The foothills of the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, are often bathed in sunlight and blue skies punctuated with cumulus clouds rolling through on a summer’s day. As 9 year old mountain kids, my best friend Pamela and I would often “pasture” our horses on open land during the summer. Our mountain family homes boasted only a three acre plot of land on which we each kept a horse. Any good horse owner knows that a horse requires at least 10 acres of grazing land to support its appetite. So, we had to supplement our horses’ diet by taking them to graze on available grassland nearby.
One such place was an area at Pence Park, a narrow meadow running along side the paved road to the little town of Kittredge below. We would often ride our horses bareback to this open area about two miles from our homes, take off the horse’s bridles and leave their “underwear” halters on their heads. We’d turn them loose and Shorty and Rombo would immediately put their hungry heads down and start munching the long grass, having no other interest but to stay right there and graze.
Meanwhile, we two girls would have to occupy ourselves while the horses chomped grass, moving one step at a time to find new bites. After talking and giggling as young girls do, we’d come up with things to do. Sometimes, we would bring a finishing brush with us and brush the horses until they were sleek and shiny. We’d play games, tie “grass knots,” tell stories, and sometimes take off our boots and feel the grass in our toes. These “pasturing” times would last about an hour or so and then we would bridle up and ride home, our horses satisfied with full bellies.
One beautiful summer day, while “pasturing” the horses, we noticed that the shadows cast by the huge white, fast-moving clouds would overtake us and we could feel the temperature suddenly drop and the world turned a little darker in the shade. After the cloud passed over and the sun’s rays could once again warm the tops of our heads and arms, the temperature would rise, we were warm and the color of our clothes brightened once again. We decided to see if we could chase the sunlight and hopefully outrun the cloud’s shadow which we did if only for a few moments. The line between the sunlit earth and the cloud’s shadow was a marked one and we’d run our skinny legs as fast as we could to stay in the sunlit area. The cloud’s shadow would always overtake us, however, and we’d flop down on the grass in defeat and catch our breath.
I’m reminded of the lyrics from an old song: “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end, we’d sing and dance for ever and a day. We’d lead the life we’d chose, we’d fight and never lose. Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days.”
To live such a carefree and unburdened existence was the epitome of childhood joy and happiness. Two young girls chasing the sunlight while their beloved horses lifted their heads from their chomping and chewing and craned their necks to watch us in our follies. Yes, those were indeed the days.
Kathy Kain lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.