From Dry Creek Springs: The Funeral of a Horseman | Chroniclers
The first thing I see every morning at 5:30 am are the brown eyes of my little dog staring at my soul from its perch on my chest. It is never necessary to have an alarm clock, except the first two days after daylight saving time or its reversal. I have no idea how she does it, but I’m pretty sure breakfast is the driving force.
The second thing is a photo hanging above my desk of a 70 year old man in a straw hat, a button-down denim shirt, Wranglers and rope boots, sitting astride a silver grulla horse. , hands crossed on the saddle horn. The photo was taken at the Moss Springs Campground above Cove, a few years before prostate cancer propelled the rider into eternity. I don’t remember the horse’s name, but the man was Dewie Lovelace, my pal and the origin of a bushel of campfire stories.
The first time I met Dewie, there were 13 of us living in a small group of log cabins in the mountains of the Salmon River in central Idaho where we were snow-capped from pizzerias and polite society. for six months a year. Five of the 13 were under 5 years old. Dewie lived in Snake River Country, eastern Oregon, but had a mining claim 10 miles from our camp.
I happened to be standing by the barn when Dewie showed up with the goat in the back of his old Dodge pickup. He introduced himself and introduced me to the goat. It was a fresh milker named Mandy that he had bought at auction for our children to have milk next winter. Dewie has always thought of children first. He announced that on Saturday night he was throwing corn fodder on his compound, so that we could bring what we had for a potluck or not, that there would be plenty of boiled corn for everyone, and maybe be commercial stock.
I think I witnessed 30 corn forages, the first 15 up in Idaho, the rest in Moss Springs after the Forest Service cracked down on recreational mining and had us demolish the cabin on their claim. . The format was pretty much the same at all. Dewie and his wife Carolyn brought three or four bags of fresh corn burlap from the Snake River Plains and a 10 gallon steel pot to boil over an open fire. There was always a table of salads, beans, hot dogs and buns, and too much beer.
Dewie was the consummate master of ceremonies. He paid attention to everyone and made sure the kids were having a safe time, especially during the business part of the stream, which was really a chance for Dewie to give some freebies. He was particularly fond of pocket knives, and many times I saw him push a small knife and hot dog sticks until a kid was interested in the knife, then he would trade it in for a shiny rock. or a crooked tree branch.
I’ve worked with people who are probably better cowboys than Dewie, but never someone who was a better rider. Like he said, he’s always had a few more horses than he could afford and about half the time you can be smarter than a horse, but you’ll never be stronger. When my daughter was 12 and spent most of her time drawing horses, Dewie showed up to the ranch where I worked and supported a sorrel quarter horse mare named Mary out of a two horse trailer, then handed my kid a few pieces of orange hay twine, saying she shouldn’t need much more grip than that and showed her how to fashion a hackamore from twine. Mary was the kind of child’s horse who would back up under the rider if she felt the child was in danger of falling.
Dewie called me 15 years ago and informed me that since I quit drinking I was no longer supposed to take a pint of whiskey out of his boot and pass it around at his funeral, but that he had bad news and cancer was getting the better of him, so I would build one of my little dovetail boxes for his ashes. I delivered it to him during our last corn meal. The following spring he was gone.
Her funeral was a potato-potato feeding affair in the grounds by the Cove Hot Springs Pool. After people had eaten Caroline waved to me and her grown children and we carried the little box up to a set of rocks above the park. We had no words to express our grief when we started to sprinkle Dewie’s ashes on a small cliff. Then a pack of 6-10 year olds spotted us and ran up the hill wondering what we were doing. Carolyn explained that we were returning Dewie to the earth. They asked if they could help. At the most fitting funeral I have attended, Dewie Lovelace was blown to the wind by the little hands that meant the most to him.
JD Smith is an accomplished writer and a jack of all trades. He lives in Athena.