New Years Revolution

There is an old Ace Ried cartoon that goes “if you’re still doin’ at 65 what you could do at 25, you weren’t doing much at 25!” Since it’s past time for your New Year’s revolution, just think about this; how frustrating it is for your mind to keep going when your body keeps checking out on you. Of course the alternate choice is for your mind to check out while your body keeps rockin’ on!  Not that you get to make the choice. It sorta’ gets made for you. 

   Yesterday was Epiphany in the Christian world. My epiphany was when I suddenly realized that I am not a human being! I’m a human DOING. So now I’ll search for ways to do less and get more results. Did you set some ridiculously unattainable goals for yourself? Yeah, like retirement? More horse shows? I guess my own favorite is to “be there”, in a useful and fun way for wife, kids, grandkids, and any being whether two legged or four ( six, eight?) who comes my way. 

   When the irresistible force meets the immovable object, maybe the best thing for you to do is put another ice cube in your bourbon and sit back down in your rocking chair and watch the show!

   Have a great, wonderful, fun year!

“And the bloom is on the sage…”

 Yep, it’s Fall in Texas, time for gatherin’ the herd and strippin’ the weanlings off to ship, and winterize the herd. I can almost smell leather, coffee, and bacon. And I hear in my mind the strains of the old song.

“When it’s roundup time in Texas, and the bloom is on the sage…”

Indeed our Texas purple sage is blooming. It’s actually not sagebrush, but Cenizo, a semi desert plant with ashy green leaves that blooms purple in response to rain. Well, I say it’s Fall, it’s Autumn on the calendar, but yesterday it was so hot we worked horses in tee shirts, and today it’s supposed to go down to the thirties at night! We seem to average out Fall by having winter one day and summer the next. Like our rainfall, which is stated to be thirty five inches a year, but it might come all in one month! 

So planning our roundup in advance is dicey. Our crew comes from all over the county, and even from out of state. We guess at the weather. The prognosticator says it will be sunny, and cool. 

I’d sure like to have a job like that where you can be wrong half the time and still get paid! With us it somewhere between the Texas Ranger’s motto,”know you’re right and keep on coming”, and rescheduling as we allow sanity to prevail. But we can’t procrastinate too long lest the brown stomach worm, Ostertagia, get ahead of us and we have to nurse skinny Corrientes through the winter with extra feed. So we’ve got a deadline to meet, and we’ll have to “cowboy up” and deal with adversity and “gitter done”. Of course we could take the hitch hiker’s point of view,”I love deadlines, I love the whooshing sound as they pass!”

Pokey

“What’s working equitation all about?”

“Well, go ahead and unload your horse and get saddled. Then come check cows with me.”

The visitor, we’ll call him Wade, saddled up and met the rancher in the corral.

“What are you doing now?”

“It’s called doubling, or nowadays, flexions. It’s like a preflight check, to see if my horse is listening to my rein aids. If he gives easily to both sides and ‘kisses the stirrup’ with minimal, or even no pressure, then I know he’s listening to my hands.”

“Okay, so, should I do that with Pokey here?”

“Absolutely!”

The rancher then began to slide his leg back toward his horse’s flank as his mount was bent around with his head relaxed at the stirrup.”

“What are you doing that for?”

“I’m getting him to move his hind feet away from my leg. Ray Hunt used to call it disengaging. When he steps away, I quit asking.That way he actually learns to do it off a soft cue. I’m wanting to educate my horse to work from signals rather than making him do things with force.It’s called lightness, and it makes my life easier.”

They started off together. The rancher side passed up to the gate, opened it, slid around it, and held it for Wade to pass through. then he sidepassed his horse to close it. They visited and joked as they rode along for the few minutes it took to get down to the creek crossing. The rancher’s mount walked easily across the concrete ford in about a foot of running water. But Wade’s horse stopped. 

“Just let him stand there looking at the water awhile. He needs to think about it.”

The horse finally let out a deep breath, and lowered his head toward the water.

“Now, back away from the edge, and turn him around both ways, using that leg to disengage him, and move those hindquarters. Then bring him back up to the edge and let him rest there. It’s called making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy.

This procedure was repeated three more times, then the horse stepped into the water,and finally walked across, lifting his feet high, but not bolting nor jumping.

