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An Interns Life at Horseworks WyomingGuest Ranch visitor and Intern Katrina
I wanted a chance to really experience what life on a fully working ranch in America was all about – the good, the bad and the ugly!! by Katrina the Cowgirl - England

A search on the Internet led me to which offered just what I had been searching for – a Wrangler Internship where for four weeks I could learn by active participation in all the ranch activities.  The chance to learn from a character such as the owner, Nate Brown, a life long cowboy, horse trainer and story-teller is also a gift that cannot be bought.

I soon learned that life on a ranch starts before daybreak and continues until the chores are done – but what a way to spend a day!  Watching the sun rise over the hayfield and set to a stunning red sky over the mountains, helping work with the young horses, gaining invaluable horsemanship experience from the many different types of horses available, and the unforgettable trail rides that wind through a landscape straight out of an old western movie! The scenery is just breathtaking and is brought further to life by Nate’s knowledge of the landscape and the fascinating and often amusing stories behind it and of the people who have lived, worked in and loved Wyoming.

The frequent chance to partake in real cattle drives when Nate and MaeCile’s neighbours need a helping hand is another activity that I will cherish forever.  From this time on the smell of sage will remind me of days in the saddle, working with my horse pushing cows along valleys and over mountains covered with sagebrush.The unpredictable element of being an Intern on HorseWorks’ working ranch, beyond that created by working with livestock, arises with the arrival of new guests each week.  Especially when they are from all over the US, as well as from China, Poland, Italy – and Norway.  My confidence as the “old-timer” on the ranch grew with each passing week and each new experience. 

But the surprises escalated when the Norwegians arrived – twelve strong – with professions varying from veterinarian, to mechanic, to attorney, to farmer, to electrician, naming only a few.  At the first night’s Sunday supper with the Norwegians, Nate’s wife MaeCile Brown, mentioned casually, but with seriousness warranted by their size and strength, that Nate’s grandmother’s late-1800s homesteader cabin had been disassembled two years earlier and lay waiting to be reassembled in a more prominent location prior to being buried under immanent winter snows.  The next morning at breakfast, the leader of their group said, Norway group with Nate and MaeCile Brown“We discussed it and decided to rebuild the cabin.” The excitement was palpable as we rode for four days and MaeCile prepared the materials for the big reconstruction to take place Thursday afternoon – this would be a dream come true. 
As official photographer of the process, I marveled at the teamwork of twelve men who did not know each other that well prior to this trip, who brought their strengths to bear on a single project and found joy in the process of working and pride in the quality of the result. As we sat around the cabin Saturday night before the Norwegian’s departure on Sunday, Nate’s  words expressed his deep gratitude.  “I never thought I would see this cabin up again.” 

The walls around us seemed to inspire the stories that Nate (keep in mind that he is eighty-four years young himself) told of his grandmother, how she lived in this small cabin, arose to make breakfast each morning while he and his mother went to milk the cows, how one morning she said she felt tired and would not make breakfast that day, how when they returned from milking to see how she was feeling, she had quietly passed away.  Certainly, her spirit still lived within those walls as we sat on benches along the walls and listened as Nate recounted stories of starting young horses, his mother accompanying him on a broke horses as he rode them outside the corrals for the first time, the three times in his life he was killed and refused to die, the poems he recited of his own writing and the songs he sang.

One of my favorite Nate Brown poems was written for the knee-replacement surgeon whom Nate said instilled confidence in him because he had a little horse manure on his boots.  Here was
a surgeon who would replace his knees with artificial joints capable of keeping him horseback, a surgeon who understood that being on a horse was synonymous with a life worth living, that no less result of the surgery was acceptable.  Otherwise, he would tolerate the pain and forgo the surgery. 
While I cannot duplicate the tones of Nate’s voice, the words speak for themselves to anyone who has ridden so many hours in the saddle the his knees take the shape of his horse:

I’ve spent most of eighty-four years horseback,
Which counts up to a lot of rides,
And after a while my legs
Just kind of molded around their sides.
If there’d been such a thing as a bow-leg’d king,
I would have worn the crown.
When I stood up in the bow-legged contest,
Them other ol’ duffers just sat back down!
Then the shock absorbers plum wore out
And rubbing bone on bone
It got so every time I took a step
I had to stop and groan.
Then I met a man from Mesa.
Larry Sanders was his name.
Oklohoma hills were his home range.
Orthopedics was his game.
He said, “I’ll cut those hind legs off
A little below the hock
And when I put them on again
Painless you will walk.”
He said, “And when I put them on
‘Bout three degrees knock kneed
You’ll find it will do wonders
For your stamina and speed.”
I said, “We may have a problem here,
Thought you know best of course.
Could you put ‘em three degrees toward bowed
For hangin’ on a horse?”
Larry said, “I swear, your horse won’t care,
But if he dare complain,
Just hit him down the hind leg
And give him lots of rein.”
So now tis done; I ride, I run,
I trip the light fantastic
On ball joints made of stainless steel
And sockets made of plastic.
My legs are sturdy specimens
Of power and stability
I can dance from dark ‘til dawn
Or ‘til they close the facility
And I must say, it’s really great
To have all this agility
But it raises a situation
That destroys my credibility,
For when I step out on the stage
To tell these cowboy tales
And talk about the horses I’ve rode
Up and down the trails,
Each cowboy in the audience
Just nudges his date and say,
“This ol’ boy ain’t rode that much.
His legs is bent the wrong way!”

Horse babiesMy last morning at HorseWorks was reserved for the activity I came to love for the rush of adrenalin -- wrangling the horses.  Of the times we trailed horses to and from pasture or rounded up the herd and trailed them to the corrals for vet days, my favorite was the afternoon we trailed the saddle horses from cow camp in the high country back to the ranch headquarters, over mountains where the scenery took my breath away.  If I had had my camera, I probably would have lost it at the pace we traveled, but the best photos are the ones in my mind.  I felt transported back to the old days, isolated in a long-gone era when trailing the remuda was one cowboy’s full-time job.  Time is told by the sun, and as we arrived with the horses at our destination for a shower and a hot meal, the sun set on a truly fulfilling and satisfying day.

An intern’s life at Horseworks Wyoming is not for those who prefer the pampered comfort of a dude ranch, but because of this you able to live for a while in a little piece of horse lovers heaven, meet many fascinating people, learn invaluable skills from the friendly locals and if you truly want to work towards earning the title of ‘cowboy’ or ‘cowgirl’, then Nate & MaeCile offer you that honour….

Katrina the Cowgirl - England
Knocked Kneed Cowboy © Nate Brown

Contact: Nate or MaeCile Brown
3520 Grass Creek Rd
Grass Creek, Wyoming 82443
Phone: 877-807-2367

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