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Tracy Frank, Published April 17 2014

Sisters bond over shared love of horseback riding

FARGO - Horseback riding was an important part of growing up for the Speikermeier sisters. Paul and Ardys Spiekermeier’s daughters Ann Geiszler, Mary Bartholomay, Polly Lindemann and Beth Lange spent hours exploring with their horses, riding in parades and sneaking out of the house for midnight rides.

“It made for a lot of good memories,” said Bartholomay, 64, of Fargo.

They said riding together helped form a bond between them that’s lasted into adulthood. Their sisterhood is very special to them, Lindemann said, and has supported them through tragedies over the years.

Though, up until this past February, they hadn’t ridden together in more than 40 years.

Almost by chance, they all ended up in Arizona at the same time to visit Geiszler. They decided to rent horses from Saddle Up Ranch and go for a two-hour ride along the San Tan Creek area.

“It was a very special time, and I think we all knew it,” Bartholomay said.

Lindemann, who lives near Enderlin, N.D., and still rides often, had ridden at the ranch before and arranged for the ride.

Geiszler decided to have her sisters pose for a photo on their horses. She was very specific about which order they had to be in, but she wouldn’t tell them why.

When they returned to Geiszler’s home, she pulled out a photo she had found of the last time they rode together – more than 40 years ago. She had posed them in the same positions they’d been in then.

“We really got a kick out of it,” Geiszler said. “It kind of blew our minds.”

“It means everything to have those pictures,” Bartholomay said. “Seeing the four of us on horseback is a really good memory.”

Lange, 55, of Grassy Butte, says they laughed at the older picture, but having it and the recent ride with her sisters was pretty special.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” she said. “I’ll cherish it.”

“When we were all riding in Arizona that day, I felt as if we were all transported back in time being so happy and laughing, being carefree, talking, teasing,” Lindemann said. “All of the tragic things that had happened to us were totally forgotten for a couple of wonderful hours. That is worth more than a million dollars in all of our minds.”

That experience of riding together again is something the women hope to make a regular tradition.

Bartholomay continued to ride in the 1970s and ’80s, but hasn’t ridden much since then.

“I think about it and all the memories,” she says.

Geiszler, 66, who lives in Jamestown and winters in Arizona, says their grandpa, Roy Torfin, bought her first horse and helped her learn to ride.

“We just had carefree summer days as kids,” Geiszler said, adding that their grandparents lived on the farm with her family.

After Geiszler, the eldest sister, got her horse, Bartholomay, the next oldest sister, said she wanted one.

“It’s just a wonderful way to spend time together in the outdoors on a nice day,” she said. “The years go by too fast.”

Lindemann, who got her first horse as a present from her grandpa when she was 4 years old, said she liked being outside and had a fascination with horses.

“The sense of adventure, it was just so much fun,” she said. “Sometimes we’d play games on the horses.”

She remembers getting a little too close to a skunk and badger (though she and her horse were able to get away before either wild animal did any damage), and she fondly recalls taking the horses swimming in the rivers.

“It’s really fun on a hot, hot, 90-degree day,” she said.

For Lange, some of her favorite memories are of riding at night.

“It would be so hot during the day, and so we’d sneak out of the house around midnight and go riding,” she said. “We’d go into town a couple miles away, so we knew the way really well.”

Centennial Farm, the farm where the women grew up near Sheldon, still belongs in the family, something they all say is important.

“I still love going home to the farm,” Bartholomay said.

Their great-grandfather, Daniel Torfin, homesteaded the farm in 1888.

Their two brothers farm the land now and the fifth generation is continuing the farming legacy, Lindemann said. Their mom still lives in the house she was born in. Their dad died in 2010.

“Growing up on a farm is a wonderful lifetime memory with strong family bonds,” Lindemann said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526