Some Horses are Broken, Some are Just Barely Bent

Back in the early 70's, when a few bucks went a lot further than it does now, our little family took a couple of long camping trips through the US and Canada. On each of them we stayed at my partner's brother Don's little horse ranch near Fruitvale in the Kootneys for awhile. On the first night of our first stopover Don's neighbor Bill stopped over with a big box of beer and we all sat around the kitchen table getting toasted and swapping stories. Being a newcomer, a tenderfoot, an Irishman and a natural born big mouth i'm sure i probably annoyed them both big time. But true to their mild mannered rancher ways they treated me kindly and even invited me to go on a trail ride with 'em the next day.

Just after breakfast, my head pounding and the sun rising fast, Bill came trotting down Don's driveway leading Big Red. The guys explained that because i was 6' 5" and was well over 200 lbs. they'd decided that i should ride Bill's old quarter horse Big Red. Having ridden a horse once before in my life as a little kid, and being totally full of shit 24/7, i figured that was a great idea. Big Red was...big, and it took everything i had in me just to jump high enough to get one foot in the stirrup and a hand on the saddle horn.

One thing i gotta say about horses, they're a good judge of character. Red knew instantly i was a rookie and that he was in charge. Guess Don and Bill did too, 'bout the only one who didn't was me. Bill turned his horse back toward the gate to head up the drive and Don's horse slowly started to follow. Red took off like rocket, i pulled back on the reins with all my might but Red had already taken the bit in his teeth and headed straight for the nearest gatepost. Holy Shit, it's a long way down when ya get knocked off a horse that big. Guess Don and Bill figured if i landed on my head the whole exercise woulda been worth it right off.

But they'd have to wait, i survived, even got back on the SOB soon after the laughter ended. Turned out Red was a gelding but he was still sure he was always supposed to go first on any trail. Good thing Red knew where we were headin cause he was definitely drivin. Don and Bill tried to show me as we went along how to operate the steering wheel, how just laying the reins over on one side Red's neck would tell him which way to turn. They said that a quick pull back n the reins was how the brakes worked and that just making a sound kinda like a loud cricket was how the gas peddle worked. Of course, Red turned when and where he wanted, stopped and started when he wanted and barely paid attention to me other than trying to turn and take a bite outta my leg every now and then.

We went up into the mountains overlooking the Pend-d'Oreille River Valley, the view was exquisite, and other than falling off one more time when Red decided to hurdle over a fallen tree he could easily have just stepped over, i made the rest of the outbound part of the trip just fine. Then, after a couple of sandwiches and a couple of beers, we turned for home. Holy Shit, again. The laughter receded into the distance as Red charged for home. i hung on for dear life as Red cut the switchbacks down the mountain by simply sitting down on his hind legs and sliding from one to the next in a cloud of dust.

Red and his half dead passenger got back to Bill's barn about an hour before Bill and Don sauntered in. i was crumpled up next to the fence my only consolation being that i'd found Bill's beer fridge out on his porch and was well on my way to Irish Nirvana by the time