Fieldnotes – A Man on Horseback

I had heard about Randy Rieman from three or four people before I decided to go down to visit him at his Pioneer Mountain Ranch, north of Dillon, Montana. Mostly, I had heard that he was a really nice guy, and that he had a sort of preternatural gift with horses.

The nice guy part turned out to be true. As for the horse part: I have no reason to doubt it. However, to hear Randy tell it, he’s just a fellow who has a bit of experience with horses, but who’s still trying to figure them out.

One thing that did become clear from my visit to Randy is that horses are at the center of his life. Part of that, as he unabashedly admits, is that he is in love with the romance associated with horses and horsemanship. This is what he told me: “From the time I was a small child, I had a crazy, romantic interest in the West, an interest that just didn’t wane. Anything having to do with horses, and with people who rode horses for a living. And when I came west at 17, reality was introduced to the mythology.”

The reality – of hard work, and long days, and periods of isolation – didn’t make the romance disappear for Randy. On the contrary, it seemed to strengthen it. My sense of Randy is that he is most comfortable in that border region where mythology butts up against hard work. That also seems to be where most of his poetry originates. On that subject, he says: “You want to talk to a cowboy poet? Go talk to Wally McRae or Paul Zarzyski. Those guys are the real deal.”

So is Randy Rieman.

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