Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Building Foundations--QVMR part 1



Queen Valley Mule Ranch lies neatly at the foot of the Superstition Wilderness just off Highway 60, East of Phoenix, Arizona. The needled skyline of the Superstitions angles upward at the Northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, her silhouette often broken by the commanding Saguaro. After a wet spring, her blossoming invites Macroscopic attention. It is a new experience for me to see the desert this way. I'm used to the wide-angle beauty of Southern Utah's table-topped mesas which demand more Telephotoscopic attention. Its part of why we came. The visual feast of cacti in bloom stimulates deep reverence for the Master Landscaper, and wells of wonder for the purpose behind it. Chantra and I pulled two mules over the 8 hour highway with great anticipation that we might learn a little about these peculiar animals from one of the sport's great legends and teachers. Steve Edwards was hosting his annual Desert Flowers mule clinic.

We dropped the trailer and mules on Friday night, then returned Saturday morning for two days of training. Steve and Susan Edwards were delightful hosts and made sure we ate well and were properly entertained. Nine of us came for the clinic--and our previous experience ranged from 40 years of riding to none. A couple of the group were starting with a clean slate.


Steve is a great teacher. When it was all finished, I looked in the rear view mirror and realized that in spite of the varied knowledge levels each student brought to the clinic, everyone seemed to leave with new skills and an excitement for the new insights they had gained. He orchestrated our learning with energy and vigor.


One theme underlined the entire clinic: building and strengthening foundations. I think some of us get this idea that we can get our animals trained and then we can relax and use them. Steve showed us how to keep our mules soft and supple with a few communication tricks that can be used on a maintenance basis . Along with the foundation work which benefited every mule and student--even the advanced ones, we learned shoeing, saddle fitting, and how to apply foundation skills to our in-saddle riding.




We enjoyed plenty of time for fun and relaxation. Saturday night's cowboy dinner was a real treat--a boiled meat and vegetable pot cooked over a fire. Then we sat around the sunset, eating to the sound of Joe Baer and Julie Sterling singing cowboy songs with quail banter in the background. As the stars came out of hiding, Chantra and I shared our essay, "Yearning to Breathe Free" which dramatizes her journey through Cambodia's Killing Fields.


On Sunday morning, we paused for Cowboy Church. Steve's preaching was informal and sincere. Everyone with wisdom to share was free to speak up, and Julie sang several moving songs of faith. Between Saturday night's fireside music and stories, and Sunday's devotional, we all shared a sense of gratitude for the majesty of life. Chantra and I certainly felt uplifted and grateful for our faith.



We spent the rest of the day working in the saddle, eventually getting out for a ride into "Steve's office" where we saw that macroscopic display of the desert in bloom and watched another sunset. After we finished our training, and got our animals loaded up to leave, it was suggested that we go to dinner together. A real nice friendship had formed and no one was quite ready to say goodbye. Its the first time in my life I've gone more than a block out of my way for a McDonalds sandwich--in fact, 50 miles out of my way, dragging a 40 foot trailer with my mules. But hearing Steve's belly laugh when he realized we made that 50 mile diversion under the false pretense of good Mexican food was worth it. And getting one last "so long" with some real friends was worth twice the price of admission. Sorry Rick and Jay missed it. That sandwich tasted real good thanks to Steve, Susan, Dale, Nancy, Julie, Karen, and Terry (hope to see you on the trail again). Happy Trails.



THE DASH FOR CASH MULE BABY IS NOW 27 DAYS OVERDUE, and momma finally looks pregnant.

3 comments:

BonBon said...

Wow. Some people have all the fun. Save some for me would ya!

Tamster said...

Sounds like you had a good time.

I bet you were wrong on the dates. That's waaaaaaay overdue, and she's just now looking pregnant? Hmmm... Well, here's hoping she doesn't have to suffer too much longer, poor thing! :-)

d&nfish said...

We did have a great time, didn't we??? Looking forward to seeing you again sometime. Maybe we'll find a better place to eat! Enjoyed viewing/reading your site.
Bye for now!