The Circle  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

  (To a cowboy the “circle” is the path they ride daily to check on the stock but there are other circles as well.)

I've always ridden. Even as a child I would beg my parents to stop whenever we passed a riding stable. I was a city boy but my heart was out west and horseback. My dear Mother was responsible for my ardor due to her own fascination with the west and her love of the mountains. She was raised in rural Minnesota and lived with her family in a railroad depot as her father was a track foreman. Her western imagination was fueled by the numerous dime store western novels the engineers would drop off at the depot for her to read. She also rode when she moved to Milwaukee at the old Joy Farms stable. I am also proud to say that my paternal grandfather had worked as a cowboy in Arizona.

When I was eight or so my parents planned for a vacation out west. My mom had been saving money in a large Ma Bensch's herring jar for years. This was before much of the Interstate system was built so travel was mainly on two lane highways and there was a town every twenty miles. Progress was slow and we took the standard route to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons through South Dakota and its well advertised Corn Palace, Wall Drug and the beautiful Black Hills. These places are very special to me now since I have been able to cowboy in those same areas several times over the years. 

We finally got into Wyoming and after we had passed the Wind River Range we saw a dusty commotion up ahead causing Dad to slow to a stop. My brother didn't notice since he was looking down at a comic book which was a position he maintained throughout the entire trip. Up ahead of us was a herd of cattle being pushed across the highway by cowboys! I was mesmerized. Mom was as excited as I was and took many pictures (slides in those days) and the sound, dust and sight was something I'll never forget. I watched that herd in the back window till they were out of view. I also got a chance to ride out there as well on that trip. I was always angling to get horseback. In later years I was able to push cattle across highways myself and it was all I hoped it would be. Well that along with the dust, noise and recalcitrant cattle! The West was everything I hoped it would be and more. Mom was right, I was hooked. 

We went back three or four years later. My brother had enough the first time around and he talked my parents into letting him stay home with grandma. It was only my little sister and me this time. It so happens that I had begged my parents incessantly for a cowboy hat before we left. Nothing was promised except for those vague references like “we’ll see” which any kid assumes only means no. But in Rapid City Dad suddenly stopped at a genuine western store and he came out with a big silver belly cowboy hat for me. It was no mere souvenir but the real thing and I was ecstatic. In my rapture I didn't immediately notice that it was a little big for me.  When I meekly mentioned it Dad replied with the obligatory "you'll grow into it" thing. Dang, we were already on the road and he wasn't going back. But he was right. Over the years I did grow into it. Dad knew better than me. It one of those kid karma things. Mom and Dad were far from rich and I'm sure that hat wasn't cheap so I sure appreciated it. I still do. That hat has been with me for many years and lost most of its shape mainly due to getting soaked one year during a selfish quest for candy, dressed as a cowboy, during a trick or treat downpour. 

The years passed and in 2016 I was able to take part in a weekend clinic hosted at Idlewild Farms in Sturgeon Bay. It was “The Full Mooney” clinic given by my good compadre Steve Lundean. I was undeservedly given the “star” treatment thanks to Steve. They furnished me with a fine horse and they even carried my rig in from my truck! I had a bunk on the second floor of the main hacienda with the aforementioned Bill Mooney (check him out on Facebook. I highly recommend him) and his lovely wife Aline. All the big shots had stayed there including Branaman, Cameron and the like. I didn’t like that, made me nervous, so I slept in my bedroll on top of the bed. They had a picture frame of Buck next to my bed, on a shelf, staring at me so I laid it flat so you couldn’t see it. That’s how I roll or bedroll (sorry I couldn’t resist). Great venue and wonderful hosts. 

What sticks in my mind most was my return to Milwakee on Sunday evening. I had wanted to visit Mom at her assisted care facility. She was 95 then and not in the best of health. I got there around 9 pm and it was quiet. Now I was completely “cowboyed up”. Boots, jeans and hat. I smelled like horses and sweat.  I walked to her wing and found her door was locked. She was obviously in bed and I had missed my chance. Out of nowhere a nurse appeared and offered to open the door for me. I thanked her, she opened it and said “Angie, a cowboy is here to see you.”  The room was dark and only the light from the corridor lit the scene. I sat down next to her on the bed. I took her hand and kissed her forehead. She looked up at me and said “oh my cowboy is here to see me!” We spoke briefly and then I wished her goodnight.

The great Zen circle was complete. The little girl who dreamt of cowboys while reading dime store novels finally had one. Something special happened that night and I will never forget it. Now Mom’s gone on ahead and is with my Dad. Miss em both. 

In loving memory of my dear mother, Angeline McClure, who passed away 6/18/19 at age 97. 

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now