February is NaMoPaiMo...National Model Painting Month, an anticipated tradition recently begun by Jennifer Bray Buxton on Facebook. There are thousands of followers from all over the world and for Grace and Skye, this would be their second year participating. But February was full of other happenings also.
Holding the art theme for a moment, one of the first NaMo surprises was when the boss decided to loan a piece of artwork to the girls as an inspiration for them. That piece was none other than Rayvin Maddock's Little Bucker resin, painted by the incredible Meredith Warren. It was inspiring, yes...but also intimidating, especially for Grace. Grace had sold her first ever custom horse and first NaMoPaiMo project before it was complete; the next horse she painted went on to win a contest. Her prize was the horse she'd chosen to paint for NaMoPaiMo, a mustang stallion by Kitty Cantrell. But this time Grace did not find success easily. The resin had a ton of prep work needed, and she was painting in acrylics for the first time. It was hard. All of it. She struggled with the details, with the paint itself, with how difficult it is to blend acrylics.
Skye would struggle also, using the kitchen sink approach to painting a vinyl Arabian model sculpted by Deborah McDermott. But her struggles were somehow...lighter. She did intend to sell this horse...that would make her feel like a real artist...but she was loose and experimental every step of the way. She used acrylics, oils, pastels, colored pencils, mica powders...if you could make a colorful mark with it, she tried it.
And there was the indoor arena near Chilao School. Grace was participating on its creation on many levels, including procuring the major elements. The bulk of the structure was made from recycled materials, which sounds very romantic, but in practice, it can be a lot of work to cobble together elements that are warped or stiff with age, or have been coated with who knows what. At one point the girls even used a draft horse to haul some heavy lumber...but without a fitting saddle or proper harness, the weight of the wood proved tough on Grace's shoulder.
All the while, in the controlled burn area, the grass was poking its way through the blackened soil and moisture lingered in the seasonal streams. And all of this brought the wild horses. It was a rare and fleeting time of plenty. When the girls weren't painting or sleeping, they were trekking through soggy soot to find the horses. And it was on one of these adventures, on the thirteenth of February on one of the most beautiful days in the world ever, that Grace turned Skye's world all around.
"We have to change your name."
Skye did not see that one coming.
"Your given name" Grace explained. "Her Many Horses."
"When the boss lady gave you that name in honor of the family members she had met, I don't think she had any idea what a prominent family name she gave you. Just out of curiosity I poked around this morning on Facebook. That is an Oglala Lakota family name. and that family is very much alive and active."
Grace paused for a moment. The sooty black soil was yet unstable, and she needed to focus on keeping her balance.
"The women in the family are very strong. In fact one of them was recently the head woman for the Gathering of Nations powwow. That's the biggest powwow in the world. And the name is one word. Hermanyhorses. All together."
"Am I in trouble?"
"Not yet. And it wouldn't be you in trouble anyway. But we need to never use the name again."
Skye fell silent. The sun was warm and glorious and the grass was greening and the rocks felt warm against her hands. She tried to stay in the present. It was a beautiful day. Even if they didn't find any horses. And even if now she had no name again.
Then Skye thought she heard a noise behind them.
"Did you hear that?"
Grace and Skye spun around. The horses had found them. Crazy and his herd. Crazy pawed and postured and made it incredibly clear they were not welcome visitors. He is small, and tough, and somehow magnificent. The girls braced themselves against the rocks, waiting quietly for Crazy to go back to his herd.
They saw the mare they called Lady Godiva...and beyond her, a surprise.
Slowly, quietly, they made their way closer.
The quiet mare had a foal by her side. A red foal, perhaps a chestnut sabino, perhaps a red roan or a strawberry roan. Skye imagined it was a filly, but she couldn't be sure.
"That foal must of been born right after the last time we saw them" Grace whispered.
They watched the herd. Crazy was vigilant. Lady Godiva seemed to be a very diligent auntie, keeping an eye on the your one as if it were her own. Skye was absorbed in the moment. She'd forgotten all about the name thing.
"So" Grace continued as the herd retreated slowly to higher ground, "I'm going to name you."
"Little. From here forward you are Skye Little. That's a perfectly respectable name."
Skye pondered her new name for a moment.
"That's...your name...so...so we're sisters now for sure."
Skye felt her arms turn like chicken skin even though the sun was awfully warm. She'd lost a name and gotten a new one and more or less been adopted, all in the space of a few minutes.