I first met Winthrop resident Jackie Iddings in August 2000 — at the end of the 20th century. That sounds so long ago. Our mutual friend Carolyn Bronson, also from Winthrop, had invited both of us — along with an eclectic troupe — on a pack trip in the Hell Roarin’ country of Montana. What fun we had riding horseback in some of the most remote, wild backcountry of my home state (Carolyn’s, too).
Wildfire was a worry that year, as it is now every year. The outfitters had to rework their entire menu when campfires were banned just a day before the ride in. Scrambling to change the menu that could be prepared on a camp stove was challenging, but we were still well fed — just no Dutch oven delicacies.
We saw wolves, grizzly tracks, and reached the top of the Continental Divide. At the heart of the memorable trip was Jackie and her contagious joy of being on a horse in what truly could be dubbed “God’s Country.” Quick to laugh, full of capriciousness (yes, it’s a word), Jackie was a force of nature. She loved the horse the outfitter had assigned her so much that she bought him. Big, black Ebby came home to Winthrop and Jackie spent many a riding season on his back. (A trip to Stehekin with seven Methow Valley cowgirls and Jackie on Ebby — a story for another day!)
On Tuesday, July 25, Jackie turned 90 years old. She spent the day riding her beloved horse Lizzie from the North Summit Horse Camp on the Loup followed by a birthday party at the camp, organized by Michelle Schmidke of Methow Valley Backcountry Horsemen. Jackie’s comment was that this was her favorite group of people because of the shared love of animals — especially, horses.
Katharine Esty, an expert on aging well, wrote last year after interviewing several people in their 90s: “It seems people in their 90s have realized at long last that it is relationships that matter most. And, as the few people that have made it into their 90s, they know it is a waste of time to mull over regrets in the past or to worry about what may happen in the years ahead.” She ended her blog post with a quote attributed to Francis Bacon, “We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.”
Jackie Iddings has given us a positive glimpse of what life after 89 can be. In addition to horseback riding, she is an accomplished artist. Her contemporary oil paintings include landscapes and, of course, horses. Her unique home — that also houses her barn under the same roof — is a perfect setting along the Methow River for her artist studio. Staying active while aging is a healthy formula. Congratulations, Jackie!