Our county is populated with some of western history’s most colorful Horsemen. I’ve ridden with them penning cows, I’ve visited (VIZ– ted) with them at the coffee shop, and at dances, at weddings and funerals (same difference) and I never get over how funny and honest, and inventive they can be.
We traded a bull once for a spotted horse for my wife. He was a leopard Appalooskey. He could work cows, and rope, and even could hit a lick with a walking horse gait going down the road. We called him Willy, after his previous owner, an old tradition in our county. (Horses that people buy from me get called Doc.) When we got him to our place, Willy told my wife “now, don’t you worry none about them little spots of blood on him, I had to pop him with a 410 to get him up out of the pasture! ” Then he told me, “if you start off to rope, don’t open your mouth, he’ll run so fast you can’t close it! ” And finally this advice, “don’t close him in with a gate. He’ll stomp the gate flat. But he respects a Bob wire gap! “Then there were the two old cowboys who were arguing about how a certain horse was working while the third was riding. One says “I don’t like the way the horse is going” the other laughs and says “it ain’t nothing wrong with the horse, it’s who’s in the saddle! ”
I’ve heard horses described as “worthless as TWO hot watermelons.” Or that he couldn’t outrun a fat woman carrying two tubs of water! Another old Ranney advised us to teach a horse to neck rein by crossing the reins under the horse’s neck.
Finally, the old codger who was looking at a young woman’s horse. He said “there’s only one thing wrong with this here horse.” She responded all flustered “well what is that?”
“He ain’t mine!”
Some sayings are worth repeating. My brother-in-law, who is a dentist once asked his patient to turn his head a little to the right. The patient turned his head to the left. Dr. says “no, your other right!”
Sometimes a person will be a little fumble fingered and drop a fork, which gets comments like “first day with your new hands? “Then the victim “I just washed my hands and I can’t do a thing with them.” That a reference to an old 50’s TV ad about shampoo “I just washed my hair, and I can’t do a thing with it. “Then there’s the time hey guy caught a calf with his rope and bragged about it and his pard responded, “yeah, that’s once in a row. ”
Or my Doctor Who when asked “do I have to exercise every day? “Responded “no, only on days when you eat. ”
My neighbor who raised Hereford cattle would often say during hay season “coastal Bermudagrass, is as good as they say it is, and as bad as they say it is.” One time at a dance he told a woman “On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 13! ” Then describing a careless youngster “he wouldn’t know if the sun came up in the west!” But my favorite of his was, “if it was raining soup, I’d be outside with a fork! ”
Another friend who was also a World War II veteran had only one leg. The other was lost when he was shot down in Europe in a fighter plane. He hunted birds in South Texas with his prosthetic leg unadorned by “snake chaps”. Once, a casual acquaintance, unfamiliar with his condition, pointed out that he’d forgotten to cover that leg, and he replied, “I like to give them snakes a 50/50 chance! “
We were away from horses for a pretty good spell, our own horses that is. So it was a delight when one morning I took my coffee out on our Nebraska friends’ front porch and watched the horses across the road in the morning sunrise. At first I was tempted to walk across the gravel road and visit over the fence. But then there’s a lot to be said for a more passive approach. Instead of interacting, sometimes it’s cool to just sit and be a spectator. I’m reminded of a Yogi Berra-ism, “you can observe a lot by watching.” Instead of judging their conformation or analyzing their gaits, I was just enjoying the beauty of the sunlight reflecting off of their coppery coats. It was calming to watch their fluid economy of movement as they strolled around the pasture without the anxiety of being directed by humans.The morning passed gently and slowly. I began to think about how and why I do some of the things I do with our equine brethren. Now I see the rightness of a statement by my old friend Ramon Becerra, a wondrous Horseman and trainer in Santa Ynez, California “Glenn, I no work horses anymore… I just play with them.”
They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors
They’re distributed all over the globe
By their outfit they’re distinguished from others
And by certain features: can always be told.
Showing kindness to kids, women, and creatures
Devotion to mother and their brood
Their church is outdoors were no preachers
Are found. So they just talk with God.
Oh, they range from quiet to rowdy
And their humor can sometimes be rude
But they never forget to say “Howdy”
Or take off their hat when they should.
Their horse is their steady companion
Helping care for the cows in their charge
As they gather the plains and the canyons
For a salary that seldom is large.
Yes, they shy from a roof or a ceiling
Preferring to live out of doors
A camp fire gives that warm inner feeling
And discomfort he often ignores.
When asked whether Cowboys ate grass
A mother answered a certain young woman
Though her response was a little bit crass
“No, dear, they’re actually part human”