Livestock & Pets

 
 

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Originally, I had separate livestock and pet pages. Sometimes, the line is so blurred, it is hard to decide if they are one or the other.

Is a bottle lamb livestock or a pet? A livestock guard dog, pet or livestock? A horse? I won't categorize any of them. You decide.

Most animals have different personalities just like people. Some are smart, some not so smart. Inquisitive. Lazy. Energetic.

HORSES

I had had horses and a mule growing up; my last one about the age of 12 or 13. I didn't intend to get back in the horse business but I did...out of frustration. A friend and I had been hunting Texas and New Mexico for many years. We had tried to book an outfitter in New Mexico but they were always booked up. We backpacked in about 12 or 15 miles for a while. Forty year old knees won't stand up to climbing mountains with eighty-five pound packs. Thus, the decision to buy some horses. I looked at several but Blue was my first purchase.

Blue, an Arabian/quarter horse cross...mostly.

I called the number in the newspaper ad and spoke to an old fellow. Yeah, he had two horses for sale. I went to look at then. One was obviously broke down. The other, a flea-bit grey was a strange mix...emotionally. He was friendly and would come up to you in a pen. Easy to saddle but would buck pretty good when you mounted. The old guy's son was a real hotdog. A real "drugstore" cowboy complete with big sharp spurs. He could get Blue to run up the hill and back by getting after him with the spurs. I didn't think much of this treatment.

I went back to look at him three time before buying him. I think his eyes were what drew me in. They weren't a mean look. Kind of a pleading, apprehensive what-now kind of an expression. I probably bought him out of pity as much as anything.

I turned him loose on a hundred acres. It took a week to catch him the first time. I thought, "OK, I've got time." I still had to find two more horses. After he realized I wasn't going to mistreat him every time he was caught, he would come up to me anywhere.

I had been saddling him for a while but not riding him. The first time I got on was in a small pen; no bridle just a halter and lead rope. No spurs; just sat on him. When he would bow up a little to buck, I would reach up and  twist his ear. I know this probably isn't some "method" you'll see on TV but I hadn't been exposed to the TV trainers.

He gradually came to trust me. Turns out he had a very playful nature. He would grab your cap and run off with it. He was smart. He could untie any knot.

The look in his eye slowly changed to one of confidence. When we moved out of the small pen to the pasture, I just let him go where and when he wanted. No pressure. Eventually, I could catch him in the back side of the pasture; hop on bareback with no halter; and ride him to the barn at a lope. Later, he would come when I whistled.

He was my saddle horse for several years. I could  go to the mountains and turn him loose. He could be gone running around for an hour and would come when I whistled.

While out riding, if I wanted to give my butt a break I would get off and  walk for a while. Or maybe climbing a steep trail, I would walk. I would throw the reins over his neck and he would follow like a pup. It was nice to know when you got to the top of a ridge, he would be right behind you.

Six or seven years later, he came down with navicular and couldn't carry much weight. He would now let little kids ride but I was the only adult that could ever ride him. I finally gave him to a little six year old girl down the road who loved that horse more than her parents. She really pampered him. He lived to age twenty-four.

Chewy, Quarter horse

Almost twenty years ago, I’m heading to the mountains of the Gila Wilderness Area in southwest New Mexico. It is my annual fall pilgrimage. I’m pulling a four horse bumper pull trailer with a ¾ ton 2 wd pickup. My two most trusted friends are with me; Blue, my saddle horse and Chewy, my most experienced pack horse. 

Chewy was about ten years old when I bought him as a saddle horse for my wife and for my hunting partner. I don’t know anything about him prior to that. A little more info on him would include how he got his name. He could starve a goat to death. He would eat anything from cockle burrs to sunflowers to tree leaves. 

He was the calmest animal I ever had. He had one speed. You could stack kids from his ears to his tail. If one fell off, he would stand on three legs until he was sure they were back on. If one got a little impatient with the reins, he would take the bit in his teeth, stretch his neck out and jerk the reins from their hands. He had a deep, broad chest and heavily muscled fore legs. Sometime in his life he had spent some time going downhill. 

