On April 24, 2024
Mountain Meditation

Riding over the mountains: an expedition to a rodeo wedding

Building a Killington Dream Lodge, Part 10

As the ski house we were building in Killington grew, I did, too, from age 7 on up. I entered adolescence and continued helping with various tasks. My latest assignment was pretty exciting compared to repairing our tar paper roof. I climbed a ladder to the top of each beam (where it stuck out in front of the wall), then painted it with creosote while backing up and straddling it. Keeping my balance and holding the paint can was tricky and felt like a circus act. At least beams were wider than a high wire, more like a balance beam in gymnastics.

With added responsibilities came more privileges, so I began to venture further when off duty from building duties. That’s how I discovered the Wade Family Stable on the Killington Access Road. It was attached to the red farmhouse where Killington Valley Real Estate stands.

Weekends in summertime, I walked to and hung out, brushing and talking to horses in their stalls. The gentle giants seemed to understand whatever I said and how I felt. They read my mind. I was certain. Getting to know them was my favorite pastime.

I’d officially entered the “I love horses” stage that many adolescent girls go through. I announced to my parents I wanted a horse, and Mom responded, “When we finish the house.”

I dreamed of keeping my horse on our property and riding it every weekend in Killington, or it could board on a New Jersey farm. Then I’d ride it weekdays right after school. In my dreams, I galloped along with wind on my face, tousled hair, blowing my horse’s mane askance. But in reality, I rarely rode…

Until an exciting opportunity arose, to help ride Wade horses to the rodeo for a wedding. I’d never heard of a wedding on horseback but the happy couple were most likely rodeo regulars.

The Wades must have pitied the girl who hung out in their stables at Killington. So, I was invited to be one of the group to deliver the horses miles away. The other young people were far more experienced but my enthusiasm made up for my ignorance. I was thrilled beyond measurement to relocate a horse to the rodeo and back.

We gathered in Wallingford at the Wade Family Ranch and left our belongings for our return. They gave me a gentle mare to ride who overruled my ignorant commands. She knew better than I where to go and how to return to the ranch again. We rode through valleys, up mountain trails, through stone wall openings dividing neighbors’ land like Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” sentiment that “good fences make good neighbors.”

Passing through gates in fields and woods was a cinch compared to dealing with loose pebbles and rocks in the stream beds we crossed. The problem was, we had to descend.

I put on my brakes by digging in my heels, pushing the stirrups and clutching the saddle horn. Going downhill felt like I was falling forward, headfirst right off my horse. The steeper the incline, the more anxious I became.

But sweet Molly, my gentle mare, was adept at continuously plodding forward. Mainly she walked, with an occasional trot and rare canter, but she didn’t gallop at all. She only sped up when another horse tried to pass her. Otherwise Molly was sweet and docile.

When we arrived at the rodeo event, we dismounted and the horses rested with water and hay to nibble on. The wedding was first on the rodeo agenda. Invited guests were led to the horses, mounted them and rode into the arena. The bride was adorned in a white bridal gown with pearly white cowboy boots and hat. The groom wore a red Western shirt and leather belt with matching cowboy boots and hat. The couple rode their own white mare and dark stallion. Another calm horse was provided for the preacher. We kids watched from the rodeo fence which we climbed up and sat on. It looked like a Hollywood movie set of a dude ranch out West. I never imagined it would be in Vermont, but I guess horse people are everywhere.

As a country version of the Wedding March played over the rodeo loud speakers, the bride and groom entered on horseback and trotted up to the minister.

They said their “howdy dos” and “I dos” as the audience and their friends let out cheers. It seemed like they were rodeo stars, to me.

Following the ceremony, the rodeo continued but we couldn’t stay until the end. We were given refreshments then remounted our horses and headed back to the Wade family home. As evening descended and twilight drew near, we arrived, at last, very hungry and tired. We were in luck. Mrs. Wade had cooked up a feast for us famished riders. My muscles were tired from the exertion of a very long day on the trail.

We camped out that night on the living room floor. The next morning we devoured pancakes and eggs. Then our families fetched us and drove us home.

I had much to report on my riding adventure and rodeo wedding in Vermont. It was my longest journey on horseback, full of excitement in spite of our speed. I don’t know how many miles we covered, but to me, it was a grand expedition.

I treasure this memory and will never forget it thanks to the Wade Family.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who resides in Vermont and Florida. She welcomes your comments and requests at Jilldyestudio@aol.com

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