On Letting Things Go


People keep asking me if we’re going to sell the ranch. My answer is always, “Yes, definitely, I mean I don’t know, probably maybe not, no, no way.”

This little ranch in Gorman Texas, is the dirt on which Sam and I landed after we took a flying leap out of our careers and lives in Colorado, minutes before the 2009 US recession and an historic Texas drought.

That ranch still mesmerizes me in the same way newborns mesmerize their sweaty, worn out mothers.

I forget, every time I come here, I have to scrub mouse poo out of my kitchen cabinets, and wash the silverware because – little known fact – mice don’t have bladders, so if you see mouse poo, guess what you don’t see? I know. Gross. You’re welcome.

I also forget that August in Gorman feels like July in Haiti, except Sam is there at six every morning, staring at me from the edge of our bed saying, “You ready?”

What he wants me ready for is the next nine hours during which I will scrape and paint the exterior of our 100-year old house, crawl around underneath it with the coon skeletons and snake skins or maybe just relax in the million-degree attic and watch for sparks among the old copper wires and cedar shakes.

Owning and restoring an historic home is so romantic when you’re married to an uber wealthy oil dude from Dallas – I assume.

But watching dusk fall last night, from two plastic chairs in the back of our our old red barn, Sam said, “Are you sure you want to sell it?”

“No, are you.”

“Uh uh, ” he said kicking dirt that we’ve soaked with our own sweat.

This is the last place I saw my cousin Kelly. She galloped our grey mare Belle to the highest spot on the ranch with a morphine patch on her arm, one day after chemo. Six months later, she was gone.

This is the place with the oak trees, from which Sam hung a garden hose with a sprinkler head, so he can shower butt naked outside every day, like, you know, real men do.

This is the 60 year-old barn that held ten shivering horses during the hardest, coldest snowstorm we’d ever seen – not just in Texas, anywhere.


I learned to farm and sweat and weep here, and how sometimes getting everything you say you want can be the best and worst thing that ever happened to you.

Right now, I’m sitting in the room where Jesus introduced himself to me as the rock in rock bottom. For months, I sat here with the Bible in my lap, watching the West Texas sun rise, alternately daring and begging God to show up and be real.

He did, just like he promises. He poured through those tall, old windows like the yellow prairie light, and spoke in whispers and explosions that went off in my head and settled into my heart, layer upon layer like red sandstone in the desert.

How else could I respond? I spent the next year in this room, this chair, writing a 60,000-word love letter to thank him.

I’m marked and worn and striated by this place, and it’s hard to put a price on that.


Let’s End On A High Note – Dalhart, Texas.

Truly, it’s not easy to pinpoint what I love most about Dalhart Texas. But if you press me on the matter, I’m going to say it’s the Nursanickel Motel across from the Toot -n- Totem Truckstop.


A gal can always count on the Nursanickel Motel, especially when that gal is supposed to be in Amarillo, Texas by now eating a 72-ounce steak in thirty minutes or less trying to get it free, at The Big Texan.

But no, Sam and I are like moths to Dalhart’s flame. Limping into town on five wheels instead of six, having blown a duel between the feedlots and the cornfields, west of Dalhart, The Nursanickel came to our rescue.


The last time we were here Sam either got food poisoning or the stomach flu and was projectile vomiting with a measure of flair and, frankly, volume heretofore unseen in West Texas.

Because we were heading to a horse sale, we were hauling his big truck and trailer, so we had to park around the corner. We weren’t even married yet, and I drove it in to town. That’s how sick Sam was. Walking down a side alley to The Nursanickel, he fell to the ground and I thought, “oh great, now how am I supposed to pick up and carry 225 lbs of vomiting cowboy.”

Here’s a dramatic reenactment.



Horrified, I called my mom from The Nursanickel saying, “I think Sam got food poisoning from some bad prime rib, should I take him to the emergency room?”

I heard my dad ask from the background.

“Did he eat the butt? Ha ha ahaha.”

Sympathy isn’t Mike Quirk’s strong suit, but since when Sam is sick, he doesn’t just vomit, he shout/vomits, I thought the emergency room might be in order.

Quickly, I suggested to Nursanickel staff they not sell the rooms nearby. They were kind and accommodating as West Texans are and suggested I give him pickle juice. Jane Quirk suggested ibuprofen and rest. Sam asked for Pepsi and though I told him it was a bad idea, he drank it anyway and immediately shout/vomited it up.

So, like I said, Dalhart has a lot of good memories for me.

After two weeks in the mountains, you could blindfold me and I’d still know I’m back in Texas: 1. I’m sweating. 2. Our waitress called me Hon and 3. She laughed and said “raaaahht” when I made a joke.

God willing and tires don’t blow, we’ll roll back into town tomorrow.

On Cows and Rockets

Yesterday, Ranch Manager Greg asked Sam and me to move some cows for him. Then, I think as a favor, he grabbed my all time favorite ranch horse, Rocket, out of the pasture and tacked a shoe back on him for me. Most any horse will do, but for years, when there was cow work to be done on the ranch, Rocket was always my pick.

Here’s why.


Colorado cows don’t come to the bucket like Texas cows do. At least ours never did. Plus, the ranch is an obstacle course of hills, rivers, timber and bogs.

Sam and I are into the slow and easy method of moving herds, none of this galloping in, whistlin, and a hollerin’ nonsense you sometimes see in the movies.

But Rocket chomps at the bit – literally. Holding the herd, he glares at them and from the saddle you can hear him clacking and grinding his teeth. Rocket is cow horse to the bone.


A grey wall rolled in up ahead and lightning tore into the peaks to the north. So with our friend Deann helping, we began pushing about 50 mama cows and their calves down past our old house, over a couple hills and along the fence line toward the open gate.


As we got there, the cows balled up still not seeing the hole. I noticed a red horned cow that had led the rest of the girls pretty steadily from the lower pasture. She was eyeballing the creek and the wide open space on the other side of me. From the back Sam yelled, “watch that red cow, she’s a lead cow.”

Before I could even smile at the resurgence of Sam’s and my psychic cow working rhythms, Rocket spun, darted into the creek and punched that old, red cow back into the herd.

I didn’t even touch him.

This is why people buy foundation bred Quarter Horses and spend their lives showing them. It is incredibly fun when four brains – one bovine, one equine and two human – consider the same situation at precisely the same moment. It’s even more fun when the equine brain beats the human brain to doing something about it.

That’s why Sam does this.


No point to this post really, other than to say how grateful I am for fast horses, good cowboys and mountains without end.