Horses-Tobacco Root Mountains-Montana

I never was much of a horse person.  I liked the idea of horses.  Riding them?  Screw it, I'd rather walk.  I know girls like 'em.  Me and my bony butt, not so much.  My knees never appreciated it either. Family jewels?  There was a time or two that I uttered a higher octave.

I once spent a summer employed by the Forest Service.  It was the best summer of my life. As a range wannabe, horses were part of the deal.  Uncle even tried to teach me how to throw a diamond hitch.  Thinking this to be my eventual calling, I bought a book.  Horse Packing in Pictures.  Great idea.  Kind of like painting by numbers.  My packing career never got past the looking at the pictures stage.  I gave it away to a friend who has horses and mules, and, who actually does some packing.

I once met a guy who resented being called a "cowboy."  He was a "horseman."  He had a cushy office job.  Really?  Poking around, I discovered that horses are said to respond to horseman, they react to cowboys.  Give a cowboy a two by four, and the horse will respond. Just add lumber and voila, horseman.

Once, while out checking a backcountry grazing allotment, we encountered a flock of sheep.  We rode through the bleating woolies.   A horse mounted figure, slumped in the saddle, weaved through the flock.  We tried to make a little conversation.  "Howdy."  About all he could manage was a long drawn out "Yaaaaaaaah."  His head would slump again.  This cowboy stuff must be hard work.  He couldn't stay awake.   No matter what the question, the response was…...  "Yaaaaaaaaah."  More head slumping.  His horse stared at us blankly.   I was jealous. I practically needed a seat belt to stay attached to my horse.  This guy, bombed out of his gourd, clung to his horse admirably. Cowboy?  Horseman?  Who knows?  We rode away.  I snickered, "Geez, was that Rooster Cogburn?"  I wonder if his sheep were still there when he sobered up.

Back to the summer of Uncle.  I never figured out how to properly adjust the stirrups.  I don't care what anyone says, there is no comfortable position for them.  No matter the adjustment, my knees killed me.  So, I spent a lot of time walking.   I'm sure, to quote Jack O'Connor, "that my horse spent most of the summer congratulating itself." My horse never had it so good.

Years ago, I went on a hunt in northern British Columbia.  Horses were part of the deal.  Ah, the romance of a long pack trip to remote country.  It was late summer.  Still warm, the bugs were out. We were riding along, heading back to camp.  The horseflies were still out en masse.  They'd buzz around, looking for a victim from which to chew a chunk of flesh.  One buzzed my horse.  I saw it light, just inside its nostril.  Now what?  Well, it was kind of like watching a fuse burn down before detonation.  I braced myself.  The fateful moment arrived.  The bite registered.  Said horsey went nuts. I hung on as he set the four legged land speed record. We covered a significant part of the province in seconds.  Was I a cowboy?  Horseman?  Hell no, I was scared.  

I still don't like riding horses, but I like the idea.


  1. Horse fly in the nostril? Whoa. We think we've got it bad. I'm with you on this one. Would rather walk!

    1. One of the disadvantages of having a big nose (the horse, not me). I can still see the blood dripping from that nostril. That said, the friend that inherited the packing book chimed in by saying that he'd rather walk too. Unfortunately, the years and miles take a toll. And, if you feed 'em, might as well use 'em. If I ever shoot another critter, I have to enlist his horsies.


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