“There, now, rub his neck and just relax. He did good. You did good.”

They continued on, crossing a rough field, pocked with hog wallows and shallow swampy sloughs. A deer burst out of the brush and Pokey spooked.

“Just flex him around both ways several times until his feet stopped moving. Give him time to calm down, then rub his neck. Don’t punish him, just use the flexions like a tranquilizer. Then ride on.”

They continued on down a dirt lane toward the cow herd. Then from behind them came the rancher’s son in a big tractor carrying a large round bale of hay. Pokey spun around, head high. 

“Flex him and disengage him ‘til he stops moving his feet. Keep him facing the tractor until it passes, then follow it. He won’t be as scared if it is moving away from him.”

Later, ducks exploded off a stock tank, and a white dog appeared out of nowhere from behind them, and Wade practiced flexions and ‘yielding around’ of Pokey’s hindquarters until his feet stopped moving, then he rubbed his horse’s neck. A chupacabra-looking burned out hollow log got slowly investigated until Pokey put his nose on it. Pokey was pretty apprehensive as they rode through the cattle, but with multiple flexions Wade made it through. 

“Little twenty seven has a new heifer calf!”

“I didn’t see anything.”

“That’s because you were busy with Pokey. But when you can, look up and out. Notice the new baby calves, listen to the birds, enjoy the clouds.”

On the way back to the barn, Pokey crossed the concrete ford easily as he followed the rancher’s big fleabit gray. When they had returned to the corral, Wade asked, ”Now, you never did answer my question, though– what’s working equitation?

The Old Chief

The old chief climbed to the top of the hill. He pulled himself up holding onto the limbs of mesquite and cedar, as the shale slipped under his moccasins. Occasionally a rock would slide off down the hill. Avoiding prickly pear thorns and skirting steep rocky drop offs he at last grunted to the top of the great mound. 

Many times since his youth he had been here. He had seen the plains, the waving grasslands to the north, and the broken canyons of red clay to the south. It was as it had always been. The breeze made his sparse gray hair dance lightly on his cheeks.

 He built a small fire there on top of the sacred mound. Lighting some fluff he brought which was made up of bird feather down, thin dried grass, and dry wood shavings by rotating a notched stick in a knot of bois d’arc wood he carried. As a spark ignited the fluff, he lightly blew on it, and as it burst into a tiny flame he nestled it in some very thin dry twigs of cedar. Adding slowly some more twigs he soon had a small smokeless crackling fire. 

In the pre dawn it was providing just enough light to allow him to prepare his sacred pipe for a ceremony. He drew out an ancient red stone pipe from his raccoon skin medicine bag and filled it with shredded tobacco from a smaller beaded deerskin sack. 

Standing up and facing east he lit the pipe with a twig from the fire. Drawing smoke through the hollow wooden stem. Holding the smoking pipe high as he faced East he said, “To the East wind, represented by the yellow bead on the pipe stem, which symbolizes the coming of the day, our birth, and all beginnings!” 

He puffed the pipe three times, and turning to his right he said, “To the South wind, represented by the red bead, which symbolizes the summer’s heat, which brings our crops, and also the passion of our youth.”  

Again he puffed and turned right, holding out the pipe chanting, “To the West wind, represented by the black bead, which symbolizes the going down of the sun, and the darkness of death, and doubt and uncertainty of our middle years.” 

Finally, turning once again to his right, and puffing the pipe he held it out and said, “To the North, represented by the white bead, which symbolizes the coming of winter, the white of our hair in old age, and hopefully,” he chuckled, “Wisdom.” He grinned a little. 

Turning again to face the East and the rising sun he held the pipe high above his head, looking upward, saying, “To the Man-God above, the great mystery that moves through it all!” 

Then holding the pipe pointing downward, prayed, “and to the Earth who is our mother, from whom we are made.” And he sat down by the fire to puff the pipe and to pray. 

In his thoughts he prayed for the best outcome for members of his tribe,’ for those who were ill, or who were troubled, or in doubt or fear.’ Then he chuckled softly to himself, his wrinkles deepening around his eyes and mouth, ‘For me, I ask nothing, for you have given me much, I am so blessed. Thanks.’