Even in the 90’s Rounding up cattle could only be done as always had been done – a team effort from the back of a horse.
At my already ‘dated age’ I was sought out to help on such.
Well – hell ya – I’m IN…
In earlier story telling, the horse I had was a bonifide runaway. We got to know each other intimately during this gathering & drive.
It’s dirty, dusty work & on THIS ranch – dangerous with Cholla…
One carries a fine-toothed comb to scrape Cholla off your horse – or you- if unfortunate to have to.
Day one of the gathering was fairly uneventful. Horse & I newly reaquainted were doing well. He was sure footed & I could feel he wanted to please.
What more could one ask…?
The second day was more challenging as we were gathering & pushing out of heavy Cholla areas.
As nimble as the mount was – he grazed a ‘bush’ – I could tell & pulled him up… Offending piece hanging just back of cinch … Gawd…
He was trembling a bit, but not moving away like some horses might do under similar circumstances.
Talking to him the whole time, I kept contact with his neck, then shoulder & moved in toward the Cholla. Comb out – I gave him a couple of light thumps just below the saddle and combed that chunk off.
He quit trembling almost as soon as it was out, even tho there were a few spines to get out. Did that with a pair of pliers… Roughed up the area a bit with my glove & off we went to catch the group ahead, while looking for hide out stragglers. Ha! Found three! After catching up, we found out this particular area of the ranch was done.
We broke early to meet in the morning, coffee up, saddle up & trailer the horses into another section about 8 miles from HQ. We were riding by 8 AM or so.
It was a long day with the largest part if the herd finally in front heading to meet up with the others left in a water tank pen.
A few hours later, we were there. Dust was about horse high & thick. I was getting tired about now as well, and as sometimes happens – dropped a rein.
And knew exactly what would follow.
I tried to grab for it, missed, he stepped on it, threw his head back, and clocked me good.
I had sunglasses on & was hit just to right of bridge…Dayyum! Did that hurt.
Horse stopped dead in his tracks even with all the commotion around us – he didn’t budge. Good boy – cuz at that moment I could barely see and was dizzy.
No one saw any of this.
After a few minutes all the cattle & riders were by – I dismounted & checked his mouth, gave him a few pats & we walked up and over the dirt berm to the water.
Dunked my scarf in & washed the dirt, mud, tears & mucous off my face – best I could. Haaa – what a sight I must’ve been.
Mounted back up and we set off at a brisk pace to catch up again. 20 or so minutes later – we were riding drag again.
No further adventures that day and we secured over 300 head in the HQ pens. Put the horses up, brushed and fed – then a few headed to the ranch house before heading home.
I needed hydration & to just sit down for a bit before driving back to Tucson.
Took off my hat and glasses and started in on a bottle of water – the foreman walks in, looks at me and stopped cold…”Good God Almighty! What happened to you!!!”. Genuine shock right there.
I hadn’t looked to see my eye – wasn’t bothering me that much by then & I forgot about it. Well, the foreman startled me into finding a mirror and what I saw was a beaut. Big and purple with over half the white now red… No wonder he yelped.
I had to work at my regular job next day and wasn’t committed to the ranch til 2 days down the road… So I told the foreman give my regards to all & I headed home.
When I arrived – my good boy Roscoe was jumping all over the gate area – thrilled I was back… Opened the gate – drove in and parked after a brief howdy do with the guy dawg – who got kinda subdued after a few sniffs.
Closed the gate & headed inside straight to the shower… But not before Roscoe had his questions answered… Haaaaa!
Hat & glasses off – he knew something was wrong – half of my face by now didn’t belong – it disturbed him & took about an hour to convince him ‘it was OK’… What a guydawg.
Uneventful nite – sound sleep… At the office by 0800.
Boss takes one look & does a repeat of the ranch foreman. By now – I’m getting ‘into it’…
Since I was a sales/designer for landscaping – I told him I thought I could work this black eye and swelling, by saying I didn’t meet quota & ‘The boss slugged me’… 🙄😁
It was a joke, but to his credit, he wasn’t keen – that I wouldn’t do this… Haaa!
So – he said “take the rest of the week off”… So I did, after thanking him… He was staring after me as I left – shaking his head a bit.
I returned to Deep Wells for the separating and cattle truck loading. Got my same horse – we were both glad to see each other!
No further incidents of note & this horse was an experienced cutter by end of my final day there. He was a natural – a sight to see, a marvel to ride & be part of this skillful pony.
Even Jolly seemed impressed, hard bitten rancher n all.
And that was it.
A lot of events rolled into one I won’t ever forget.
“I got Spurs that jingle jangle jingle…”