He truly liked to go places. If you left a trailer gate open, he would get in just on the outside chance someone might hitch up and take him. 

Anyway, on this particular trip, we have been traveling for about seven hours and the motel we stop at is an hour away. It is already dark. I liked to let the horses walk around and drink before stopping. They were a little less noisy at the motel after some exercise. I would put the hay bags out for them to munch on at the motel. 

I pulled off the highway into a rest stop. It wasn’t a real rest stop; just a spot for truckers to catch a nap. There wasn’t anyone else there but I pulled to the far end near the highway entrance ramp. The ramp was a little uphill but there was some grass there on the right-of-way. As I pulled off the pavement onto the gravel shoulder, I felt the truck settle into the sand underneath the gravel. While I was still moving, I tried to pull back on the pavement. No go; I’m stuck. 

I unload the horses and tie them to a sign post. Maybe with less weight, I can get out. No, now the tongue jack is in the sand. I unhook the trailer and manage to get the pickup back on the asphalt. 

I don’t have a chain but I do have plenty of rope. I always carried 2 or 3 lariat ropes in the saddle compartment of the trailer. I back up as close as I can and tie onto the trailer with a doubled rope. It won’t budge with the jack in the sand. I break the rope trying. 

As I stand there in the dark surveying the situation, a light comes on. I don’t need 250 horsepower. I only need one horsepower; Chewy. I had never hitched him to anything. He had pulled some dead trees to camp for firewood but never any heavy load. I wasn’t sure he could do it but I was pretty much out of options. I turned the truck around so I would have some light. 

Why I grabbed my saddle rather than the pack saddle, I don’t know. It was a heavy saddle with a rawhide covered tree and a doubled and stitched breast strap. I cinched it down over two pads. A new rope, a clove hitch in the middle around the horn and the long ends down each side served as tugs. As Chewy backed up to the trailer, I could see we were going to have trouble keeping his hind legs out of the ropes. I was fresh out of single trees. 

But I did have a double bit axe with a stout hickory handle. Leaving the leather sheath on, I tied the ropes to the ends of the handle and the trailer safety chains to the center. As I stepped forward, he followed. As the ropes tightened, he stopped. I was having second thoughts when he gave me that ‘what now’ look. I stepped forward and took the slack out of his lead rope. My clucking was more a plea than reassurance. 

He leaned into that make-shift harness. Leather creaked, ropes strummed, his big hooves sunk into the sand. The tongue of the trailer lifted and spun around about 45 degrees. I had intended to just get the tongue to where I could hook up the pickup again. I thought his hooves might slip on the asphalt. I stopped and turned around thinking he would stop. He walked right past me up the grade headed west. I pitched his lead rope over his back as he went past. From the rear of the trailer, I yelled at him to “Whoa”. I wasn’t sure he would hold the load while I chocked the wheels but he did. I backed him up a step to put some slack in the ropes. 

As I scratched his cheeks, he rubbed his forehead on my chest. It was an emotional moment. I was thankful, relieved and proud. I was thinking, “No one will ever believe this”. I was startled to hear, “My God, I’ve never seen anything like that before”. It was a trucker who was headed east on the Interstate. He had seen me in the pickup lights and stopped to see if he could help. Absorbed in what we were doing, I hadn’t seen him walk up. 

He had fifty questions about horses as I unsaddled Chewy. He wanted to help so much, I asked him to take Chewy back to that grassy spot for a bite while I hooked up. After turning around, hooking up and loading Blue, I walked back the fifty yards or so and thanked him for stopping. He was still asking questions. I had one last chance to impress him. 

As we said our goodbyes, I unsnapped Chewy’s lead rope and told him, “ Chewy, old boy, we better go to El Paso”. He took off at a slow trot and got right in the trailer. As I closed the gate, I looked back. Our new friend was standing in the middle of the road in the dark rubbing his chin. 

So, if you hear this tale at a truckstop, you can let them know you have the facts first hand. And his name was Chewy.

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