I have been working on this post for months now. It's not easy.
When Juanita and I moved up to Allenspark to run the lodge in December of 1997, one of our goals was to own horses. The Allenspark Lodge is right across the street from what was billed as Colorado's oldest, continuously run riding livery. (It opened in the late 1800's renting burro's for rides in the mountains.) We hoped that would help us learn about horses and gain some experience with horses before buying our own. The first year the livery was run by Chris, and we learned some good stuff about horses.
On the second year, Bucky took over managing the livery.
Now Bucky was a unforgettable character. If you spent much more that 10 minutes with him, you would remember. Up-front. Outgoing. Funny. All "old west cowboy". He could tell you a story that you knew could not possibly be true, and then bring in a witness to verify the story as true. I know, because sometimes, I was the witness and had done that $#!T with him.
He became an integral part of our lives and our family. Our kids and our grand kids all had favorite Bucky stories.
Miles Buckley,"Bucky" to his friends (and everyone else) was born a little over 65 years ago in Maine. His parents were not poor, and I believe they expected great things from their son. Doctor, lawyer, politician. Something along those lines. But from the time he was a small child, he wanted to be a cowboy.
And he never outgrew the desire.
When we met he had a small acreage outside Nogales Arizona. He lived there with wife number 4, and he was coming up alone to Colorado during the summer to escape the heat, and probably his wife. The first year he came up here he ran the Wild Basin Lodge Livery. (Juanita and I ran that one for about 30 years one summer a few years back.) The next year he ran the livery across the street from us in Allenspark. We developed an unexpectedly close friendship. That may have had something to do with the fact I had a liquor license and sold beer...
The next summer, Bucky tipped his hat goodbye to 'ol number 4 and rode up to Colorado on horseback. He had one saddle horse, and one untrained 2 year old Mexican mustang that he broke to ride on the trail. He rode from right at the Mexican border to the middle of Colorado in 9 weeks. No support team, no cell phone, no GPS (I'm not sure the army was allowing civilian use of the satellite system yet), just him and his horses and a compass. He had lost about 20 pounds by the time he got here in April. He made me take him into town to buy some tennis shoes. "I'm DONE with these boots." he said.
Over the following years we gave each other support or grief, depending on the circumstances. We knew each others strengths and weaknesses and would respond accordingly. I knew he was afraid of electricity, so if I saw him working on an outlet or switch, I would sneak up behind him and CLAP loudly by his ear. He'd jump out of his skin, and I'd laugh. But then, he knew I was afraid of heights so when I was challenging myself and looking off a cliff during a rest stop one ride, he snuck up behind me and grabbed my shoulders. I got to ride home in soiled underwear. Jerk.
Bucky introduced Juanita and I to our first horses. He had a friend at a livery in Estes Park that wanted to
|Bill, Juanita--------Bucky, 'Ol Number 5|
When asked about the wife he left behind, Bucky would say "Wives are like fence-posts. You just go on a little further, and you'll find another." Well, Number 5 found him. Andrea stayed married to him longer than all of the others combined, I think. Which was something of a surprise. One time he came over for a beer (or 3) and when Juanita asked how Andrea was doing. He suddenly leapt up shouting "Oh no!" and ran out the door. Turns out that as Andrea had dislocated a knee-cap in a horse related accident, she needed help getting into and out of the shower. He forgot her. For an hour or more. The hot water had run out LONG before he remembered her. Sitting on a short shower stool and not QUITE being able to turn the water off.
A number of my blogs featured Bucky, sometimes under an alias such as "Cowboy" or "Ham".
Vacation, Another vacation, Work related.
Early last January when Juanita and I went to pick up Alloy the mustang from the San Diego area, we stopped at Bucky and Andreas' ranch in southern Arizona both going out and coming back. It was a nice, if short, couple of couple day visits.
Then, about a month and a half later we got a call from Andrea. Bucky had gone into the doctors' office complaining of shortness of breath and thought he might have pneumonia.
Turns out he had cancer.
In his lungs, his liver, his stomach, his bones, all stage 4.
The VA hospital made a good faith effort, but there wasn't much that could be done, really.
Bucky had a group of riders scheduled to ride in Monument Valley in northern Arizona/southern Utah from mid to late April, but he was in no shape to take the rides out. So I filled in for him. I stopped by his place and visited with Andrea and Bucky before picking up their horses and heading up north for a couple of weeks. He did not look good. He had lost probably 30 pounds in the 2 months since I had seen him. Two weeks later when I brought the horses back, he was completely bed ridden and home bound.
On May 30th, I got that phone call from Andrea. Bucky had passed away.
They had a ride scheduled in Colorado for July, so Andrea brought up the horses, and Juanita and I took out the rides.
Yesterday, after the guests had gone, Andrea and I took our horses up into the mountains just out of town and sat on a hill top and toasted Bucky with some good, aged, single malt scotch.
"Thanks for the time you spent with us, Bucky. You will be missed."
Ranger had carried his ashes up with us in his saddle bags.
I got him to ride Ranger after all.