All posts by Shorty


Sallie and Carlos and I sat on the front porch in swings and rocking chairs. Carlos was recounting some episodes of television cooking shows. We all agreed that the current trend toward rapid fire competition cooking bothered us in some way.

 It seems that the emphasis in many endeavors is speed. But, what about Kevin Browning’s melt in your mouth brisket that takes a whole day to slowly develop flavor and tenderness over oak and mesquite? Or consider the classic French Beef Bourguignon that simmers for hours blending the flavor of wine and browned beef and vegetables into a world famous stew? Some things just don’t happen in thirty minutes or less. 

Those of us who have demonstrated the poor judgement to engage in the art and science of colt starting have sooner or later paid the price for rushing the job or cutting corners. Our students don’t understand “hurry”, and being much bigger and stronger than us, we’ve ended up back on Mother Earth abruptly.

 When we don’t take the time to do it right, bad things happen to both horse and man. Ancient principle: a job worth doing is worth taking the time to do it right. Having been told this as a child, I’m still trying to learn it in my seventies! 

The old hackamore men of California considered two or three years in the bozál almost adequate amounts of time to prepare a horse to carry a bit in its mouth. We’ve all seen the amazing white stallions of the Spanish Riding School dance and perform awesome leaps.

 I’ve been told that the majority of those talented charges are old enough to vote! They didn’t learn those movements overnight nor by force.  It’s like the saying, “I had a big list of things to do today, but now I have a big list of things to do tomorrow!” Here in south Texas we use a Spanish word for tomorrow — mañana.

Waitin’ for a Norther

 I’m peeling sweat soaked Levi’s off at the end of day,”Honey why are your socks always turned inside-out?” Looking out at sun scorched pastures, horses and cattle crowded under the scant shade of post oaks and mesquites, it’s hard to believe it’s October. 

Places up north are already gettin’ snow, yet down here in Gulf Coast Texas both temperature and humidity are in the nineties. Last week we found a cool day with the high only ninety one, so we penned a herd, and vaccinated, tagged and weaned forty nine calves. In the afternoon we shaded-up just like the cattle. When the dogs barked, the next thing we saw was a rising plume of caliche dust as the UPS truck came driving up the lane. 

   The creek has long since dried up and we’re starting to worry that we might have to haul water to the cows. The one good thing is that, due to low cattle prices, we’re a bit understocked, so the grass in the Hilliard bottom is dry and strong feed.

 Oh, we’re cryin’ for a Norther, for the rain and relief from the heat. But we know that some day it will come roaring down from the hills, and we’ll see the wedges of sandhill cranes and geese, and we’ll stand out in the blessed cold rain. Meanwhile,let’s get a cup of coffee and go out and sit on the porch and watch the sun come up. 

Meanwhile back at the ranch….

Summer is over and Fall is here. We here in Texas are wishing and praying for some rain and cooler weather. Our pastures are parched, and oaks are shedding leaves. We escaped to the mountains twice this summer.

We hauled some Peruvian horses to the Davis Mountains of far west Texas, to enjoy the “coolest fourth in Texas!” Then we flew to Virginia to help put on the Andalusian horse show in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Returning to the Gulf coast we found our garden burnt up, horses sweating as they stood still in the field, and cattle “shading up” by mid morning. But soon we will see fall rains and cooler temperatures. We are already making plans for our first fall roundup. 

Seeing these horse activities this summer has brought an awareness to my mind that over the past decade participation has steadily and alarmingly declined. In past years the Ft. Davis parade was a display of riders from the large ranches, as well as numerous chuck wagons and other horse drawn conveyances. Now there are cars, trucks, cycles and a sprinkling of horses.

The Eastern region Andalusian show suffers from decreased participation as well. Once upon a time attending that show the spectator was treated to scores of Andalusian and Lusitano horses, and performances that rivaled the royal schools of Europe!

So, I’m asking myself, what is the reason for this decline in equestrian activities? Is it that the machines have taken over? Have new generations lost the nostalgia for the horse culture that was our grandparents’? Has urbanization made middle class horse ownership prohibitively expensive?

In any event, here on the Twin Creeks ranch we save gas and diesel by daily checking our herds and fences horseback. We will be penning our cattle with a team of cowboys and cowgirls mounted on everything from ponies to Peruvian horses, Andalusians, Quarter Horses, and Crossbreds. Then, sorting, roping and dragging to the branding fires will be horseback as well. Moreover, our horses are our therapists, as we grow frustrated with the pace of modern life, we turn to them to bring us back to “Earth Speed!”

Cowboy Culture

I’ve been watching Clinton Anderson’s Outback Adventure on YouTube. One of the things that I enjoyed the most, aside from the really first rate horse training of a wild brumby stallion, is his inclusion of the local aboriginal cowboys in his video.

I grew up in central Texas working with cowboys of Scotch-Irish, German, Sicilian, African American, and Mexican origins. I even unknowingly worked with descendants of Cherokee and Blackfoot indians. How ‘bout that “He’s a cowboy and an Indian , a little bit of both!” And don’t forget Czech descendants! That mixture of languages and cultures made for a rich experience in my teens!

A year ago I found myself standing on top of Medicine Mound, near Quanah,Texas. It is the Comanche equivalent of the Vatican, in the Texas Outback. As I heard and felt the drum, and the chants, not understanding a word of Numunuh, the Comanche language, I felt the same as when hearing the Australian Aborigines speech and their didgeridoo.

There were scenes of them working with, and riding, horses, catching wild bulls, and roping camels. Similarities with the Comanche horsemanship came to mind. Seemingly primitive tribal people becoming adept at equestrian art, which is thought to be a Eurasian invention brings something exotic and mystical to the table. I’m curious to know more of their ways and their skills and knowledge.

Knowledge is power, and the Comanche’s knowledge of horsemanship, and well as the geography, botany, and of the water supply in west Texas, gave them the power to resist the invasion of a technologically advanced European society for seventy five years. Quite a feat for primitive stone age tribes!

Then my weirdly wired mind goes to the cartoons of Stan Lynde, “Rick O’Shay” where the indian chief had a TV in his Tipi, and a cadillac convertible parked beside it. Now Mr. Lynde would have to add a Mac computer and internet connection. I Wouldn’t be surprised to see Aborigines with electric guitars run by solar batteries!