Let’er Buck: Riding With the Women of Summer

The beautiful blur of grace and speed. A simple photo can’t quite capture the rhythm and flight of imagination these women arouse when they ride. Still, watching them, it is impossible not to feel the electricity, the connection of the dance between the rider and her horse.

A dream to catch, and here begins the pursuit of the Women of Summer.

Wandering around horses and riders, I trade stories and listen respectfully on their day of competition. With poise and a sense of community, I’ve come to understand one thing: in life, these incredible cowgirls utilize their confidence to pursue dreams, and with such a spirit comes admiration of those secure enough to understand embracing a woman’s power moves us to a higher level.

It is a breathtaking sight. And while photos may not do justice to the electricity such women create, it is easy to dream of their rhythm and flight of imagination, which spur me into tomorrow. 

Growing up with three strong-willed sisters who love horses, I began to understand one consistent trait of young cowgirls that shone above all others: to be free. Flying high without concern of falling, riding without fear, and doing so with their hair on fire…

The world needs such dynamic women at every level: as leaders in politics, business, medicine, and teaching. Their spirit encourages. We are lifted being around such strong women, savoring their boldness and grace. 

It stuns me to think there are still barriers to what women can achieve due to discrimination based on gender. The main reason I find it hard to believe is not that I think discrimination is wrong (I do, for the record… no matter what my sisters say) but because it is crazy for men to sabotage themselves and their communities.

Decades ago, I read a piece by John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women, published in 1869 when women were seen as the property of men.

“Equality is critical for solving the world’s problems… the loss to the world by refusing to make use of one-half of the whole quantity of talent it possesses is extremely serious.” 

– John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women, in 1869

Almost everyone I know today understands and believes in the words of J.S. Mill. It is logical, yet… with the fragile ego of many men, who would rather cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face and go on waging war, they continue to live in a warped fantasy. Ridiculous.

Years ago, I wrote about how acknowledging someone’s ability does not diminish your own. Instead, the confidence in breaking male-dominant beliefs is a sign of strength, and nothing is more attractive than the authenticity of doing the right thing without a second thought.

It is just common sense. The world needs all the leadership and great ideas it can get.

A secure woman and a secure man who understands the untapped qualities of the human spirit can create brilliance and unlock the heart of potential for all.

An example of this is the heartland of the United States, built by the frontiersmen and women who were insightful enough to understand that equality was the only way to survive in the West. By embracing the power and skill of each other, they could thrive.

They did this without question, without fear. Through action instead of rhetoric, they taught their children. As a result, these kids grew up as balanced individuals who created something even more remarkable: a self-feeding cycle of success. Small farming towns across the globe share this same thread of equality, and this is the hope for the world.

I think back to some of my travels overseas to stagnant, repressive societies. Places empty at the core, with male-driven egos paralyzing society by allowing great minds to waste away along with their children’s future.

This is not the way to evolve and better ourselves. Take away the façade of power, especially in business and politics, and there is the natural progression of equality. This is what I now see taking place globally.

Around the world, women have built respect throughout history as the vital key to the success of men.

It is how the “West Was Won” – men and women working as one, united. No room for ego or the subjection of another due to feelings of inadequacy. 

In my hometown of Pendleton, behind every successful rancher, farmer, and cowboy ~ there is a woman who has made him the man he is today. 

The sense of equality. The quality of two beings, untapped potential when repressed, transforms into a powerful, uniting force when free. This attitude built the world – it is the definition of freedom.

This spirit. This drive. This focus. It forms the backbone of America… the melting pot of brave people and immigrants with a dream. Brave souls, dancing with the devil, entering a new world – their strength: having each other’s back, knowing they can only better their world together.

Growing up, I always imagined that women had courage beyond imagination – to help, to teach, and, most beautiful of all – to have a continuous curiosity to improve the lives of those around them.  

It is this curiosity to seek and be better I admire. To borrow from Thomas Hobbes: “Curiosity is the lust of the mind.” It should drive us all.

During the morning of the competition, there were many opportunities to talk with the riders. The conversations were easy and free-flowing. When asked about their life growing up with horses, I’ve never seen eyes light up so quickly.

“When I’m on a horse, there is no question of man or woman… there is only the rider. And when gliding across the arena, heart racing to the cadence of hooves, it’s more magnificent than any thunderstorm ~ and then the goosebumps arrive. In blissful sync with my horse, the sense of reality is lost, and I become a free spirit; nothing can stop me.”

The quiet confidence of a Woman of the West never ceases to impress and humble me. It is a supreme confidence. I noted a quote on one of the rider’s bags by Anaïs Nin, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

Even today, I can see her smile at the recognition of this quote. A perfect reminder to be courageous every day. Never stop learning, never stop thinking or asking questions. Continue to wonder… always wonder, and feed your curiosity… 

Sitting here, I realize every day, women around the world saddle up and give it another go… pushing the envelope just a little more until their dream becomes our reality.  

