Becoming an Apprentice Wrangler at Horseback Outfitter in Utah | Field & Stream

A Sportsman's Life

Competence is overrated

Going West

My daughter is carving out a new life for herself in Utah

utah, emma heavey, horse outfitter

Emma says her office (above) is cooler than mine.

By Emma Heavey

My daughter is in Utah working as an apprentice wrangler at a horseback outfitter that has been taking people into the backcountry for 43 years. It’s a dream job for Emma, who loves horses and is quickly falling in love with the West. It’s a dream job for any parent who wants his child to learn how to work hard and be independent and accountable, and feel that she can do things she had only ever dreamt of. This is the best summer job I could have wished for for her.

There is a certain local boy, Cody, who is a bareback bronc rodeo champ and who, at 18, has just turned pro. He wants to take her to a rodeo and is generally paying her more attention than a father might want. But he sounds like a gentleman and has already introduced her to his mom, who is delighted that he has finally met a girl who actually knows something about rodeoing. “Mostly, he’s brought home city girls, who are clueless.”

Emma’s working 10- to 12-hour days, occasionally getting homesick, and getting the kind of sunburns that only a redhead who doesn’t listen to her father can. She’s also having the time of her life. I can already hear the increased confidence in her voice that comes only from doing things she once never considered possible.

She’s also learning the other side of the gun ownership. She texted me: “Not knowing about guns in the past really changed my perspective on them. Now I’m around ranchers and people who carry them in their trucks and rely on them to protect livestock. Cody carries what he calls a ‘ranch rifle’ in his truck but said he’d take it out if it bothers me. I told him it was fine. And it really is. Guns never really bothered me, but I didn’t think about them much. Everybody uses them here, is around them all the time, and is okay with that. So I feel okay. And it’s clear that nobody would think of using one in a crime. Now that I know more about who carries them and why, they bug me even less. Mom’s side of the family all live in cities and think nobody should own a gun, that it’s just stupid and wrong. I just change the subject when they start in on me. The truth is that these are incredibly friendly, responsible people. They welcomed me as soon as they knew I was here. The letter carrier even brought me cookies!”

I’m determined to get out there while she’s still working to see her brave new world.

Heavey is the writer of Field & Stream’s popular backpage column, A Sportsman’s Life. He loves to deer hunt, hoard gear, and irritate David E. Petzal. ... Continued

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