Two things were clear from the start.
First, we would spend the rest of our lives together.
There was never any question about that.
Second, I was not remotely ready to get married.
There was even less disagreement on that.
My ever wayward – and increasingly continent hopping - cowhand career (which by then had little to do with cows other than eating them) at that time still took precedence over my nascent (and fully unremunerated) writing career.
So while our increasingly… adventuresome… adventures were becoming rather lucrative, I had - without realizing it - made a decision not to live off that money, but to instead only use my share to finance further cowboy adventures to fuel my dopamine-starved brain.
Despite this stubbornness and male pride, though, she still hung in there with me and patiently waited until I would feel financially capable of providing for her in ways that did not involve liberating stolen airplanes from foreign governments or riding shotgun on diamond shipments along the Orinoco.
Finally, though, one day Lance, as head cowboy, decided to take matters into his own hands and decided he was going to make an honest cowhand of me whether I wanted to be one or not. So shortly before Christmas, he announced he would marry us himself in a cowboy wedding and gave us – and everyone else – 48 hours to make arrangements.
I foolishly tried to challenge his authority on this, but Lance reminded me if a captain of a ship was entitled to marry couples, then as the captain of our ship of horses he certainly could.
Two days later on Christmas eve, in all my finest cowhand finery, I marched down an aisle in the middle of a corral lined with all the others in their newly shined, polished, groomed, and tailored cowboy suits, boots, hats and spurs. Plus each of our personal horses was also in attendance, all of them tacked out within an inch of their lives. Said horses also shortly created considerable unintentional – or more likely – intentional – humor as our horses did all the usual things that horses are often wont to do when around other horses.
Then in a brilliant stroke that displayed his true evil genius, Lance had dragooned my ever faithless horse - Mr. D - into being the ring bearer, and Mr. D trotted down the aisle after me with his teeth holding a box with the rings that would symbolize my loss of freedom though eternal bridledom. (And with all the attention given my bride and my horse, if I hadn't shown up – no one would have noticed – or cared)
Fortunately, D did not mistake the five carats of the ring (and as we were being paid in diamonds, size was no object) for real carrots, otherwise we would have had a wedding delay while we waited for the ring to reappear.
And, speaking of dodged bullets, with Bach as my best man since Lance was performing the ceremony – (and if there was ever anyone born to host a bachelor party, it was Bach since his nickname was short for… bachelor) it was a miracle any of us had the energy left to make it to the wedding.
Then when it finally came time to close the ceremony, Lance nodded his head as he announced I could kiss my bride and exactly as those words came from his mouth – my horse gently nudged me towards my bride with his nose – to the collective vocal approval of all those in attendance.
And so I was completely upstaged not just once, but twice at my own wedding by my own horse.
Then, after kissing my bride (after which she gave my Benedict Arnold of a horse both a hug and a kiss), I had the seriously mitigated pleasure of watching all the others embrace and kiss my new wife under my watchful eye – when Lance came over and announced this ceremony was his early Christmas present to me.
But just before I could properly thank him, for a moment I saw that look of incredible sadness in his eyes, the look he had when his thoughts turned to his wife and his son.
And when he saw me reacting to his momentary mood, he turned on his easy grin and reached over and gave me a ‘friendly squeeze’ on my shoulder – which left black and blue finger imprints all over my shoulder for a full week. And between the knee weakening pain and his grin, he had changed the mood and the subject.
But now looking back, I wonder if Lance somehow, or in some way knew that in all too short a time, we would all gather together again, but this time to celebrate a life that had far too soon ended before laying her to rest on the ridge where Lance’s wife and son already lay in wait for us.