Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter 16--Daddy buys a horse for me and Dynamite wins my heart by loving horses

Header made by Connie who also loves horses. Grandpa, champion calf roper, branding calves with his hired men.



DAUGHTERS OF THE SHADOW MEN

Chapter Sixteen

Daddy came back from a trip out over the mountain in the truck and told me quite casually that he had a new horse for me to try out. I ran out to the corrals to see and was overjoyed. There couldn't have been a more beautiful horse than Don. He was lean and well formed, brown with a long wavy black mane and tail. Daddy warned me he was an old horse but gentle. He would not be able to take him out on the range to ride because he had been ridden out. The gentleman who traded him to Daddy had been kind enough to tell him Don didn't have the stamina for hard work and traveling long distances anymore. But I knew Daddy had been looking for a horse for a long time gentle enough for us girls to ride. Don was that horse.
He did not have one trait of 'acting up' unless you counted the fact that he was hard to catch. Daddy said I might have to use an oat sack if I was alone and wanted to ride him. Otherwise I might be chasing him around the corral a long time trying to get a bridle on him. Well, I spent as much time as possible riding the new horse. I told Daddy he had the most beautiful sound to his gait when he loped. It was the most rhythmical lope in a horse I ever experienced. I just loved everything about Don. I daydreamed about what a magnificent horse he must have been when he was young, how many hours of pleasure he must have given his owner or owners before he played out.
Daddy knew a lot about overworking horses. He knew how to pace his horses' working life so they did not give out. After all, he and others spent years training 'cow horses' to work with cattle in this rough country, so a well trained horse with a lot of stamina was worth gold to a cow puncher. Daddy was a champion calf roper who men wanted to do the roping when they had to brand calves every year. He caught his calves so fast they just got done a lot quicker. He and Grandpa King were both known for their roping expertise and training and working a horse.
We used to laugh at how soon some of the 'tough' cowboys would wear their horses out. One bunch of young brothers were known for their skinny horses. They always rode their horses on a dead run. Well, the horses didn't last long, but they got there sooner. But they were tough boys and when their ponies played out just used to go down on the range where wild horses ran and rope themselves another cow pony, bring him home, and run him slim. Daddy joked they would always have slim horses.
I was always very solicitous about my horses' well being. I observed my dad's and granddad's ways with horses very closely, and when I started school I found myself attracted only to the boyfriends who loved horses. One boy and one boy only loved me and claimed me for his girlfriend but he did not love horses so he did not win my heart. Instead I loved his cousin called Dynamite because I was never to know another boy more obsessed with horses. But his nickname kind of gives you a clue as to his character. He had the worst temper of any boy in school. His cousins had named him in self defense, but he was proud of his nickname and probably lost his temper all the more until he became known far and wide as Dynamite.
Keep in mind that I had developed a sexual imagination at a very young age, so loving a boy was agony for me especially when he loved another girl. I think my passion for him confused him since he was not quite as far advanced in his passion for girls. What he did not understand he was bound to reject. I would day dream about us riding the range together on our horses, while he day dreamed about another girl who must not have been very advanced in her passions at all, because she hated his intense concentration on her. He carved their initials everywhere. He allowed his cousin to love me but he could not carve his and my initials on any tree higher than his and Elaine's were carved. Neither Elaine nor I wanted our initials carved with either one of our swains, but there they must still be on those old trees still in the school yard.
When Dynamite rode further from home he was able to carve initials even further away. His and Elaine's initials were everywhere on the mountain aspens. Since Gordon did not ride horses he never managed to get that far from home.
There were a lot of obstacles, too, in the way of Rayl riding horses. When he first went to school he carved willows into horses he rode between his legs on a gallop. When he wasn't busy he drew horses and pictures of a princess all day. Sometimes he would draw Barbara and me, too, but we would always be a little less beautiful than his princess Elaine. He would show me the pictures and ask me to give Elaine hers. I was almost afraid to give her picture to her as she would respond with such disdain, but I did not want to displease Dynamite.
