T & I went to the Horse Expo a few weeks back. June is Horse Expo in Northern California and I can hardly wait to go every year. This year I did my best to not spend money. Hard to do when I love books and I love art. Luckily my favorite artist was nowhere in sight (Denise Banda), but we walked under a canopy with numerous authors promoting their books. Love. First stop was Shannon Weil's book "Strike A Long Trot" on Linda Tellington-Jones' incredible life. I originally saw this book at the Dru Barner Fun Ride so I purchased it here. T & I talked quite a bit with Shannon and a woman next to them, who happened to be Roni McFadden. I really didn't want to spend more money so was hoping her book held no interest for me. Like it was about show jumping and horse shows and prissy clothes with no flingy, blingy chaps. No, she mentioned "pack station" & the "Owens Valley/High Sierras" and a coming of age theme. Crap. I was going to have to buy this book too!!!
We came home and I brought my art lamp into the bedroom and couldn't put the book down until late into the evening. I finished it a few days later and emailed Roni and told her I didn't want the book to end. So wonderful ~ so sad to be done. I felt like I was her.
She grew up close to where I did, in Southern California, 9 years older than me and found herself in horses and meeting the man who ultimately changed her life. John Slaughter ran a pack station in the Owens Valley and Roni spent some 6 or 7 years helping him run it. She was on the brink of a nasty existence when he came into her life. I love her line where she says "I didn't know what he could do to make my life not suck anymore". This book chronicles her transformation from that dead-end life into a strong, self-reliant woman who finally loved herself.
Because there were some parallels to her life and mine, I felt like I knew this story. I loved her relationship with the "ancients", her Native American souls who she connected with thru dreams and also who helped her numerous times when she was faced with life threatening situations. The backdrop for this book, the Owens Valley and the High Sierra are so familiar to me, having spent many weeks in the summer camping and backbacking with my family from the age of 2 1/2 years on. The one difference with her is I begged my dad to let us, one time, take a trip on horse back. His response was always the same "Suffer, then enjoy when you get there", meaning, we weren't riding horses to get to our destination. It wasn't 'til years later that I finally rode horses in the Sierras (in fact very close to the pack station in this book) but up until then, I did suffer. But I don't regret any trip or time spent with my father. It has shaped me and given me a huge respect for our land and the incredible natural beauty in it's simplicity; and also how great you can live with what is on your back. My Native American Spirit. It also is possibly the reason I love endurance so much. "Suffer, then enjoy when you get there". But really, we enjoyed every step of the way, to our destination. It was the best days of my youth.
Thanks Roni for a great read. I know there is a book or two in me and it was a pleasure to read yours! I am inspired!!
Diana, Laird & Kiita & my 65 lb. pack ~ Shadow Creek 1983.