I have my new camera, and after only a minor nervous breakdown, much cursing and threats to throw it out of the window, it is somewhat tamed, and herewith you will find some of the promised photographs of the so-green countryside and all the water. I hope you enjoy it as much as we are!!
I had a good friend from Phoenix come and stay for the Labor Day weekend, and, as she is a past employee, we found lots to talk about. One of the stories from my early days in this valley which I recounted to her I thought you might also find interesting. It concerns, of course, a horse.
When my ex-husband, Pete, and I first moved to the valley some 35 years ago, it was to a place about 40 miles south of here, near the town of McNeal. No sooner had we settled in than I let it be known that I was in the market for a horse. The bush telegraph buzzed, and soon a man whom I will call only Henry, called and said that he had a good horse for sale. We made a time for him to come, and in due course, there he was, with a trailer, and in the trailer a good looking, well built, short-coupled, stout little mare. She was a Quarter Horse and Welsh Pony cross, I would say, had a good conformation and flashy pinto coloring.
Henry unloaded her, saddled and bridled her, and then he said to me “She’s a real nice little mare, and all you have to do before you get on is this.” With this he grabbed the reins beneath the mare’s chin, with the other hand he took a-hold of her tail, and spun her around, round and round, as if he were doing some kind of ritual dance with her. Fresh from Australia, I took in this pantomime, somewhat bemused, and thought to myself, “Weird, but maybe that’s the way they do it in the American West”.
Henry paused, caught his breath, climbed up on the mare and rode her, albeit briefly, around the yard.
It was my first encounter with a horse trader, but I liked the look of her. I paid him, put the mare in the corral, named her Chata, which means “Shorty” in Spanish, and prepared to ride her the next day. By the time she was saddled and bridled, it seemed to me a bit silly to carry out the recommended spinning procedure, so I climbed on board and went my way. Peacefully and pleasantly we ambled through the countryside, and peacefully and pleasantly passed our riding days, with the memory of that pre-mount up spin receding from my memory.
Then, some six months later, she was out in the field, grazing, and I needed her for a ride. I had just been to a chiropractor as my back was a bit painful, so I didn’t feel like walking. I got someone to give me a lift out to her, bridled her up and jumped on her bareback ….. and got thrown so high I thought I’d never come down. The thump with which I landed convinced me that the chiropractor hadn’t seen the last of me after all, but I did saddle and ride her that day, with no further problems. Then, about two or three weeks later, after a full day of working cattle, I and Jose, one of the cowboys, were coming back to the headquarters. I remember I turned to him to say something, and with a thump found myself on the ground. It was such a quick maneuver that I had no idea what happened – but I agreed with him that perhaps I didn’t need to ride this mare again until she straightened out some.
So I asked Jose to ride her and picked another horse for myself. And then one day I saw what had happened to me. Jose and I were riding peaceably side by side, when, without cause or warning, Chata reared up, and at the same time flicked 90 degrees to the right, and Jose hit the deck.
So then he said that he was fond of his back and his health, and he wanted to keep them both in good condition, and he was a bit too old to cowboy anyway, and would the senora mind, but he didn’t want to ride that mare again. We had, at the time, a young guy working at the ranch by name of Lance, who had been a rodeo cowboy, and he said he would soon straighten Chata out.
He chose to do this in a smallish pen, fenced in, unfortunately, by barbed wire. Lance saddled up, went to step on, and before his leg was even swung over, he was on the ground.
“Son of a gun!” he said, as he picked himself up, “Here, Joe, ear ‘er down while I get on.” Joe grabbed a-hold of one of Chata’s ears, and Lance climbed aboard and settled himself. “Let ‘er go!!” he said, and the fun was on. Chata bucked, spun, kicked out, reared, but Lance stuck there like a limpet, until she aimed for the barbed wire fence and bucked alongside it just close enough that Lance tore up his leg, but she herself stayed clear and without a scratch. So then Lance wouldn’t ride her.
So now she was turned out, fat and happy, eating her head off in the pasture, until one day Sam, our cattle buyer, happened to come by. He had brought with him a horse- trailer with a skinny palomino mare, as he was on the way to check some cattle.
“Say” – he said, “that’s good lookin’ little mare!!” “Oh yes, Sam, she is, she is”, I babbled, “and she’s for sale!!” “Really?” said Sam, “ Well, I can’t afford to pay you much, you know, but I’ll tell you what! I’ll trade in Bony, here” – indicating the skinny mare – “and I’ll pay you …..” whatever it was, as the balance. I couldn’t agree quick enough.
Sam unloaded Bony, loaded up Chata, gave me some money, and took off for his ranch. There she put three Mexican cowboys in hospital, tore up some fencing, and generally caused such a havoc that even there nobody would ride her.
And then, some months later, Sam came to call again. I was hoping he wouldn’t ask me what happened to Bony, because it had turned out that, unbeknown to him, she had been in foal, and in fact had dropped a pretty pinto colt, whom we named Yuki. He didn’t ask, because he had news of his own.
“Remember that damn mare you sold me??” he said as soon as he got out of the truck. “Y-ees, ‘ I said carefully. “How’s she doing?” “Well,” said Sam “I sold her to a rancher’s wife the other side of the Bisbee Divide!!”
“Sam! How could you!!” I said, thinking, some poor little old ranch lady….
“No, no” said Sam ”She likes her real well, gets along with her just fine…..”
…..and the last I heard, that ranch lady had that mare for over ten years, and that mare never put a foot wrong!