Until only a few months ago I lived over 1,600 miles away from the Chico in a suburban neighborhood of Virginia, about 40 minutes away from Washington, DC. Each and every day I was surrounded by the sounds of sirens in the distance, traffic racing by and airplanes speeding overhead. I was so accustomed to the resounding echoes of suburbia that I soon started to ignore them. They became normal, white, background noise. I had never truly experienced the sound of silence in its purest form until I came to the Chico.
There have been many times during my internship that I’ve stopped to listen to the still of the afternoon or the quiet of sunset. But there is one experience that was so profound to me that I’ll remember it for many years to come.
Right before Christmas we rode out to move our commercial herd. The forecast had a slight chance of snow in the afternoon, and foolishly I decided to test my luck with the ill-equipped outfit I’d chosen to wear. Within an hour of trotting away from headquarters the sky quickly closed in with thick, heavy clouds, and it began to snow. The snow immediately filled the prairie and the low visibility made it almost impossible to see any of the cattle or other riders around me. What was a perfectly good ride had quickly turned into my own personal frigid nightmare. My jeans were soaked. My hands were wet and freezing. I was the embodiment of a human gremlin.
I angrily trotted as hard as I could to keep my body warm until I experienced a moment that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was the most organic, deafening sound of peacefulness, silence and calm I’ve ever felt. I stood still, and in that moment I realized that in the midst of four other humans, horses and hundreds of cows, the only audible noises were the faint breathes of my horse breathing in and out, the light patter of hooves moving along the ground, and the beautiful sound of snow falling to the prairie floor.
The wonder of the Chico never ceases to amaze me. I have had so many profound moments in nature since starting my time at the Chico in September. Each day I find another beautiful moment to revel in, but this experience might just be the most incredible to me….so far.
By Chico Basin Ranch intern Laura Mowrey