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As Good As I Ever Was

Bein asked to step up onto a bank as tall as my own knees ain’t generally too much to ask of me — unless I’m asked durin the real hot time, where a horse can actually feel the air hangin heavy in his nostrils, and heavy in his hind hawks and his stiffles and his other sundry horse-parts that’s all been used hard and well for his whole life. On those days, these days, if there’s another way around that don’t mean bendin my knees and flexin my back legs, I’ll politely decline the invitation to jump up, and suggest a less bothersome bypass, instead. Havin good ranch manners means always layin out your best, most reasonable alternative instead of sayin flat-out no to your rider. Most times, they go for it.

But back in the day, there wasn’t a bank, arroyo, ledge or likely even a cliff I couldn’t leap. And when I first came to live upon the County Island, I also learned how horses leap pointless things called oxers,which sounds like I’m sayin oxes, but I ain’t. That’d be a silly and also reckless thing for a horse to leap over on purpose, mostly on account of the horns.

I watched a lot of “jumpin lessons,” as they’re called, in the time I spent at the boardin stable ranch with Original Coors, when I was new here. And because County Island horses only got maybe one or two hours of questionable “work” to do in a day (those bein my “ironical horse ears,” as usual) and the rest of the day to loaf around, me and Coors would find ourselves havin daily “turnout time” so we could “relax” and “play” in the jumpin arena when nobody was jumpin nor “workin” in it.

Coors was buckin and leapin about in the arena, and barrelin full-Ayrab-horse-steam-ahead with his tail stuck straight up like a flag and weavin in and out between all the oxer jumps and plain wood pole jumps. I was right behind him, buckin and leapin even harder, ‘cause I learned quick how much fun it is to have time and energy for fun when you ain’t got ranch work to tend to every day. And the bucket gal and a couple of her amigas was watchin us and enjoyin our shenanigans. I learned fast it’s fun to have what’s called an appreciative audience.

I was runnin between the jumps with my head between my knees, goin full-on palomino rodeo buckin stock style, when I raised my head and found myself starin down the line of a big ol’ oxer as tall as my shoulder. I broke to a walk, walked right on up to it, sat down with my ol’ hawks touchin the ground, surveyed how tall the second rail was compared to the first rail, and cleared the whole thing with a big ol’ toss of my head.

I meant to take off buckin with my head between my knees again, but damned if my back legs didn’t buckle a bit, so instead I made off at a stiff but swaggerin trot.

“Did you see that?”

“Did he just do that?”

“Ohmygod, I can’t believe it! WHISKEY!”

Aw yeah. That was all me.

I never did it again, of course, on account of I ain’t a stupid old horse.

Which is why, on occasion, I may still strongly suggest how climbin up a steep incline could be a bad idea for my hawks and my stiffles, but after we traverse our way around it, I may incline myself to crow-hop over a small creosote bush because it was there, and dance a li’l jig that makes the bucket gal giggle and danged near fall off if she ain’t payin attention, which she should be. Because ya got to flaunt it if ya still got it, even if what ya got ain’t the same as what ya had before. Ya still got most of it, and a good horse should always make the most of whatever he’s got and show his appreciation for how entirely good it is.

 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Need for Speed

Some horses like to go fast, to which I say, good for them. Oh, there’s a point to goin fast when a horse needs to get the job done, the main point bein there’s a job. But during my time on the County Island, I’ve learned there’s all kinds of questionable jobs for horses which I’d never call honest work.

We was amblin through the wash, like we do sometimes. A wash amble takes a set amount of time, and also a purty short amount of time, which makes it my favorite kind of County Island amble. It’s also generally predictable, like me.

Until there came a thunder of hoofbeats behind me that made me swivel my ears around, and almost my whole head, too. They came to a quick walk and a blur of a big brown horse brushed by us while the rider said, “Morning!” and barely gave my bucket gal time to respond when they was off again, with a flip of a short tail and sand spit at us from flyin hooves.

Well, that was weird, I thought, and we ambled on.

A while later, we reached the road which is the usual turn for home along the short wash loop, when there came yet another thunder of hooves behind me. What the –

“We meet again!” the big brown horse’s rider laughed as he pulled up his spindly, snortin steed for a few steps, then broke to a trot, then was off again like a shot. That was impossible.

