Friday, August 14, 2015


Sometime around age 6 or 7, my oldest decided that she loved horses.  She zeroed in on horse books, horse movies, horse toys.  When we moved to Montana, she got to spend a little time with friends who had horses, and she looked for every opportunity she could to spend more time with 4-legged, 1100 pound friends.

Three years ago, Keilana started third grade in Anaconda.  For the second time in less than a year, she was the new girl in class, and this time she didn't even have a few cousins around to soften the blow--she didn't know a soul at her new school, and neither did I.  True to form, she shed a few nervous tears on the way in, and, after I found her classroom with her, she cleared up her sniffles, put a smile on her face and said, "I'm OK," and left me with a smile.

She happened to meet a girl in her class who was also new to town, and they quickly discovered several common interests.  They got to be fast friends at school, and then, sometime in late fall, Keilana asked if she could spend the night at Leah's house.  I hadn't actually met any of her friends or their parents, and wasn't anxious to let my 8-year-old spend the night at anyone's house.  I talked to Leah's mom and got a good vibe and, somewhat trepidatiously, agreed to let my little girl go to the home of these people I'd never met.  I called her late that evening to check in, and she seemed her normal, almost-over-the-top happy-as-a-clam self, so I let go some of those nerves and went to sleep.  We still picked her up somewhat early the next day, and after our 5-minute-pick-up-on-our-way-out-of-town turned into a nearly hour long conversation with Leah's parents, I was pretty sure we'd made some great new friends.  Rick and Heather invited the family over several times during the fall and winter, and I was grateful all over again for Keilana's brave, outgoing nature.  Our little girls quickly became friends with Leah's younger sister, and Doug and I consider Rick and Heather some of our closest friends and favorite people here in Anaconda.  Keilana spends so much time over there that Rick has been known to introduce her to people as their "weekend daughter".

All along the way, they have happily indulged Keilana's love for horses along with all kinds of other fun activities and interests.  Last summer, we watched a few of Leah's activities for 4H at the tri-county fair, and Keilana decided with Doug and I that 4H would be a good investment of time for her, and we agreed to get started in the fall.  Heather offered to do some riding lessons with her to get her going on horse.

This week, Keilana beamed with delight at the fair:
She earned a blue ribbon for Showmanship, and a purple for Western Horsemanship.  It was one of the first times she's earned an award for something that required long term investment and hard work for more than a week or two, and it definitely felt good.  She's been a great student, but the truth is, Rick and Heather earned these ribbons, too.  They provided the training, the tack, and the horses.  Keilana was an attentive and hard-working student.  All we did was buy her a riding helmet and get her out there (and it seems like Heather or Rick picked her up half the time, too).  If you don't know much about horsemanship, suffice it to say that it is not an inexpensive hobby.  And this is far from the only generosity they've shown our family.  In the three years we've known them, they have consistently been kind, generous, fun and loyal friends.

The fact is, we have made a few friends here in Anaconda that are not only a delight to know, but that our life, as we're doing it, would be completely impossible without.  Next year by this time, I'll be fully licensed, and though I'll technically have another 2 semesters of school, 90% will be online.  At that point, I hope to be better at both paying back and paying forward at least a bit of the tremendous goodness that we've had in our lives the last few years.

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