As we used to say in high school: Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Spoken in jest or otherwise, the phrase is actually a conceited acknowledgement of one’s own talent.
I know I’ve got talent. I believe that God creates each person with at least one special ability that we are to use to honor Him. But you know the people who know from childhood exactly what they’re supposed to be doing in life? Yeah, I always thought it would be cool to be one of those people. Instead, as do the majority of people, I spent my late teens and 20s trying to figure out exactly what I’m good at. After years of pondering who I am, this is my conclusion.
In the unique mosaic of my personality, God endowed me with plenty of potential: I think I’m a good mother. Also good at dreaming up events (though my organizational skills fall a little short here). I’ve even got a little musical ability built in (still trying to figure out what to do with that one; maybe just singing in the shower).
And clearly, I’m a writer. God gave me this gift — it’s something I’ve always done, it’s something I do without thinking, and it’s not anything I’ve worked to develop on my own. Words have just always been there for me. And I love it. I love being a writer.
But you know what? I’ve always wanted to be something else that I’m not. Here’s my secret: I’ve always wanted to be a Top Cowgirl. My heart has always ached for it.
And I’m not a Top Cowgirl. And it’s starting to look like, in this life at least, Top Cowgirl is not going to be on my resume. You know those dreams you just kind of out-age? Those dreams that became less achievable as you get older and less fearless and less athletic? Like the boy who realizes as a senior in high school that he’s not going to be a pro football player after all? That’s where I’m at.
Cowgirl, yes. Top Cowgirl, no.
I’m a ranch-raised Montana cowgirl. I was horseback from an early age. Dad always took me along with the crew and taught me to handle cows quietly and ride a circle in big country. I logged more miles horseback before I was 20 than I would bet 99% of my peers, and I think I’m still pretty good horseback help in most situations.
But here’s why I’m not a Top Cowgirl: I’m not fearless. I’ve always been a little nervous riding colts. I don’t like riding super fast. I’m not a confident roper. My posture in the saddle leaves a little bit to be desired. I’m not snappy and smooth in the arena. I always hope for a cowboy to ride over the hill and save my bacon when I’m in a tight spot. I can’t seem to keep a hat on my head. And, well, I’m just not… a natural.
I know cowgirls who are naturals. They win the Top Cowgirl award at the ranch rodeo. These women are stunning. When I see them ride, with all their confidence and long hair flowing behind, I wish I could do that, too.
But then again, when they read my stories, they might wish they could write like me. And who could blame them? I’m a natural.
For a long time I thought I would turn into a Top Cowgirl any day now.
I was raised by two cautious riders. (He had suffered a broken pelvis before I was born, and she a broken back, so their caution was well-earned.) I owe my parents credit for turning me into a Cowgirl even if I’m not a Top Cowgirl; it’s one of those circumstances where I just became something because of the environment I was in, even though it’s not my most natural bent. My Dad is a great cowboy crew foreman. He has always looked to hire team players and learners rather than top hands. It’s how his crew works, and growing up, my job was to fit in with the crew. We always endeavored to handle cattle slow and easy.
I showed my 4-H horses for nine wonderful years, and I value that experience. But certain concepts of horsemanship just never would click. My 4-H leaders worked with me year after year on practices that just did not come easy to me: leads
were are the worst, followed by body control and posture. Those leaders must’ve wondered why it wasn’t clicking for me. As they would say in the South: That girl just can’t get right! Finally I had some success in my final year with 4-H horses… but the kind of success that comes from a whole lot of hard work, not because I was a natural. That success was very satisfying.
Next, I married a cautious cowboy. A native of the team roping pens of the Southeast, he proved to have little interest in becoming the tough old-fashioned Montana horseman I assumed he would become when I married him. For a long time I hounded him on it, thinking I would ride on his coattails to win my Top Cowgirl award. He and I have had a lot of talks about words like desire and hard work, natural talent, and circumstance and environment. Finally I accepted that being an old-fashioned Montana cowboy is just not his thing, and life has been a lot easier for us since then. I like to tell him he’s a hybrid cowboy. He’s got his own style. I’ve let go of what he isn’t and decided to value what he is: his intelligent, managerial mindset; his gentle and consistent partnership with the horses he chooses to ride; and his thorough knowledge of cattle.
Then I became a mama. And I barely have enough time to shower these days, much less make it to the barn on a regular basis. This stage in my life with little ones is probably not the best to judge my abilities as a cowgirl, as I have zero to no time to invest in riding horses. And definitely, the more you do something, the more comfortable you are. Yes, when the kids are bigger, I’ll get back in the saddle again and regain my comfort horseback. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about aging and motherhood, it’s that I’m becoming more cautious every day. I’m guessing this same rule will apply to riding.
At the end of the day, I’ve had to accept it: It just doesn’t click for me. I will not ever be playing in the Top Cowgirl Super Bowl. Because God didn’t make me to be a Top Cowgirl. But he did make me to be a regular, good ol’ cowgirl. And a mama. And a writer.
How do I know? Because I have spare time right now (the kids are all asleep). If I was a Top Cowgirl, I’d be at the barn. Instead, I’m sitting at my desk… writing about how I’m not a Top Cowgirl.
© Tami Blake