Day 5: The Last Best Horse
It is time to subdue our final fear. I’ve never been atop an equine, and E.’s experience with riding involved a runaway horse sprinting down a hill and nearly killing her. With that in mind, the Paws Up staff has provided her with one of the resort’s tamest, smartest quarter horses, the amazing Guy, who tends to follow slowly behind his best friend, a Norwegian mountain horse with a beautiful black star on his forehead. I am given the slightly mediocre Fifty, with his chestnut complexion and propensity to snort at the world around him like some willful teenager.
Not being experienced in these things, I use my dog language: “Good boy, Fifty. Good boy. Who’s a good boy? You are!” The animal ignores me, gets distracted by a passing deer, and then charges up a hill like there’s not 140 pounds of quivering man atop him. While E.’s Guy carefully gauges the terrain, Fifty and I fall right through the melting snow, the horse’s belly grazing the ice. After half an hour of riding the beast I feel somewhat beleaguered. But E. has conquered her fear of horses.
On our last morning, while I’m still reeling from shotgun-recoil chest pain and horse prostate, a herd of elk comes running out, stage left, to fill our bedroom’s picture window with their elegant prancing, to complete the vista of snow and pine. Twenty elk does are in the thrall of a young buck, an alpha male who marches them around the clearing in back of our cabin and then whisks them off into the woods.
Outside, we walk past the little one-room, county-run schoolhouse where four boys, ages 4 to 12, are taught by one full-time teacher and a teacher’s aide. The schoolhouse was there before the Lipsons bought the property, and now it sits oddly amid the luxurious accommodations, with its diminutive red bell tower, kid-size basketball court, and the humble cars of its small staff. That’s the final piece of Montana I take back home with me to New York, a city where the sky knows its place, where it broods tiredly over our civilization, and where we pay it no heed.
The Resort at Paws Up; doubles from $940, including meals. The resort is open for the winter season from December 18 through February 15.