Jillian Lukiwski, also known as The Noisy Plume, describes herself as a gregarious hermit, bohemian redneck, silversmith, and photographer and writer in the interior West. As Father’s Day approaches, we reached out to her to describe her memories of the outdoors formed with her Dad, who worked in the National Parks of Canada when she was growing up.
My father and I trailer two horses to Birdtail Bridge. I am six years old. We ride into a backcountry camp so my father can check on some hikers. When we arrive, I can see they are romanced by his mustache, uniform and tall sorrel gelding. They are also obviously charmed by me, perched like a tenacious burr on my palomino.
I dismount and walk around to stretch my legs. My father completes his official park business and asks me if I am ready to go. I am. I begin to monkey my way back into my saddle which requires climbing up my saddle strings until I can get a foot in a stirrup and swing over. Part of the way through this gymnastic routine, a hiker asks if I require assistance and I politely decline. It’s a matter of pride at this point and I am determined. Once my seat is firmly located we turn our horses and make our way out of the meadow while waving good bye. The plough winds of a sudden thunderstorm threaten to sweep me away because I am little and light as a feather. My father decides we need to hurry to the bridge, where our truck and trailer wait, and escape the fury of the storm. He looks back and says, “Ready? Hold on tight.”
I grip my saddle horn with all my might and our horses begin to fly. We fly through boreal forest at a gallop. Birch, spruce and aspen pat me on my arms and back as we pass through, wildflowers turn to pulp beneath churning hooves. I lean low to avoid being swept off by low branches. We leap logs. The thunder is everywhere and I am riding something like lightning.
My father does not look back to see if I am still with him, still sitting on my running horse while the storm attempts to tear me away. I am cold and wet and the horses keep running. When we reach Birdtail Bridge it is hailing and the storm terrifies me. We load the horses and begin the drive back to Sugarloaf Warden Station where it sits on the boundary of Riding Mountain National Park; we begin towards home.
When I think of my dad, I think of this ride and many other horseback patrols I survived by his side. I think of how he never treated me as though I was incapable or delicate. He raised me under a banner of tough love. He expected me to keep up and so I did. Now I am a grown woman and I am capable of many things which is what I believe he wanted for me, all along.