August had been magical. Except for the fires. There were at least three that started in the general vicinity the Bobcat fire came from, and at least two very large fires in the north. How could you forget something like that in the space of a year? Because the Bobcat fire.
Redbird Ranch sits in a bowl, surrounded by hills and peaks, at the end of a campground road. The terrain offers seclusion, and absolutely no way to see a fire coming except by the smoke. And there had been so much smoke already.
The fire broke out around 1 PM on a hot holiday weekend. September 6, if memory serves. Grace and Skye were indoors. Grace was on a creative whirlwind, and she'd gotten the idea to create sets of show ring and barn topiary. But not just a few sets. Her goal was fifty sets. Painting the pottery was so much fun and it was something Skye could easily be included in.
People stopped in throughout the day. There was a general consensus that the fire was not a threat, at least not yet. The smoke plume loomed large in the sky but so had the plumes from other fires. This one, though...somehow this one looked just a little more menacing.
In the evening the color emanating from the fire was concerning. Had the other fires given off this intense glow? It seemed so close. Then someone messaged a link to the Mount Wilson Observatory web camera. Now, why no one from Redbird Ranch had thought of that is kind of a mystery. The cameras mounted on the telescope show real time data to the public 24/7. It should have been the first thing that we checked. But that's the trouble with these kinds of events. You don't always think straight. One look at the fire from the web cam and there was no more waffling about what to do. Evacuation procedures began.
It was midnight when we left the mountain. Rounding the last corner of the campground road, we were confronted by flames less than a mile away. In addition to horses, cameras, electronic items and art, there was a young dog four days out of a major surgery, a sixteen year old dog, a great big healthy dog, and two cats that didn't travel well. It was hot. And the wall of flames stretched to our eastern flank for a full five miles. It was surreal. The urge to stop and take pictures was strong...but the animals. They were already suffering with the heat, the stress, and the very obvious problem. Their forest was on fire. For as far as they could see.
Only one picture remains from the day of the fire. There were many more. There was video. Somehow, in the month-long evacuation, in the extreme heat, the young dog developing a ghastly, growing flesh wound that turned out to be third degree burns from the heating pad used during surgery and other stressors too numerous to mention, the images were lost. All but one. This is what the fire looked like from Redbird Ranch just several hours after it started.
Grace's honeymoon phase was over.
It was a magical time. Early mornings the weather was beautiful. Grace spent nearly every bit of daylight getting to know the horses of Redbird Ranch. She had a particular affinity for Spanish horses. One of the first she came across was La Barilla, a deep golden palomino horse thought to be a direct descendant of a Spanish herd (probably Lusitano) of buckskin and palomino horses that roamed free in the central valley of California until the early 1900s.
There were new arrivals too, and she worked with all of them. Some had well documented training. Others not so much. She was a fair judge of a horse's mind and could pretty quickly figure out who was going to make a great riding partner.
She was also making an important shift for the Ranch itself. The horses represented the owner's lifelong obsession with equines, but not much of a business plan. Grace was there to make some sense of it. Some of these horses had performance competition potential. Some of them were languishing and there were probably better homes for them elsewhere, where they would get more attention. Grace envisioned a stud farm - because indeed, there were some fine stallions in the mix - and to gradually move toward a breeding operation with a competitive performance division.
There was just one problem. There may have been large number of horses, but there was exactly one western saddle rig. It did not fit everybody. And while Grace could ride pretty much whatever you put in front of her, she preferred a western saddle over bareback riding.
It wasn't too long before a couple packages arrived. Maddie Kelley Miller sent some barn essentials. Rachel Mitchell of Trail's End Studio sent everything but a new saddle.
Skye was still a bit shy, following Grace about at a respectful distance. That Grace, she was busy, kind but a little preoccupied with the huge responsibility she had taken on. Skye did note that the ranch dogs were taking a liking to her, so Grace must be a good human.
Skye hails from Oregon. She lived with Kristen Lewis for a spell before coming to Redbird Ranch. She is native, but her exact ancestry is unclear. She has been in foster care and has little recollection of her early youth. She went from Oregon to California to Massachusetts, where Anne Field worked with her. When she came back from the Field residence, she had new clothes, a new hairdo, and she was no longer wearing ridiculous amounts of make up. Most importantly, she returned smiling, healthy and happy. Anne is a professional in both special needs child care and textile arts, and the work she did with Skye was amazing.
Years ago at a powwow I was honored by a gentleman of the Her Many Horses family. Traveling to the powwow, they had found a deceased red tailed hawk. It had been hit by at least one vehicle and was not the most lovely road kill specimen. They gifted it to me because that is the medicine I wear. I was so honored. They were traditional people and I have never forgotten their kindness. I always wanted to repay it somehow. But how. I never saw them again. So Skye will honor that name, her given name, as she explores what it means to be indigenous...but indigenous without relations.
Skye has a number of favorite horses, including Deer Medicine and Precious. Deer Medicine (Angelica Nelson) is an anglo-barb (Thoroughbred and Spanish Barb type mustang) with a colt, Cloud Medicine (Corina Roberts) who frequently tags along on rides. Precious (Thomas Bainbridge) was gifted to Redbird Ranch by Laurel Dedes. She is a kind, sensible mare. Skye fell in love with her right away.
Skye is passionate and loyal. If she takes a liking to you...dog, horse or human...you become a part of her, a relative, a relation. She will care for you and look out for you as best as she can.
Grace Little came to Redbird Ranch in August of 2020. She is the first and only professional rider and manager to address a fairly substantial collection of horses which had previously been shown as halter horses only. Bringing Grace on board opened the door for competing in western performance.
When Grace arrived, she found she was not alone. Skye Her Many Horses had already been here for a while. Skye took a liking to Grace immediately.
There were so many horses to get to know. Grace had the task of evaluating all of them, selling some, training others, choosing the horses most suited for western competition and ranch work. Skye would watch from a respectful distance.
Then one day in late August, Grace got on a mare named Cookie - a trained cutting and reining horse, with nothing more than a rope around her neck, and starting working cattle with her. Skye had never seen anything like that. She was mesmerized.
Hi, my name is Corina, the official story teller for Grace and Skye. Grace owes her beauty, style and charm to Anne Field, Field of Dolls. Skye does too, for that matter, as Anne fostered her for a while, giving Skye a complete makeover in the process. The horses, dogs, cats, saddles, bridles, furniture and so forth are the work of many artists. I'll do my best to acknowledge them as we go from day to day.
This is the ongoing, unfolding story of grace little, manager of redbird ranch, and her little sister, skye her many horses