Those of you who have recently seen our home page will have seen the YouTube segment on the ITV1 segment of Martin Clunes’ most recent series about the relationship of man and horse. The segment was made here some months ago, and I remember it as a great few days spent with truly charming people. Martin, though a big star, was the easiest person to be with, and the whole crew was charming and undemanding.
Watching them at work made me think of the many things filmed or video-taped here over the years. I remember one television segment made here for the public television channel in Tucson, with a beautiful presenter whose name was Dawn. The series was a piece on the Dragoon Mountains and it so happened that my brother-in-law was at that time driving his cattle to the Stronghold Canyon, to spend about two months of the winter there. The producer decided to videotape the cattle drive, and their arrival in the Stronghold Pasture. The way up there was via Soren Canyon, on the other side of the mountain from Grapevine, and I was deputized to drive the truck which went ahead of the cattle, with the camera mounted on the back, filming the herd as it came on.
All went well, and we got to the point where we had to leave the truck and scramble down a mountain trail, ahead of the herd. At the end of the trail was an old mine digging which overlooked the whole of the vast canyon from a little flat spot dug out of the steep mountain side by the miner, some hundred years ago, and the trail, along which the cattle were to be driven, wound its way around the mountain to this spot.
We carried the equipment to the location, and started to set it up, but Dawn was nowhere in evidence. As the crew secured the camera and the sound equipment, I began to worry about her. “Where’s Dawn?” I asked the guys, “she’ll have to get here before the cows!” “Ah, don’t worry” one of the men said, busy with his stuff, “she’s probably somewhere back down the trail!”
After quite a bit more time, I became really concerned, and decided to backtrack to see if I could find her. After the second bend in the trail I saw her. She staggered towards me, looking much disheveled and rather muddy from the waist down. “My God, what happened?” I asked. “Oh,” she said, “I forgot to tell you, I’m really scared of heights, and you know that last bit that’s so steep, I had to crawl along the trail on my hands and knees!”
We hurried back to the camera, and no sooner had she brushed the dirt and twigs off her clothes and combed her hair, than here came the cows, chugging around the last bend in the trail towards us, then flowing around us and disappearing over the edge of the very steep trail leading down to the bottom of the canyon. I’ve never forgotten that particular shoot, and I rather think that she hasn’t either!
Another segment made here for British television was for the popular program “I Wish You Were Here” with Mary Nightingale. It has remained firmly in my memory not only because Mary was so beautiful, unaffected and charming, but also because of her closing comment on the show: ”The only trouble here is” she said, “your teeth get dusty from smiling so much!” It became quite a comment around here for a while, the dusty teeth! Needless to say, that program brought many UK visitors and, I am happy to say, they are coming still!I got a good laugh out of my dog Tuffy today. This morning, for some reason she suddenly developed a severe limp on her right front foot. I checked her paw but could find nothing. I told Danny, and he checked it, and then Sarah, our head wrangler, who used to be a veterinary assistant, checked it also, but there was nothing to be seen, in spite of the fact that she was basically on three legs. It happened it was Monday, a day I usually don’t go to Grapevine, but today I wanted to go to lunch in order to say goodbye to a special couple. I couldn’t be bothered with the whole jeans, shirt and shoes thing, so I pulled on a pair of Capri pants and sandals. Danny and I were going to drive in together, and he came in to get me. Usually Tuff is extremely eager to come with me, but this day she lay quietly on the floor, showing no desire at all to accompany us. “Come on, Tuff!” I said, only to be presented with a ‘No I don’t want to’ expression on her face, as she turned her head away, and remained flopped on the floor with a definite air of refusal to get up. So we left her. On the way over I puzzled over her reaction. “How strange!” I said to Danny, “she’s usually so happy to come with me! I hope she’s not seriously sick!” Danny thought a bit, and then hit on the solution. “You know,” he said, “you were not dressed in your usual ranch stuff – you were dressed as if you were going to town. I bet she thought you were taking her to the vet!” And we’re pretty certain that’s what it was – Ah no, she probably thought, you three all fussed with my foot and now you’re dressed different, and I know what THAT means and I ain’t going! We both had a good laugh over that – and sure enough, on our return we were greeted by a remarkably happier dog. The foot is better now – I think she was likely stung by something in the grass – but don’t tell me that animals don’t reason, don’t remember, don’t project the future! Yesterday I went for my usual Sunday morning horseback ride. I rode Tequila and took Comanche, running alongside, free. We all enjoy these outings – Comanche generally lags behind, eating grass and then catching up, but sometimes he’ll come up level with me and on occasion he takes the lead, as if to tell Tequila ‘I’m still the top horse, you know’!! We had a good ride and were heading back when I spied a Grapevine ride on the way out. The wranglers on the ride, RJ and Megan, decided to take the opportunity to flag a trail which had not been ridden for a while, but weren’t quite sure where it was, so I decided to come with them. I thought that, as we were relatively close to home, Comanche would continue on to the corrals, but some time later I looked back and saw that he had resolutely taken the number two spot, right on Tequila’s heels, which he kept more or less most of the way, at times coming up alongside to get his ears scratched. I really enjoy these outings with him – I guess the most captivating thing about them is that he comes along willingly, not on a lead line, not ridden, but just for the fun of it. Of course, perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised, as this is also the horse who had once jumped the garden wall to follow me into the bedroom, and was quite put out when I wouldn’t let him in!
And, as the summer is generally a quieter time, the wranglers took the opportunity to really, really clean the barn and the medicine room, and, in the course of this, some wondrous things came to light. We had thought we needed to buy more tack, like reins, latigos, cinches and odd bit and pieces, adding up to a few hundred dollars – but no! More of this stuff came to light than you would think possible, hidden in the back room under piles of horse blankets and old saddles. Then they decided to clean out the medicine room – and you wouldn’t believe how many out of date jars of various ointments and remedies were pitched out. The place looks so wonderful now, sparkling clean and tidy that I think they should charge admission to come admire it!