Jim Taylor
Horseback Adventures
Saturday, November 19, 2022, 05:48

Another One From Years Ago ....

Riding along half asleep, the shotgun blast going past my head brought me suddenly awake. My horse had jumped to the side and somehow I found my pistol in my hand, hammer back, pointing at two scared young boys. It seems they had not seen me riding up the wash, just in the place they had chosen to shoot some cans out of the air. The .45 pointed at them and the startled-but-choice comments I had made frightened them into running. I thought momentarily of chasing them down and lecturing them about backstops and such and then decided against it. They might think I was going to try to shoot them and who knows what would happen.

Of course, events such as this were part of the charm of riding the open range country. You just never knew what you might happen onto. Not only was it physically demanding at times, sometimes it was downright dangerous! That’s why I loved it. Riding the canyons and mountains, whether hunting or just out for leisure, you were transported to a time and place far from today’s crowded and "civilized" world. Once you were in the back country, it might as well be 1885, for you were on your own. If anything happened, it would be up to you to get yourself out of it. Thank the Lord I never had a serious accident, but the potential was always there.

Once, packing a Mule Deer out on my mare, we had to cross a high ridge up a steep hillside. On the way, the mare lost her footing and started to get excited. I tried to get her to turn uphill so the load would not overbalance her. Just as she started to turn, she lost her footing on the right rear, the load shifted, and she fell over on her side. The mountainside was so steep that she rolled on over, came up on her feet, then fell over and rolled over again, coming up on her feet and falling over sideways five times as she rolled down the canyon. All this time, I was praying and crying and hanging onto the lead rope as it drug me along with her. Later, I was to find my right thumb cut to the bone from the rope, but at the time I was too excited to feel it.

The horse slid to a stop on a little bench at the edge of the canyon’s inner gorge, where it turned down even much more steeply. Fortunately, she was shook up enough by now to just lay there until I got everything unpacked off her. The Lord had answered my pleas, as miraculously she was not injured in any way. Neither was the load she was carrying! I walked her to a spot over the ridge, carried the deer and everything up to her and repacked and went on home without any further incident. I also went home with any seat in my pants and with a bloody hand, but happy to have come off that well. If she had gone off the little bench she’s stopped on, it was a good 400 yards to the bottom of the canyon, with nothing to stop the trip.

Time and again, when miles from the nearest road, I have paused just to hear the air blowing over the canyons and listen to my own heart beating. It’s a fact that there are sounds most people today have never heard, mainly because the world they live in is too noisy and cluttered and they cannot hear those sounds in that environment. At night, camping far out of sight and sound of civilization, the only sounds heard are the crackle of the flames, the rustle of the wind and the soft sounds of the horses feeding, maybe a critter or two far off talking to the moon. It’s at times like that you can hear the voice of God.

Traveling on horseback in the deep country many times you are allowed to observe game much easier than on foot. Unless the game has been hunted form horses a lot, they usually do not shy away so much. I have ridden up to within easy eye-shot of deer playing many times. The Coati-Mundi is a shy, reclusive creature found in the Southwest. Resembling a cross between an ant-eater and a raccoon, not too many people ever see one outside of a zoo, though I have ridden up on them quite a few times. I always wanted to shoot one so I could have its hide, but never was able to bring myself to do it.

Javelina seem to be afraid of horses, yet I have ridden within easy pistol shot of herds on a number of occasions. Usually, the herds pack up and leave in a hurry, though. One night, while riding in from a 12 or 15 hour trek, I came across something that was camped upon the trail. In the dark, the horse could see but I could not make out what it was. Urging the reluctant critter close, I got up within 10 feet or so and saw that it was a whole family of skunks. There were five or six little ones and several larger ones. I pulled the horse back and jerked the.454 Casull. The first shot blinded me in the darkness, but I held a little lower and shot immediately again. The second shot did the trick, blowing skunk parts everywhere. I believe I threw up enough rocks that they were killed by debris. Anyhow, I got three or four of the smelly rascals, and stunk up the trail real well for those who were following me.

Not all horses like to be around gunfire. Most of mine got used to it, but every once in a while we would have too many in the party going out and would have to borrow a horse or two so as to seat everyone. Coming in late one night, I was leading the string down to the corrals and decided to fire a shot the let Momma know we were home, and to get supper ready. I pulled my .45 and shot into the ground out to the side of my horse. I happened to glance back about that time. The guy behind me on a borrowed horse had his feet up above the horse’s ears as the nag went to bucking and jumping, startled at the sound. Of course, it gave all the rest of us quite a bit of merriment.

I shot from the back of that particular horse-- an Appaloosa, by the way -- several times and had a good ride! The horse got so it would start bucking and jumping if you just held out your hand and said "BANG!" -- but that is sort of typical of the breed.

The last ride I took in the canyon country was with my lifelong friend Tom Peterson. We rode out early one morning before daylight and spent the entire day riding over the hills, up the canyons, and up the mountains. It was long after sundown when we came back to the home place. The circle we made was probably not more than 25 miles, but covered some of the most God-awful rough country as you will find anywhere. At that time, the land was in the middle of a seven year drought, so water was scarce. We rode for five hours from home to the first water hole. Game had left the county and it was burning up. But is was a dandy ride! It almost seemed as if we got to see and feel the spirit of those hardy souls who pioneered the country, something the modern "westerner" has no conception of as they speed along the interstate highways in their air-conditions cars. It was a tough country. It took a tough breed to settle it. It’s too bad there’s not much room for them anymore.

Watering the horses at a little seep ...

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