A wash amble takes about twenty five people-minutes, or about one thousand and five hundred horse-steps, not that I’m countin. Brownie made it around in … ten people-minutes? And he was set to lap me again by the looks of it. That’d only maybe be likely if he was flyin faster than a golden eagle followin a pack of hunt club beagle dogs set upon a jack so as to swoop down and steal the rabbit at the last second. Metaphorically speakin, of course. But also it’s happened.

A couple mornins later, we was passed by ‘em again, only this time they pulled up enough to talk, and big, gangly Brownie rolled his eyes at me by way of sayin “Hai!” like the young colts do. He was a tall fella, but only about as growed as a long yearlin. His rider said Brownie was called a baby race horse, and he was in trainin and breezin through the wash to get broke for the race track. Maybe he meant trackin cattle? As in trainin cattle-trackin horses? But didn’t he know racin after cattle was the quickest way to make ‘em scatter and thereby ruin your whole, entire day tryin to gather ‘em all back? No matter how much a horse likes to run, they generally ain’t allowed to on the ranch, for that practical reason.

In the time since, I’ve met a lot more of these baby cow-track horses makin a breeze around the wash like they think they got the best horse-job in the world, if you’d call that a job. I guess if they got that many rank cows to track wherever they go off to once they’re good and broke, then they’d always be in need of fresh horses, same way the ranch used to run through us ranch horses, but at a slower pace on account of we had slower cows back in my day. And I guess it’s good they train up the ones that already like to run, unlike me and my kin.

Also, that cowboy’s got more stick-to-it-ness than any cowboy I seen anywhere. One time I seen another big brown baby cow-track horse go from one side of the road clear to the other side in once big bounce of a spook, and then buck upon stickin the landin, and the dude didn’t bat an eyelash. I reckon he can ride broncs when he’s trained up all the fast horses on the County Island, and there surely can’t be that many more of ‘em.

It also makes me glad to be out of the cow game these days if the younger cows is so speedy and stirrin up breezes and trouble all the time that so many young horses got to get geared up to run after ‘em and track ‘em like that. Whenever I catch the tail wind from one of ‘em these days as I’m goin around the wash at a proper walk, I like to reflect on how it much I suppose it sucks to be them, but how very good it is to be me.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

3 Snake Tails: Strike Three

Strike Three

I was bein rode through a wash on the County Island with a couple other horses — it don’t matter which ones, but they was prancey — for a slow and pointless trail ride at what shoulda been breakfast time, durin the hot time. I was ridin drag as usual, bringin up the back of the line as we made our way single-file through the deep and dusty sand.

The first horse had just passed a big, low-hangin palo verde that made a spot of speckled shade. I was lookin forward to steppin into the shade beneath those spiny branches to get out of the sun for a few steps, myself. Durin the hot time, I like to measure my hoof falls by how long it takes ‘em to get to the next shade.

As the second horse went through the shade, and it was almost my own turn to savor it, the bucket gal said out of the clear hot sky, “I’m surprised we haven’t seen any sna—”

The brush rattled with snake sounds. We spun on a dime, first horse, second horse, me, in a cloud of dust, like a proper prancey-horse “pas de trois,” which is french for when three horses pirouette, which itself is french for spin, past a tree. Then we all high-stepped it out of there while our riders patted and praised us. I don’t even know if I made any shade.

What’s called the moral of all this is twofold.

First, to all horses on all ranches everywhere, don’t you ever, ever allow yourself to wonder why you ain’t yet seen a rattlesnake. You’ll eventually find one even if you don’t go lookin, so never, ever look for snakes nor trouble anywhere. And people, zip it. No disrespect intended.

And second, whenever there’s a snake tail involved, remember this. It’s the first horse that gets the coil, and the second horse that gets the rattle, but it’s the third horse that gets bit. Or at least closest to takin the hit.

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

3 Snake Tails: Strike Two

Strike Two

“We bought this to help get the horses’ ears up for in hand practice,” the prancin lady proclaimed, one time when Coors Light was participatin in a prancin lesson, and she held the big stick up in front of his nose to show to him and the bucket gal. No, I ain’t got no idea why prancey people would want to get a horse’s ears all up in their hands, nor do I care nor what it’s got to do with sticks. But if I had to guess, I’d say maybe so they could clip their ears? Like maybe the stick was meant to be a big a twitch? Anyhow.

