One time on the County Island, I met an Ayrab horse (I mean other than my own two sidekicks, Original Coors and Coors Light) who told me the tallest horse tale I ever done heard. We was in the middle of workin cattle, which is to say, playin the stupid County Island cow game called team sortin. I don’t generally like to shoot the breeze when I’m workin, even if I’m only workin within the confines of a 100-people-feet pen that all the cows we’re pennin is already properly penned in. And I find multi-taskin in general’s a real bad idea. But when another horse keeps shootin the breeze at you, a horse can’t help but listen to the wind whippin around his ears.
Chatty Cathy had time to talk on account of, in addition to bein a mare, she was holdin the gate while I did all the work. I was doin all the work on account of if ya want somethin done right, let the ranch horse do it, I suppose, and also on account of ol’ CC’d never squared off with bovines before, and was better behaved lettin ‘em lope past her than she was sortin ‘em herself. It was a downright reasonable strategy her person and my bucket gal devised, for County Island people, even with the part where I had to do everythin. And frankly, her flashy-bright bridle and her whole, entire get-up from her matchin flashy-bright hoof boots to her matchin flashy-bright water-sponge-thing would probably only serve to frighten and scatter the cattle. Why was she carryin a water-sponge-thing, anyhow? Was her person fixin to try to give a cow a sponge bath? That I might like to see.
CC and her person guarded the gate when I was reined into the pen where the cows waited in a cluster.
“Number six!” said the big, loud speaker-voice that tells the people how to count and identify cattle, rather than the proper way by color and size. “Start with number six!”
So we walked in real quiet to Six’s shoulder and nudged her forward. She was a docile li’l brown cow who trotted right in front of me, and stepped nicely past CC and to the other end of the big pen without so much as causin a spook, and she mooed a real nice “thank you kindly, Mr. Horse” to me, too. I liked Six.
“I can trot for 50 miles,” claimed CC out of the clear blue sky as I trotted back past her to go get longhorn Seven. As I hustled the uncooperative brindle cow, I thought to myself, leave it to the horse that ain’t liftin a hoof to boast about how far it can trot. Then how come ya can’t trot 10 people-feet to help me get this critter? And the thought nearly cost me the cow, when the bucket gal brought me up short and gave me a kick to tell me pay attention. Seven got sent past CC so quick she nearly nicked her horns in unsuspectin CC’s hide, and CC’s person let out a screech that actually served to set CC nearly into a spin. There’s no spinnin nor screechin necessary in team sortin.
“Pay attention,” I pinned my ears at her.
“I have friends who can trot 100 miles,” CC pouted as I passed her again.
“Do not,” I wuffled on my way back to the herd. I separated plain black Eight from the herd, though she was doin her best to hide her number behind plain black Two’s hind end.
I sent Eight on over past CC.
“Well, maybe not the whole 100. But they cover 100 miles in one day. My mom wants to do 100 miles with me in the tevis cup!” CC asserted as I brought in sorrel longhorn Nine.
I didn’t have the breath nor the inclination to argue, but I kept my horse-ears on backwards.
CC claimed the cup deal was a race, as I came past her with long and lean, no-horns brindle Zero.
“Thought you rode trails,” I snorted out my nostrils, picturin her racin proper Thoroughbreds at the track like the horses called O-T-T-Bees had told me about, with her short li’l Ayrab mare tail all flagged — and damned if I nearly sorted the big black and white Two cow when I wanted the li’l black and white One cow. I caught myself before the bucket gal did. CC was blowin my proper cow countin concentrative abilities! I trotted One in with an extra crow hop and what may or may not have been an intentional cow kick, aimed in her general direction. It was well worth the light kick the bucket gal gave me.
Now CC was just prattlin and prancin in place. “Oh, I’m an endurance horse!” she shook her head. Well, she surely was testin the limits of my own endurance.
I pushed Two past the gate while she carried on, flingin her neck and swishin her tail and such, and tellin me more about her made-up endurance racin than a horse needs to know.
Endurance was a race but also “to finish was to win,” she claimed, which thusly convinced me further that it was a figment of her Ayrab imagination in which all the purty Ayrabs got prizes just for participatin, such as the load of manure Coors Light’d told me about how Ayrab shows had champions, and also “reserve” champions — which to my proper way of thinkin ain’t champions at all — and also real special winners called “top 10s.” By special I assumed he meant special like those horses who can’t get turned out to pasture without bein covered from hoof to head with special boots and wraps and paddin and such lest they wreck themselves.
And the tevis cup horses had vets on the trails with ‘em all the time to poke and prod at ‘em along the way and stick thermometers up their unmentionable places and generally pester ‘em, which sounded terrible to me.
And they started racin at dawn, and likely raced all day and night, and a lot of ‘em took a whole entire sun-up to sun-up to cross the finish line. That was plain ridiculous. People don’t want to ride across country at night! That’s when all the big, bad critters come out such as the mountain lion-cats and the grumpy bears. Plus people can’t see good at night with their tiny eyes. I never got rode throughout the night back at the ranch pushin cattle. It ain’t sensible nor necessary to get good work done.
We only had three cows to go — I only had two cows to go — wily white Brahma mama Three, Four the doe-eyed Jersey, and scrawny yearlin Brahma Five, who wanted to stay with his Mama Three. And the big loud speaker-voice hadn’t even gave the one-minute warnin yet! We was makin real good time — I was makin real good time! We might win this deal yet, not that the winnin came with anything but braggin rights, not even so much as a long and flappy “top 10” strip of ribbon.
I lined up the last three cows in a real nice row and brought ‘em in right before the speaker-voice yelled “TIME!”
My bucket gal and CC’s lady rider set to whoopin and hollerin and pattin our necks. We won, by way of pennin all 10 of the cattle when nobody else had.
“Thanks, that was fun!” CC flipped her forelock at me and gave me one of those mare-eyed look that might make a lesser geldin, such as Original Coors, melt.
“Yeah, it surely was,” I had to agree. “Thanks kindly for the tall tale.”
“It’s all true!” she neighed at me as she rode out of the pen. “Remember the tevis cup!”
I reckon I’d run my own tevis cup race that day, runnin back and forth catchin all the cows that was already actually caught. It might not have been 100 miles, which ain’t even possible, but it surely felt similar.
Some days, a ranch horse trots a lot more than others, even a mostly retired County Island ranch horse. This was more of a trottin day than a peaceable walkin day, for sure. Also, I finished movin all the cattle, and I won. That therefore fell under CC’s made-up creed of “to finish is to win.” So that was the day I realized I’m an endurance horse! After all, a good ranch horse always endures. I wonder if the tevis cup’s got any grain in it…