Mike Moutoux's Ranch Notes
When I ride with guests at Hideout Guest Ranch, I usually try to give a little extra by pointing out the flora and fauna as we ride by, or by offering up bits of history I know of the area. I give a little and judge the guests’ reactions to gauge their interest. Often, I feel the interest in those things is not strong in most of the other riders. It makes me wonder what brings them here from all over the world. Surely they come for something other than riding.
We rode in bright sunshine through a pasture well-grassed by a wetter than normal year, picking our way through clumps of mesquite, lava rocks and across a dozen little draws that drain the foothills of the Peloncillo Mountains. We helped with a small cattle moving project and a minor fence repair and then rode up into the base of the mountains. If you like rocks and geology, you would enjoy the clumps of quartz and the interesting vein of obsidian with the huge chunks of it scattered about that would look great in a flower bed but are too big to carry. For the botany lovers there were cactus and agaves clinging to the slopes in fascinating displays of desert adaptation and perseverance.
I saw a flock of scaled quail when they burst into flight startling the horse near me; a marsh hawk in low level reconnaissance flight and red-tailed hawk that had folded his wings in dazzling stoop that had me thinking it was a prairie falcon. None of these required binoculars to appreciate, but I felt I may have been the only one to notice. Just over the mountains is Skeleton Canyon which is full of stories from the past including being the place where Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. Army. If anyone saw a ghost from the past, they did not mention it to me.
After the ride, we began to talk. After supper we began to drink. It was then I asked about their personal reasons for coming to the Ranch. In the group were some thoughtful men from Italy, England and Australia and I let the conversation flow, occasionally asking questions. To be honest, I enjoyed the ride, the country and the food, but it was the conversation that evening that was the most gratifying. In men from all over the globe, I found we had something very important in common. The one thing that brought us together; made us like-minded and strengthened our friendship as we shared.
Space. A love and appreciation of it. A longing for and a belonging in it. In the incredible and surreal landscapes of the American West is space and a lot of it. Space means freedom. And freedom means meeting Life on your own terms. This is what gives our lives meaning and purpose and maybe the best way to know that is to put yourself on a horse and go find it. A horse will take you further and deeper into space and across the rugged landscapes we have grown to love and need.
During the ride, I reached across the saddle to shake a friend’s hand. Out there, horseback, the handshake meant something more than the greeting we shared when I first got there. It was an acknowledgement of sorts I will explain when I myself understand it better. But I do think I understand why folks come here now. They come to our West to meet life on their terms. For the space. To be free.