth did the damage.”
Rosemary reluctantly accepted the truth of her husband’s unlikely story.
“Hey, look over there!” David said, pointing down into the lush green valley. “See, over there . . . here must be175-200 calves. And look, only eight or ten cows with them. Right?”
Rosemary had to admit the scene David described was accurate. She could see a large group of calves, most of them lying in the fresh spring grass. She counted ten mothers.
“Want to guess where the other mothers are?” he asked. There was a twinkle in his eye.
“They’ve gone to the creek for water,” he said, answering his own question. “There calves are being looked after by babysitters. They take turns.
“Yes, really!” David insisted, seeing the disbelief in Rosemary’s beautiful hazel green eyes. “When the other mothers come back, the babysitters will go to the creek for water, or go grazing.”
“Well now, isn’t that something,” Rosemary said distractedly.
As David was speaking, her attention was drawn to a string of cows off to their right walking single file along a path leading back from Willow Creek, just visible in the distance, to where their babies were waiting. As the cows drew closer, the calves scrambled to their feet. Some pranced around like exuberant children in a playground. Others ran to the arriving cows and tried to start nursing from their mother’s udders.
Rosemary couldn’t wait to become a mother. She wondered if she would ever be able to trust someone else to look after her babies when they began to arrive.
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that animals are dumb,” David continued, blissfully unaware of Rosemary’s thoughts.
“Most animals are far more intelligent than we give them credit. They get it from nature. And nature’s really got it figured. Most folks don’t get that, either.”
“David,” Rosemary broke into his thoughts. “Do you remember before we were married, you took me to Livingston Valley up in the mountains?”
“I sure do, love,” he replied with a wistful smile.
“We stretched out naked under the trees after a dip in the pond,” he chuckled. The thought stirred his desire.
“Oh yes, I sure do remember!” he added enthusiastically. “Were we watching Nature do her thing? Or was Nature watching us do our thing? We should go back soon!”
“Oh, yes, David,” Rosemary said. “I’ve been thinking of what a profound experience we shared. Really spiritual.”
“I wasn’t thinking of the ‘spiritual’ part of the experience, exactly,” David chuckled with an adoring smile, winking at her as he reached for her hand.
“I’ve written something,” Rosemary said, gently waving off his affectionate advances. “I want you to have this, to celebrate our first anniversary.”
David was proud of Rosemary’s blossoming career as a writer. He sometimes thought he was more excited about it than she was. They’d met in grad school. Rosemary was finishing her master’s degree in creative writing and he was finishing his master’s in business administration.
Rosemary leaned over from her saddle and kissed him warmly, and then handed him an envelope. He opened it and removed a sheet of paper. It read:
My Dear Husband
For a while after we began dating, I was troubled that you seemed estranged from religious teachings. I hoped the children we both want would be raised with spiritual guidance. Then you shared with me the extraordinary insights that came to you in Livingston Valley. That set my mind at ease. The effect on me has been profound. It surprised me and also frightened me.
Happily, my grandmother is of the Ute Nation. We are blessed she is still with us. I went to see her and explained my dilemma. She helped me realize I had come face-to-face with a deep spirituality.
I understand now what you meant when you told me you were disappointed that most organized religions today have strayed from their core reason for being. These religions were established for a noble cause and were based in what many of us now know as spirituality. In the beginning, their core purposes were to honor and show gratitude to a higher power for our many blessings. They also helped foster a sense of community and responsibility in the loosely formed groups then of otherwise primitive uncivilized human beings. You and I can see that many religions today, sadly, are enslaving the hearts and minds of people through fear, rather than devoting their considerable resources to help humanity celebrate the extraordinary bounty that Nature has provided all of us.
I have learned this sense of celebration comes about when we recognize the wondrous spirituality each of us has within ourselves, thanks to my grandmother and to you, my wonderful husband and father of our children.
I Love You,
PS: I’m pregnant. Happy Anniversary, Daddy!
David’s face lit up with an enormous smile. He nudged his horse around until he was facing Rosemary. He reached over, tenderly cupped the back of her head in his left hand and gave her a long passionate kiss.
“No one has ever been blessed with such a wonderful anniversary gift, or such a wonderful bride,” he managed to say as he struggled with the emotion welling up inside of him.
“David?” she asked breathlessly.
“Yes my love,” he replied.
“If it’s a girl, can we call her Nizhoni?” Rosemary said. “It’s from the Navajo word for ‘beautiful’.”
“That’s perfect, my love,” he replied. “What do you think . . . how about you pick the first name and I’ll pick the second? Okay with you?”
“Sure,” Rosemary replied.
David was beside himself with joy over the prospect of becoming a father.
“If it’s a boy, can we call him Chayton?” she asked.
“Chayton?” David repeated. “Of course, but where did that name come from?”
“It’s from the Sioux word for ‘hawk’ or ‘falcon’,” Rosemary replied. “I like the feel of it.”
“Can I ask you something?” David asked his radiant wife. “Do you want to know whether our baby’s a boy or girl?”
“No,” she replied immediately. “All I want is for the baby to be healthy. Besides, I like surprises. Got anything in mind just now? ”
“It might not be a surprise but I do have something for you – at home,” he replied.
“You sure?” Rosemary smiled back, her excitement rising and she thought about what they might do after they got home.
She turned her horse and dug her heels into the quarterhorse’s flanks, urging it into a gallop. It may be that she didn’t know much about the ranching yet, she thought, but her grandmother had taught her years ago how to ride like the wind.
The shadows were getting long as they raced their horses back to their home. They unsaddled and cooled the horses down, and then made sure they had food and water.
No one saw David and Rosemary again until mid-morning the next day.