Then she turned the stick upside down. And it rattled.

Coors Light wisely planted his hooves right where they was, and slowly turned his head sideways so he could eyeball the prancin arena dirt all around him to check for snakes.

He eyeballed it to the left, and then he eyeballed it all to the right. His ears went all sideways to listen and ask “Where is it?” — while the bucket gal and the prancin lady laughed and laughed, on account of all the other prancey horses had lost their brains clear out of their heads at the rattlin sound, and ran backwards, and generally behaved like prancey horses, but Coors Light knew a rattlesnake when he heard one and he knew the only sensible thing a horse should do is stop and know where the snake was first before proceedin. Which proves that prancin people are nuts, laughin at the only sane horse on the whole entire prancin ranch.

Coors Light says the prancin lady called it a “indian rain stick,” and I think that’s a terrible thing. First, it don’t sound like rain at all. It sounds like a snake. And second, why would anybody make a stick that sounds like a snake, when there’s already snakes that sound like snakes?

I wish I’d been there to see all them other prancey horses meet the snake stick. I bet the prancin lady got a whole lot more horse parts up in the air with it than their ears – likely also their hooves, and their necks, and their tails, and all the dirt they kicked up into the air high-tailin it away.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

3 Snake Tails: Strike One

Strike One

Original Coors was lazily walkin down a narrow trail lined with tall green grass and flowers, with his nose nearly in ‘em and stretchin his upper lip toward ’em as far as it’d reach, on account of the bucket gal gave him such a loose rein. He likely had his eyes half-shut, ‘cause that’s his general demeanor even though he’s a Ayrab horse, and was also likely breathin in the sweet smell of it and lost deep in thoughts about grazin on it all day long. And, ‘cause he’s an Ayrab, I’m sure his thoughts were wanderin even farther afield than the flowers and the grass so he was barely payin any mind to his own hoof falls on the ground never mind the bucket gal in the saddle above…

When she near jerked the bit out of his mouth, pulled the reins, and squeezed his sides with her legs and made a sound like “Shiiiii–!” Coors nearly jumped out of skin sideways with her to avoid it, then swung around and pointed his ears to get a good look at it there in the grass at the edge of the trail, greyish white and coiled up to strike —

It was an old cotton lead rope.

He and she blew out from their nostrils, and I reckon they both licked their lips at the lack of a snake in the grass. That’s why the people say you got to “learn the ropes,” so you don’t mix ‘em up with snakes.

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The County Island Hunger Games

Drafted for Patriotic, And Also Hungry, Duty

 

What happened is, I got “volunteered.” It was supposed to be Coors Light, not me. Coors Light walked up to the gate and said he’d like to go, but the bucket gal patted him and walked right past him. It started with breakfast, like it usually does, and then I got led away from my breakfast — instead of Coors Light — to go get brushed for work. Only there ain’t no real work to be done here on the County Island. What there was was my tail bein sprayed and combed and such for a real long time, with kinda a funny smell waftin from it that ain’t fly spray, and the bucket gal fussin with it for even longer, and it all gave me flashbacks to the time when I got pinked for a good cause.

Then I got loaded into the rollin white horse-box, and taken to camp where the prancin lady lives, only it wasn’t camp that day, and I didn’t get put in my usual pen where I go to camp, and Coors and Coors Light never showed up at all. I got saddled, and fussed with some more, with one of them silly people-things set upon the top of my bridle like happens at different times of the season, such as lion ears, devil horns, or anythin else silly that can be set upon a horse’s head.

It was the day of the summer games. I knew about the games before, as an observationalist, and I told what I knew about ‘em here, back when I got my first case of bad hawks.

All the horses was saddled and assembled in the ring to play games, too. Red horses! Blue horses! White horses! With anythin a person could think of to paint on, or glue to, or attach to any part of a horse. An Ayrab horse feathered like a bird with red plumes in his mane, and another whose bridle reins had been made all red and blue feathery. Seemed like feathers was a thing. A plain brown horse all sparkly-spotted like a bonafide and sorrowful patriotic Appaloosa. A white horse painted in red stripes and blue stars. A geldin crowned with an abominable thing called a princess tiara on his browband. I was the sole ranch horse representative in a whole sea of patriotic Ayrabs and other sundry prancey horses.

