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Hauling Horses to Utah

Published: 10/16/2013
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

A few days ago, the lofty plan to move to Utah assumed the very real form of three trucks pulling out of Swisher, Iowa and heading west. Read more about why we headed to Utah.

Day One

With my dogs riding shotgun, I took the lead, pulling four horses in our gooseneck stock trailer. Brothers Bill and Steve Kueter followed with the pony and mule in their bumperpull. Steve Peters held up the rear in his SUV.

It was barely dawn as we pulled onto Interstate 80. The highway here is straight, flat, and fast. For one stretch of 72 miles, it doesn’t deviate left or right by more than a yard.

While at the wheel, I spent the day reminiscing about good times in the Hawkeye state. We met some fine folks and explored some beautiful country. Read more. Watch video.

Our humble convoy crossed Nebraska uneventfully and around sunset we pulled into Big Springs (population 406), near the Colorado border.

The horses seemed happy for solid ground. They rolled, drank, and dug into flakes of hay. We headed up the highway to the only motel around, across the state line in Julesburg, Colorado.

In another week, said the front desk lady at the Platte Valley Inn, we wouldn’t have gotten a room. That’s when bird season starts and the place fills with upland game hunters.

Her comment helped explain the curious sign in each room, admonishing guests: “Do Not Clean Birds in Room!”

Day Two

The next day started beautifully calm. The horses loaded without fuss and again we drove with the sun rising behind us.
My mom is a photographer who lived in Montana for 10 years. She always said the light plays differently here than back East.
It’s not easy to describe, but easy to see, especially on a clear morning like this one.

Tension soon replaced calm for me as we reached Interstate 80’s highest point of 8,640 feet and started the descent into Laramie, Wyoming. New England hauling offered no good preparation for the Rockies. With the weight of four horses in tow, I felt like a feeble security officer, trying to keep a football team from rushing the stage.

Fog, freezing temperatures, and heavy semi traffic only heightened my anxiety.

But we managed.

The country, which James Galvin celebrated in his book, The Meadow, was just as he described it - stark, beautiful, and nearly uninhabited. Read a small anecdote from The Meadow.

By the afternoon of our second day, we had 1,000 miles behind us. The big climb and curvy descent into Salt Lake City lay ahead and I was more than willing to let my friend, Bill, take over the driving.

Splendid dirt and stone rainbows

I’ve spent summers and winters out West, but never autumn. The landscape - dotted with yellow scrub oaks, cedars, junipers and aspens - is as spectacular as any New England panorama. Here, though, the exposed geologic formations add another brilliant dimension. They reveal layers of reds, browns, yellows, and greys and add splendid dirt and stone rainbows.

We wove through the Salt Lake City and Provo traffic to land in Payson, a town of 20,000 in Utah Valley.
At West Field’s Ranch, we settled the horses into their temporary digs.

That Utah idea?

Like a phrase written in beach sand, that Utah idea just got washed away by a big wave of reality.

We’re here. We're here!

To Utah from Maddy Butcher Gray on Vimeo.

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10/16/2013 Missy
OMG, Maddy! You're such a gypsy :-) Did you tell us why the big move and I missed it? Can't wait for tales from Utah. So cool.
10/16/2013 Chake Higgison, Brunswick
Maddy, You really are taking the saying, Life is a journey not a destination to its fullest. Thanks for sharing and reflecting . Look forward to more photos and notes. And happy trails. Our two old guys are doing well at 32 and 22 all things considered. Just hoping winter won't be hard one. Should be wonderful with the dry fluffy snow of Utah. Ciao Chake

"A horse doesn't care how much you know until he knows how much you care." - Pat Parelli