August 14, 2013



Have you ever had a runaway? I mean a real one. Not just one of those really feel good days.
One of the most valuable things on any ranch is a kid’s horse. I’m not much into ponies. Occasionally there is a good one. Most are evil little creatures. Maybe trained by leprechauns to step on children’s feet, rub them off on branches, lie down in water, stop and graze, or lie down and roll when they tire. Again, once in awhile you see a good one, but I’ll stick with horses for kids.
The best horse is a good old ranch horse that has made many a mile following cows. He knows where he should be and he teaches the kids how to handle cattle. He might be a little gimpy on his left front. His knees may be bad. He might have teeth that are worn out or missing and he requires special feed. But you can put a kid or grandkid on him and you know that if the kid falls off, it is simply because the child wasn’t ready when a cow turned back.
That kind of horse is getting harder and harder to find as ATVs replace horses on a lot of operations. We’ve been lucky. The best is Drifter. He came off a ranch in South Dakota (Thanks TJ and Deb). He knows more about kids and cows than most people I have met.
Ladybug came from South Dakota also. Hasn’t made the miles that Drifter has, but is pretty solid. Solid and lazy. Isn’t going to run off because that would take too much effort.
So, the other day, Will had to move some cows. Put two kids on Drifter and two on Ladybug. It went alright for a while. Then Ladybug noticed that she had someone on behind the saddle. She spooked and became wide-eyed and knew mountain lions were trying to eat her. She was picking up gears we didn’t know she had. Will was reaching for his rope and wondering if he should pray, cry, or give chase when the boys started to loosen up. Wyatt was hanging onto Evan and had them both pulled out of the saddle. When Wyatt lost his grip and hit the ground, Evan managed to get back in the saddle and stop the stampede. Luckily, no one was hurt.
That evening I was telling our daughter Carmen that Ladybug had ran away.
Now, since I was a child we have had lots of animals run away. My first dog that started killing sheep. A dog that snarled at a neighbor’s kid would run away. We’ve had crippled horses and crippled cattle and worthless tomcats that run away during the night. You understand?
So when I told Carm that Ladybug ran away, her first reaction was a gasp. “You shot Ladybug!”
It was a sigh of relief when I explained that this was a real, real runaway. And Evan says he learned a valuable lesson. “Don’t ride Ladybug double.”