One of the younger horses rode by, turned and gave me the hairy eyeball and snorted, “Bro – your tail!

Huh? Oh, hell… Pardon my french.

Was there somethin on my tail?

Was there somethin on my tail?

 

I learned there and then what it means for a horse to be a “patriot.” A patriot is a horse who’s made to be red, white, blue and sparkly all over — from head to tail. That’s what “from head to tail” means. I never could see my own tail, but I suppose it was extra patriotic. And a proper patriot horse, like a proper ranch horse, has got be extra hard-workin and self-sacrificin, too. Even fun and games ain’t all fun and games — that’s the work ethic I was raised with.

But this ain’t about patriotism, nor games.

It’s about hunger. And sacrifice.

This may sound like I’m bein a whiny, ungrateful, prancified, pampered pet County Island horse, but I ain’t.

Most of the games were about food, specifically the lack thereof.

Forthwith, twelve buckets was laid out in a line in the arena. I couldn’t help but nicker under my breath at such an astonishing sight. But they was empty. And the game wasn’t to find out which horse could eat the most buckets in the least time, but to jump horses over ‘em. And the people kept takin buckets away, and not bringin ‘em back filled with grain, until there was only one bucket left to jump. Or, like I did, to step over without kickin the bucket, which I likely could’ve done for real with such an entirely empty belly. If you kicked the bucket, you was out of the game. Some of the horses protested the lack of food by refusin to go toward the empty buckets. A couple had to be backed toward ‘em, and at the last minute, turned around and jumped over without lookin. I finally kicked a bucket on purpose so I wouldn’t have to lay my eyes upon their empty promise again.

There were also “flowers” in the flower boxes around the prancin arena that was “fake” and we couldn’t eat.

There was a “egg and spoon race,” but no horse got to lick the mixin spoon. And since they had spoons and buckets, there was no excuse not to feed us. And maybe I woulda liked an egg in my desperation, but I never got to try one. One of the horses said it wasn’t even a egg, it was a “golf ball,” which sounds particularly distrustful. That horse also said “golf” is where people use up a horse pasture that horses can’t graze.

There was a “potato race” where we had to race so the bucket gal could get a potato and run back and drop it in a bucket. Three potatoes, three bucket drops. And maybe I woulda liked to eat a potato, who knows? By then, I woulda eaten a golf ball, I reckon. And again — buckets.

Do y’all know was “bobbin for apples” is? It’s racin toward a bucket filled with water. And a apple. I don’t even like apples. I prefer carrots and cookies, myself, but I wanted an apple so bad I’da been willin to wash it down with a fake flower and a golf ball, too. And the horse didn’t get to stick his head in the bucket to bob for the apple. The human had to do it! They wasted so danged much time stoppin in front of the buckets when their horse coulda been chompin on that apple, wranglin off their big ol’ helmets and sunglasses (‘cause they ain’t got proper eyes to see in the sun, along with their lack of proper ears to hear their horses’ bellies growl) and fussin about gettin wet and slimy, especially the people-fillies fussin about gettin their forelocks wet. Y’all know who’s happy to get wet and slimy for some fast food? Horses. And then they had to hold the entire apple in their tiny people-teeth and run with it and their good horse. And then finally, at the “finish line,” their horse got to eat the apple, after all that.

But I didn’t get to eat a bobbed-apple ‘cause my bucket gal wasn’t willin to stick her head inside a slimy, slobbery, cloudy bucket to bob one for me, irregardless of that fact I don’t generally care for apples.

In the end, though, I reckon my patriotic sacrifice for the hunger games was worth it. I got all the rest of my hay, along with lots of crunchy cold carrots. And I got a sham poo bath and then I got to roll, and roll some more. And I got a tale to tell, which is always a good thing, too, especially when I get to tell it on a full stomach on a lazy day of bein a mostly retired horse right here on the County Island.