I think of the great women I’ve met in my travels, all so different in their dreams and occupations – yet they ride off, in the same manner, to conquer whatever is on their minds. They do so with a smile that reminds me of an old Western saying, “She’s got a smile that could charm the rattles off a rattlesnake….” It is fitting.  

Their rattlesnake smiles hold a jolt of electricity, bringing to mind something I wrote many years ago: “… a woman’s power does not diminish a man’s. Rather when embraced, it magnifies them both.”

We should embrace them all. These cowgirls at the Pendleton Round-Up and women worldwide inspire anyone who dares to take the road less traveled without concern about where it may lead.

They hold independence and freedom most of us dream of but lack the nerve to pursue. These ladies will lead the way to a better world… as always.

Let’er Buck to the Women of Summer!

Cowgirl note: The beautiful Lainey Corbett, above, will soon marry my incredible nephew, Lane Richards, on June 17th, 2023 ~ and I can’t wait to see all the beauty they unfold in life as they begin their journey together. 

Edge of the Wilderness

“Standing on the precipice of a wilderness unknown. Alone. Resistance, both past and present, pushes from all sides.” I stare at the words written and wonder what it would feel like to walk along a razor’s edge, day-after-day, your existence always in the balance.

My room fills with the warm yellow hues of the evening sun inviting me for a walk, but I am paralyzed. Mystified by this invisible force of power used to manipulate people. Used without empathy. Used without acceptance of responsibility.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is return-to-earth-12.jpg

From the American Indians pushed around in the 19th century, to the American People pushed around outside the White House just a few months ago in the 21st century ~ use of force, power without responsibility.

I’ve come to realize while this is a beautiful world, rich in love and life, it is a beauty balanced by hardship for those not in power.

There’s a sentence written by a Tuscarora tribe leader on my desk, describing leadership: man has responsibility, not power

“You’re drifting once again in thought…” her voice breaks my trance. “Always reflecting, dreaming of the past.” Her voice is one I’ve not heard in a while and silently she takes form ~ she looks peaceful with a touch of sadness. 

I try to hid my elation in her return. “Dreaming of the American West, the 19th century. I wish I could travel back in time and experience the freedom to explore. To gain perspective on life back then…” I whisper this thought to myself.  

“Freedom for one often means the opposite for another.” She slowly slides up to my desk. “Do not dream of returning to old ways. Yesterday has long drifted down the river and it’s not coming back…”  

Her laughter is not harsh, but warming, “Seriously, you living in the 19th Century? You’re definitely a helpless romantic!” She picks up my coffee mug and takes a sip, enjoying the bitter blackness. “The first morning without your gourmet coffee, iPhone and comforts of home…” Her twinkling eyes reflect my simple mind.

Can’t help but smile at the truth of her words, the rage this year has me living in the past. I feel as if I’m trapped, running in quicksand trying to reconcile the heartbreaks of yesterday with those of today. The harder I run, the further away I am to answers. Only cruel politics headline the day and I remain stuck in reverse. 

“There is an old Lumbee Indian saying,” she taps gently on the side of her horse, and I watch it gracefully work its way through my living room. “Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.”  

“Doesn’t seem to be much wisdom these days,” I begin, before she cuts me off.

“Tell me the wisdom of a 19th century, western educated white man? Believing he has all the answers, superior to all other life and therefore open to exploit the resources available.” Her eyes, while gentle, show implication. “American Indians believed the opposite, nature and animals offering wisdom necessary for a better life.

Her eyes hold mine, filled with a genuine and deep curiosity. “Such extreme and opposite views of life. Is either correct?”

Immediately my mind swims in the melodic lyrics of Stephen Stills, and I sing, “…and nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong…”

The correct path and most difficult path is to listen, learn from others, and adapt. Of course, humans do what comes easiest ~ blame others and hide their cowardice through force.

How different would a 19th century version of myself be? A troubling question, for we are all products of our environment, the differences being the culture we were raised and shade of our skin.

A white man raised in the 1800s, without any understanding of American Indians and the west, would be at the mercy of a few biased news sources…

“Humans have the ability to take from one crystalized moment of awe, say a prairie full of buffalo, and walk away with two very different and contradictory actions. Where one sees synergy and respect, the other sees dominance and manipulation…” Her honesty speaks of today.

Walking to my window overlooking Elliott Bay, I listen to her conclusion, “…the real horror of this, both sides have absolute belief in their view and will stop at nothing to force their beliefs on others.”

I turn from the window and she turns her back on me and I watch her fade away. I flick on the TV. Words of hate coming from the mouth of an American leader. 

How far have we regressed since I was a kid… or have I simply moved from the naïveté of my youth to an older, jaded perspective? 

Wisdom will lead us from the chaos we are in. Courage to search for answers from all sides, with honesty the mode of communication. This is where we find true leadership. Where we find peace.

“Never forget, cowards cannot help but lie…” a piece of wisdom from the past we’ve forgotten. Leadership today is in turmoil, described succinctly in the words of the Omaha tribe, “A coward speaks with his eyes shut and from a distance. Unlike a brave man, who dies but once, a coward dies many times.” 

