I imagine that by now you are all convinced that I have either died and gone to heaven or left for balmy climates elsewhere! So sorry for the long pause – and, not as an excuse, but as a reason, I want to tell you that the pause was entirely due to the fact that I am now the lucky occupant of not one, but two chairs at Grapevine – namely, the normal one of what I guess you could call management, and one of the bookkeeper, a job which once used to be mine and is now once again mine, albeit I hope, temporarily!
And other things have transpired – our Christmas and New Year were busy and a lot of fun, even though we missed our lost friend Dave, who, sadly, has not been with us for two New Year’s Eve parties now – but the band was great anyway. Danny, of course, assisted by Ferne, who used to work at GCR years ago and who comes and plays and sings at times, accompanied by her daughter Lou Anne, both with fabulous voices, then Marilyn, who is currently in Housekeeping, but who is also a professional musician and a great performer and singer, and last, but by no means least, our friend Steve from the UK, who actually transported his guitar all the way here for the occasion. So it was a good night – even though we missed Dave.
January has been busier than normal, which usually is not all that wonderful, as festivities are over, people stay at home and recover financially – but this year, more guests than in other years have come to the ranch, and we are encouraged for the coming year.
But the last few days I have been at home with a bad cold – something that does not usually strike me – and, while laid up, I have had time to think. One of my recollections concerned a very special horse I had for almost 33 years – I used to joke that I had her for longer than I’d had my husband, to whom I was married for 25 year. Her name was Skoshi – and so I decided to make this blog a tribute to her…. A tribute to a lost friend, whom I hope to meet again…..She was the best horse I ever had.
And over the years, I had several good horses – my first horse, Regent, when I was just eight years old – my special friend, Comanche, who is with me still, … as is Tequila, who gave me so much pleasure, and now Scotty and Chikala … but ….
she was the best horse I ever had.
Her name was Skoshi.
Actually, her first name, the name given her by her first, teen-age owner on whose place she was foaled, called her Charmette, but how can any self respecting horse live with a name like that! I bought her when she was almost seven years old – she came with two Safeway bags full of ribbons and trophies she had won with her former owner – and I named her Skoshi. The name means “little” in Japanese, and was suggested by my then husband, who had lived in Japan.
She was skoshi – under 14 hands, Quarter Horse and perhaps Welsh Pony, who knew? She was well built, good conformationed, and solid, solid in body and mind. A couple of years later, when I rode her at a cattle gather on a ranch east of Douglas, and we had covered many rough miles over some ten hours, I remember a cowboy asking me “how old’s your little mare?” Because she was little – but she was a giant in mind and nature.
I rode her everywhere. Before I moved to the Dragoons, I lived on a farm some forty miles south. We had cattle and I rode Skoshi to cattle, for trail rides, every place a horse could go. At the time I had another mare by name of Freya. Freya did not live up to her Norse goddess name – she was mean. I remember one day, while loping along a trail, one of my dogs got in my way. Freya went out of her way to step on the dog. By chance, the next day, while riding Skoshi, the same thing happened – a dog got in her way – and Skoshi broke stride to miss stepping on it.
Her kindness wasn’t meekness, however. I remember once one of our hot rod cowboy kids riding her, and irritating her. “Quit that!” I said, “You’re irritating that horse!” Skoshi took care of it herself. She, who had never refused me anything, had never put a foot wrong, calmly bucked, and I mean, bucked, him off.
At one time a daughter of a friend came to stay with us. She was from back East, and she said she wanted to know “how the other half lived”. She asked to ride a horse one day and I let her take Skoshi, because she was so dependable. The girl saw one of the guys on a tractor, decided to go and talk to him, dismounted and tied Skoshi to the electrified fence. The first thing I knew of it was to see her leading the horse, chest torn open and pouring blood. My guess was that Skoshi had touched the bit to the electrified wire, reared up and came down on the post. The girl didn’t last long, but the memory of that loyal little mare, chest ripped open, pouring blood, yet calmly allowing herself to be led down the road, has stayed with me ever since.
A few years later, when we began Grapevine, she was in a pen with an Arab gelding, with whom she got along with quite well – or so we thought. One day Gerry and I had gone down to check a fence and one of the men came running up – “Hurry” he said, “Skoshi got hurt”. We ran back and found that she had got into a fight with the gelding and had knocked him down. He was all right, but had got in a lucky kick and she was limping on a hind leg. We were so mad at her – and so short of veterinary help – that we put her into a pen and left her there to recover. She did – she limped for some time, then gradually became sound, and some nine months later went back to work. About two years later, after she had got into another scrape, our veterinarian X-rayed the same leg. “Good heavens’!” he said “when did she break this leg?” And showed us the X-ray. She had broken it – and had healed it, quietly, efficiently, by herself, and went on to be sound for many more years.
She was a good cow horse – she had an instinct for cattle; I remember one time my mother rode her and we loped out along one of the trails. Suddenly my mother yelled out and I looked to see Skoshi tearing off to her left to gather a stray cow – she knew her job! I remember another time when she and I got somehow stranded on top of the Beehive trail, but way off to the west, on a horrible rocky outcrop, and I hardly knew how we would get off it. I remember still her careful consideration of the pickle we were in, her close scrutiny of the terrain, and her ever so careful and calm way of finding our way out of it.
She grew old, and retired from the guest string. I rode her some at home, and then let her rest – but on occasion I would take her out bareback and we would trundle along to check the cows, or do some slow, poky trail. The last time I rode her I was coming back down the hill towards the corrals at Cobre Loma, and we saw Gerry a-foot with a stray cow. “Get that cow into the corral for me, will you!” he yelled, and Skoshi and I built to it. We were up on a bank and just to the left of us was a place where the guys had scooped out earth from the bank and made a big drop, some 7 ft. high, and steep sided. The cow turned on us and Skoshi panicked and ran backwards, straight into the hole. We went over, and luckily, with no saddle to get in the way, parted company mid flight and landed some feet away from each other, both on our backs. We both scrambled to our feet and I could see she was so ashamed – she had let me down. She felt so bad it made me want to cry. How do you comfort a horse and tell her it’s all right, you had no right to be asking her to do a job like that at – what? She was then perhaps 35 – so 105 in human years. I never rode her again.
So she was finally retired and spent a few more calm years in the 20 acre horse trap opposite the house, with a few other retired horses. Finally, a winter came when we knew it had to be her last. She was past 39, she had lost weight, and the wind was cold. But considerate as ever, she spared me that awful decision. One morning Danny came to tell me that she was down and could not get up. We called the vet. But what made me saddest and what can still make me cry is that when I came out of the house and called her by her pet name, “San-San” – she lifted her poor, tired head off the ground, and whinnied.
I hope she is waiting for me up there.