When you’re growing up in the ’50s and ’60s on a remote ranch 30 miles from your nearest town of 1200 residents that housed the only family doctor in two counties, poor outcomes of wrecks were a way of life. I, being the youngest of three other siblings, growing up rough and reckless, was the beneficiary of many.
My sister Lila and brothers Jim and Chuck each got a horse of their own at a very young age to break and grow up with. On a beautiful Apr. 23 morning, a gangly little pinto horse colt was born to his quarter horse mother, Pet, and half Welch stud, Toy. I was awe struck by the fancy little colt, so my dad said “How’d you like that little trinket for your very own?”
I don’t know where the expression “on cloud nine” got its merits, but I was higher than that. At only five years old, I clung to Trinket’s side nearly every day and Pet was very tolerant of my presence as most older dogs and horses seem to be with children.
When he was weaned that fall, I’d tie him in the horse stall morning and night currying, petting and laying on him as he ate his oats, while dad and the others went about their chores. Dad had taught all of us how to tie a bowline knot that would never lock up tight, even when reefed on and we got so used to it we could tie it in our sleep.
For fun he taught me how to make Trinket say “yes or no.” The trick was to take a horseshoe nail and lightly poke him along the top of his neck just ahead of his withers. Responding to a simulated horsefly bite, Trinket would shake his head and ears in a side to side motion for relief. To get a “yes,” you’d do the same at his lower neck-chest area so he’d shake his head up and down. He always got a healthy dose of oats after answering my questions and got so keen at it I’d only have to stealthily point my finger at either area for results. I had a lot of fun showing off to all the neighbor kids how smart my Trinket was.
I turned seven in January and Trinket turned two in April and I had been riding him with a direct snaffle bit for a year now. On Apr. 5 of that same year, we three brothers were riding down through the pasture, home from a routine day’s study at the one room country school. Lila had already moved on to high school and was boarding in town. Jim was aboard his stout built “blue roan-gray” he named Cinco, due to a white marking in his forehead shaped like a five. Chuck’s Peso was a larger “cream color” and full brother to Cinco. They had both graduated up to saddles but I was still riding bareback. Dad preferred that with all of us to start out with so we wouldn’t get hung up, plus it makes a lot better rider out of you.
Two small hay bottoms sat on flats a half mile up Wanagan Creek from the ranch headquarters, paralleling the sheer 24-foot walls of the main gorge. As kids will be kids, there was always competition of whose horse was the fastest. The “Bed Ground Bottom” inhabited an 800-foot long straight-a-way for the race track, divided only by a small grassy knoll onto the next unnamed bottom where we’d rein them around in a big half circle for a blow and cool down.
Cinco and Peso were always neck and neck, hell bent for leather, as Trinket and I ate dust and dirt clumps at full throttle. On this chosen evening Trinket decided to abandon the cool down routine and “cold-jawed” straight for the horse barn and his oats. Without bit shanks for leverage I just grabbed a bunch of mane hair with my free hand and hung on.
Danger lie ahead ....
To be continued in following issue.