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Dogged

Usually, if you’re bein tailed by somethin, the thing that’s tailin ya doesn’t want ya to know about it. That’s likely why people call it bein tailed in the first place, on account of it’s somethin unseeable and unhearable that’s tailin after ya as quiet and natural-like as your own tail. Move along, nothin to see here, just your own tail tailin ya down the trail…

I’ve been tailed before, mostly by coyotes or sometimes by a big, bored cat, but also by people-colts here on the County Island, like I told about before, and people-colts suck at tailin horses, pardon my french. You know what else sucks at tailin? Well, you’ll know. Shortly, so to speak.

Me and my tail, and my bucket gal, were tailin down a dirt road in the blessed cool peacefulness of an early mornin in the hot time, mindin our own business as is proper.

Somethin tickled my back fetlocks about as soft as a fly that comes in for a landin and then changes his mind at the last minute. So I kept walkin. And it tickled me again. Then the tickle maybe woofed at me, which seemed funny. So I turned my head and the bucket gal turned hers, but we didn’t see anything.

“Boooooo!” A man’s voice hollered, and I thought, well, boo’s a terrible thing to yell at a horse, ain’t it? And I kept walkin.

“Boo! C’mere! BOOOO!”

I turned again and somethin shot past my front hoof faster than a rattlesnake’s strike. The boo was a dog! Barely. It was white with brown patches, and ears that flopped, and a fat baby belly, and a stub of a tail that couldn’t stay still, and the whole of it stood no taller than the top of my own hoof. The li’l pup planted itself in front of me, and set to givin me the biggest, baddest tiny barks full of what-for that I’ve ever heard in my entire horse-life. It was funny — I kinda liked it, in a pointless way.

I took a step toward it, mostly to try to hear way down there.

Away it skittered, but not toward the man that was callin it. It continued its discourse from a safer distance, with some up and down bouncin and some whole-body wigglin.

The bucket gal reined me away, and we set off walkin again. With a barkin Boo on my heels.

We stopped. Boo stopped.

We turned. Boo turned.

Boo’s fella came kinda close, but I sensed his greenhorn state and damn near smelled his fear that a big ol’ ranch horse such as myself might do him some bodily harm. But he also seemed scared I’d squash Boo. He wanted to get her, but she wouldn’t come close enough to him to get got, and also he wouldn’t come close enough to get her ‘cause she was too close to me. It was a stand-off that could’ve likely persisted ‘til sundown.

We tried again to leave the scene. I guess the bucket gal was hopin Boo’d head on home without havin a horse to harass.

But it didn’t work. Barkin Boo tailed us again. We turned back again. With a bark and a bounce, Boo backed right up.

I realized right then what I had before my hooves: a boo-cow! — which is to say, the itty-bitty County Island version of a moo-cow. In all my days, I never thought I’d wind up workin a boo-cow.

We moseyed toward li’l boo-cow again, and I put some pressure on her, in ranch lingo. I pointedly aimed both my ears at her and gave her my best workin-horse “git” face.

She bounced to the right, so I stepped to the right, and then I pushed her left.

Boo-cow thought it was a great game. She bounced farther left. I pushed her back to the right. And so on. She had some moves that’d make a catty cuttin horse boogie down with joy. Or, that’d make me stand stock still and let her use up all her own energy while I saved up mine. It’d be a long work day if a ranch horse danced around like a cuttin horse.

And pushin her back also wasn’t a peaceful process. She kept carryin on at me loudly, and her fella kept tryin to call her to no good end. I’m nearly fluent in dog, but puppy talk can be hard to pick up sometimes. I think she mostly was tellin me, “Play! Play! Play!” Such single-mindedness is real common among pups.

Her fella finally indicated his front ranch gate, and that I might be able to get his shorthorn of a boo-cow properly penned on the other side of it.

Which I did. And the bucket gal petted and praised me for my superior sortin skills. I may be rusty, but I still got it. And Boo’s fella said thanks as he scooped her into his arms once she was penned on his property. I reckon that’s one boo-cow that’s gonna be set out to graze on a real short tether from now on. I’d likely recommend a cow bell for her, too, but a cow bell’d be bigger and heavier than her whole head, so, well, there’s that.

If there’s any moral at all to this tale, which is questionable, I guess it’d be that sometimes an unexpected bit of Boo can be good for what tail’s ya.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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