Finally Grandpa King noticed a horse loving boy if there ever was one and told him if he would come down and help on the ranch, he would give him a horse to break of his own. He said he would have to wait until he was ten though. He couldn't employ a child any younger on the ranch.
Dynamite could hardly wait, but until then he had to be content riding his dad's only horse, actually a work horse not a riding horse to Rayl's displeasure. He probably expressed so much contempt for his dad not being a cowboy, they never got along. His dad became the local carpenter. He just had not taken to horses as Rayl had. I figured Rayl took after his Uncle Cecil, his mother's cowpuncher brother. Cecil was one of the young cowboys who had learned the trade working for ranchers like my granddad. He was a horse lover and Rayl bragged he would help him break his bronco when he got him so he would not ruin him.
In the meantime I am sure that I couldn't resist talking about my horse Don causing Rayl to hate me more, because Marilyn and I even rode to Boulder, me on Don, and guess what, Marilyn on one of her stepdad's mules. We were used to the big burly Morias cutting a comic figure on his mules. I think he and his brother Merlin purchased the mules when they got the mail contract one year, and when the upper road over Hell's Backbone made it possible for a truck to carry the mail they lost the contract. Morias just went on riding the mules. This was unheard of in that country. All the horsemen but Morias had too much pride ever to be seen riding a mule.
Now Marilyn had taken to riding one of Morias's mules to Boulder as often as her mother would let her go. I really admired her because I doubted if I could be humble enough to be seen on a mule, especially by Dynamite who would have sneered himself silly. Marilyn was beautiful, too, but she was above caring what people thought about her riding a mule. She just wanted to go to Boulder away from her Mom and Morias and their growing family. And naturally a great deal more work for her. I knew how that went.
I got so I jumped up and ran out to help my dad every chance I got. I drove the team, stomped the hay, and eventually I even started cooking for the hay men in Salt Gulch when Mother made her escape altogether from a ranch she had never grown to love. And pretty soon, Daddy promised me I would be riding the range with him in the roundups. Life was a big adventure on horses. I could not wait to get on a horse and go up that trail to Sand Creek and Death Holler country. I dreamed about that trail for years. I dreamed about running with horses up that trail into the land of adventure on the open range. But I was not to ride the range in Salt Gulch for two more years. I still had to come of age like Dynamite and be at least ten or so before I could punch cattle with my dad and granddad. Then I would be given a working cow horse to ride and I would be expected to show no fear. I wondered if I could do it.
Poor Daddy was never to have any sons now that Mother had been 'fixed.' We daughters were all he was going to get, and it had to be faced that we were not made like boys, I wasn't even the tom boy type, lean and wiry and tougher than iron. I knew my limitations. Daddy knew my limitations, too, and was careful not to push me beyond where I could safely go. But I loved horses. I loved horses. And that was all that mattered.


Death Holler country on the Salt Gulch side and "Cattle Drive" painted by my sister LaRae. This is how the cattle looked in 'round-up time'.



5 comments:

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

Nice entry showing your love for horses. I had powder. Linda didn't own a horse..she shared with me. I always thought he was mine.

Gerry said...

I remember Powder was yours, and Diana was LaRae's, but she didn't much like her. I didn't have Don too long. We moved to Boulder with him and then I don't know from there, but I would go down and get one of Grandpa's to ride. The last horse Daddy gave me was Wissy. Daddy didn't exactly say Don was mine, rather a kid horse for both of us if Margie wanted to ride, but I don't know if she ever rode Don. So I claimed him in this entry because I loved him so much.

Missie said...

I always wished I had gotten a horse as a young girl. Have a good rest of your week.

Connie said...

There is no other feeling in the world than on the back of a horse and being one with it's mind. Little girls and horses just go together.More so than boys and horses,I think.They don't feel with their heart like little girls do.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

I always liked the name Wissy, but I can't remember the horse. We rode Buttons before we got Powder.
Diana was a pill from day one.


Herrad

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