I got to know Tate Jensen in a hailstorm two years ago. We were pushing a herd of cows into Range Creek when the sky suddenly went dark.
What started out as a flurry of ice pellets soon graduated into an avalanche of ball bearings. Everyone scrambled for rain slickers.
There's very little shelter in Range Creek and none atop a horse. But we had a herd to move. We kept riding while the hail grew in size.
Suffering is an inescapable part of life. I get that. But when suffering involves me, I refuse to keep quiet about it.
Riding along in the slop of mud, manure, ice and torn leaves, I complained at length about cows, the weather and the grudge Mother Nature seemed to bear us.
Tate looked over at me. On his wet face was the same easy-going expression he wore when the sun was shining on it 10 minutes ago. "It can't last forever," he said.
He had a point. I'd never seen weather that lasted forever. Five minutes later the sun was out.
It was the first of many things I learned while pushing cows with Tate, including:
• Never feed another man's working dog.
• You'll always lose a fight with a mule.
• Bear poop is a good sign that it's time to go the hell somewhere else.
But it was Tate's common-sense observation about the weather that stuck with me. Some things simply cannot be reasoned with, so don't bother.
From a life spent in the open, Tate had learned what some people never do: Everything in life is temporary, and when you have no say about it, the only thing you can do is put your head down and ride it out.
Human beings have a tendency to live entirely in the moment. That's why misery seems like it will last forever. So, too, do the things we take for granted. But nothing in this life lasts, including us.
On Sunday night, Tate was murdered at his home in Price. The details are still sketchy, but the easy-going cowboy I knew was shot to death over something so ridiculous that it will probably never be fully comprehended.
My own grief is barely tolerable. It pales in comparison to what Tate's family is going through. The mere thought of what his parents, Butch and Jeanie, are going through is almost more than I can stand.
In a few days, Tate will be laid to rest on the high plateau he loved. Meanwhile, life hasn't stopped for the rest of us. There's still a herd to move, a ranch to winterize and a thousand other things that need doing despite the emotional weather.
Grief can't last forever, either. The paralyzing sorrow will lessen over time, becoming more manageable. Eventually, the storm will lift a bit and we'll be able to smile again when we miss him. Until then, we keep moving.
Tate Jensen. 1980-2011. Ride out.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/notpatbagley.