Six bankruptcies, pages of dishonesty, and still he flails along… and further we go down this river of deceit.

On this cool October night, I am happy my muse has returned. There is comfort in her questions and her wisdom.

“Look around,” she asks, “those voices of change you hear… where are they coming from?” I look and see her as a young child, being forced to leave a place she calls home. Walking with elders, confused. 

“These are the voices of the young and old. Voices rising above the din of lies seeking a better future…” Her smile grows as she promises, “these are the courageous ones, and no brave person will ever die alone.”

She turns, her face etched with hope. “The time for leadership is now, and it starts with you. A Crow shaman once said: you already possess everything necessary to become great.”

She runs her hand through my hair and rides away, her last piece of wisdom spoken in cadence with the canter. “The mark we leave on life is one to last forever; a testament to what we value in life and how we will be known and understood by future generations…”

Have the courage to admit faults. To understand someone with a different culture and point of view, it builds character, builds an alliance. It builds a nation.

Our present does not equal our future. We evolve.  


Women of the American West: Pursuing Excellence

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-1

The glint in her eyes mixed with the afternoon sun lulls us in before a quick shift in the saddle flaunts her message: a woman with a Cowgirl Spirit can stretch, bend, and break the rules society lays at her feet.

The whisper of the wind matches the cadence of her gallop.  Her light laughter trails off, leaving us cowboys choking in a cloud of dust. Nothing can get our hearts beating faster.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-2

The power of the Women of the American West is no myth, it is a beautiful reality and I pity any man who believes otherwise.

There is an old cowboy saying, “polishing your pants on saddle leather don’t make you a rider…” with its roots in the notion expertise comes from putting in quality time to master an art.  Pursuing excellence to shine above the rest describes the Cowgirl Spirit of these women; the confidence and humility are traits rarely discovered together.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-3

The Cowgirl Spirit is found around the globe. A woman who utilizes her strengths with the confidence to pursue life, and the admiration of men who are secure enough to understand embracing the power of such women will move them up to a higher level.

Equality. The quality of two beings, untapped potential when repressed, becoming a powerful, united force when free.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-4

Freedom for women around the world, the Cowgirl Spirit has a long ride ahead, but the excellence in which they ride ensures their success.

Watching the grace of these cowgirls competing on horseback is a perfect analogy to how a woman’s power does not diminish a man’s. Rather when embraced, it magnifies them both. Barrel racing at the Pendleton Round-Up is one of the most popular and watched events, making a great rodeo even better.

The eyes of every cowboy and the world are glued to such poetry in motion…

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-5

There is strength in equality, strength in balance, strength in the men who recognize the importance of a spirited woman by their side. True cowboys who understand such a woman opens up aspects of a man’s character that he alone is unable to grasp.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-6

A secure man will pursue the true quality of a woman, one with a Cowgirl Spirit, giving her room to grow as he is confident enough to understand the balance of equality will make him a better man, make his surroundings a better place.

“Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity….”   – Joss Whedon

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-7

Equality of women creates vibrancy in life. Sharing strengths without insecurities, both men and women evolve and new ideas and freedoms are generated. Society thrives.

Inequality of women stifles creativity. Insecure and weak men develop brash and destructive egos. Stunted growth rots the potential of a community. There are places around the world that echo such imbalance; stagnant, repressive societies with paralyzed minds and a paralyzed future for their children.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-8

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-9

The desire lies in the Cowgirl Spirit, and the worthy men who seek such women to create unity. Balanced individuals grow and progress, triggering society to follow suit as well. This is the hope for the world.

It is possible, the myth of the ‘weaker sex’ was created by the innate skill women have in ciphering through the bullshit of man’s ego and pride. Lesser men fear these resilient women, exploding with ego as their insecurities grow, overcompensating and crippling those around them.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-10

One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had is being half-a-world away, yet still able to draw strength from the important women in my life. Women, past and present, have helped form part of my character. Character incomplete without learning and accepting the power of equality, unlocking the heart of potential.

These women act as a mirror, reflecting strength in areas men lack. The Cowgirl Spirit brings perspective, a different view when listened to, and greater results when put into action.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-11

Acknowledging someone’s ability does not diminish your own, instead it can strengthen. This is achieving balance. Do not fear the power of women, instead embrace it, and embrace her.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-12

Women with the Cowgirl Spirit have a sensuality that is second to none.  Their confidence to give as good as they get, show an authenticity seldom seen.  An authentic woman creates the authentic man, allowing evolution to continue.

Without such women, men will never be able to grasp all life can offer. It is important to realize, in many ways, us men would remain our basic, cavemen selves.

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-15

The silent confidence of a Woman of the West never ceases to impress and humble me. It is a supreme confidence.

Time is short. Never Stop. Never stop pursuing excellence.

The Cowgirl Spirit balances the secure, authentic Cowboy Spirit. Strength added to strength, creating opportunities that otherwise would remain hidden. Such spirit is present every year in September at the Pendleton Round-Up. Keep up the pursuit.

Let’er Buck!

Women of the West - Pursuing Excellence-14

%d bloggers like this: