Posted 05-04-2004 at 11:35:22
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Vacation Part Four
Several days had passed and feeling our welcome waning it was coming up time to be moving on. The kids were doing well, never seeming to run out of play. But, it was the adults who had talked themselves out, and I knew our hosts cherished their privacy, even three hours from Douglas or four hours from Casper.
“I’d like to have ya to meet Joker if you’re up to him!” Randy had said, mentioning a name I had not heard around this place before, making what could have been a statement of fact or a question. “Got to move them bulls. And I could use some help.” Ah that was it. The cowboys who were here last week had left, and Randy stood a wee bit short handed. Although, I imagine one of his sons could have helped, probably better than I. But, then again, his boys were outnumbered by playmates the first time in their lives. And, neither one of them was not likely any to eager to give up playing with some foreign Michigan kids.
Now I was getting it and giving little thought to the consequences, with a typically macho flair, I blurted out, “Sure!”
“I’ll have to go out and get him.” and Randy saddled a horse and rode off. A bit later he returned with a small mob, this bunch filling up the entire railed enclosure just outside the stable entrance. Having tied his mount outside this coral, Randy sauntered in given me an eye of accomplishment while joining the contingent of horse flesh milling about this confining area. A moment or two later I heard, “Ah Joker, ya old bone bag. Come with me. And out of the parting flesh, as if he were Moses and the tribes of Israel, the man and one horse alone appeared out of the corals parting flesh, as though they were the parting waters of the Reed Sea. I was impressed. Randy had captured/caught one horse with a single name command and led him to the stable door with no more than his hand’s palm resting against the animal’s neck. I had witnessed something I had never seen before. A horse in lead with no more than a hand’s hand pressure or presents against his neck.
“Here,” Randy spoke, approaching me, “put your hand on him will I find us a bridle.
Reins lazily caressing the earths dirt at our feet, Joker stood still for his afternoon’s rigging: back blanket and saddle. Two horses prepared and ready for work Randy returned the remainders to pasture. This wasn’t difficult. They were more than willing to go. When I saw Randy returning I threw the stirrup over the saddle and got another inch in the chinch. I was ready.
Returning and turning his attention to me and the task chosen for works entertainment, we started a bull drive. I could see my help was invaluable. I started out drag. An important position to hold to prevent back sliding, while catching and capturing dust that might have gotten away had I not been there to catch it. Randy on the other hand rode on up and ahead to open a gate what was holding these beeves so close to the ranch yard complex. These animals needed feed and out here pasture was the preferred method.
I did alright, up the first stiff grade and through the first gate and I hadn’t fallen out of the saddle yet. Sitting pretty, I could do this. We were on our way.
Pastures in this country were generally sized six miles by six miles with the exceptions of those established in the foothills running up the mountain sides. And, all these pasture sizes were totally dependant upon available water for satisfying livestock thirsts. Where there are no springs or wells, earthen reservoirs to catch mountain snow’s run off have been built and maintained.
Six miles to the next gate, Randy spoke of coming events and my part in them. “From time to time, some knot-noggined bull is going to take off in one direction or another. You keep pushing these guys South to the next gate while I go and bring the runaway back. And if while I’m gone, another one takes off in yet another direction, keep an eye on which way that was so you can tell me when I get back.”
That was probably the biggest mouth full he had spoke all week. And I understood my easy role. Done right, and only twelve miles more to go, I could easily have kept us out all night. True to his word. Words only just spoken we had our first breakaway, and Randy was after him before a snort could be toned nor heard. Coming up to the next gate, Randy and the contrary bull he was pushing/closing on my rear, I moved on ahead and opened the next gate and watched Randy drag these guys though the barbed wired opening.
Another chance to ride side by side there was little time for an exchange of words. There seemed to be dissention between animals on both sides of the herd. So, Randy would ride this side then that, giving these critters something to worry about other than each other. Randy riding along the right side, An ugly looking bull took off East. Randy’s wrong side positioning caught him unawares, and took extra time to come about the main body and take up that contrary critters aim. Me, I did what was expected. Rode drag moving right to left, left to right holding this mobs interest South to the next gate.
Must have covered a couple miles, no sign of Randy. Another half mile, two break for the West. The Boss Man boss I rode my station South, taking one more long look at the pair’s disappearance line of flight, setting its location in my mind. Another mile and I’m wondering has he fallen out of his saddle? Nah! Couldn’t happen. Not this guy, probably weaned in the saddle. Coming about thinking I would have to finish this drive, I finally sight Randy way off to my left. He’s a long ways off, the next gate now only a mile or less off. Randy’s coming. Yeah, he can bring them on from here. What the Hell?
Wheeling Joker to my right a bit of a kick in his sides we were moving out. Leaning forward putting my weight on my feet my body forward over his shoulders I brought him right a bit. In a full gallop we crowned that knoll I had set in my mind. There they were. “Hoa! Whoa! Slow down big boy.” I’m gently pulling the reins, easing myself back to the saddle, no words were needed. The reins I laid relaxed over the top of his neck, yet in hand, Joker went to work. Grabbing both there attentions he made them known who was boss here and what was expected of them. Quicker than I could see it, Joker had to have sensed their every move. He was there before they get to it. Forward, back, side to side, and reversal, I stayed with him. Must have been my construction training walking beams and plates one story, several stories in the air. Joker had them doing his will, and once motivated, and unrelenting, I let him take them back to the herd. I was merely along for the ride. And what a ride it was. Better viewing from the saddle than an unsaddled couch over an un-reined coffee table looking at a rabbit-eared TV screen.
Topping the second rise, once between us, I could see the far pasture gate open. Randy was lazily beside it, his charges scattering out beyond it. This had to have been the last gate. What a ride, and joker never eased his pace until he had now run the skinny butted bulls through that last gate.
I don’t know whether Randy was laughing at me or the bulls. I didn’t want to ask for I was not sure I wanted the answer. Randy having closed the gate, swung himself back into the saddle, and joining me. He takes out a bag of Bull Durum. Commencing to roll himself a smoke he dribbled some tobacco into a paper, rolled it, closed his pouch and pocketed it, and struck a match, all one handed, then remarked, “You’re quite a horseman, Foot!”
“Don’t be giving me and Joker any crap, Randy. You knew Joker could do you the job if you just found some dummy who could sit in his saddle.” I told him.
Thinking I heard a bit of a soft laugh, he spoke again, “I think we had better be getting back before we’re faced with another postponed meal.”
In all honesty, for to tell the truth, until that day I had never had a horseback ride the likes I had that day. And sadly while I have been up a number of times since, none have ever matched or even equaled that long Summer afternoon‘s adventure.