The White Nightmare | TSLN.com

The White Nightmare

The two cowboys who worked on a big western spread came into town every Sunday to do their laundry at the Suds For Duds and attend “services” at the Pastime Bar. There they loaded up on beans and crackers and shot a little pool. Eight ball was a game they practiced with religious fervor and had become quite proficient at.

In the bunkhouse on Saturday night the cowboys were counting their quarters for the next day’s pool games when the subject of horses came up. Probably because someone had dumped at the ranch during the night an old white horse the cowboys quickly named The White Nightmare. The ranch owner had told them to “get rid of it.”

This is becoming quite a problem as urban horse owners have nowhere to dispose of their old equines as a result of a bunch of do-gooders who got the horse slaughter plants in this country shut down. Their hearts may have been in the right place but their brains must have been in their butts because the new law has resulted in more, not less, suffering for horses.

Did they think the old horses would just vanish?

Many auction markets have stopped selling horses and horse owners have few alternatives. Some traders operate in the shadows, gathering up unwanted horses and sending them on an arduous 750 mile journey into Mexico where they are killed. Often in gruesome ways. Another option is to have a veterinarian euthanize your horse and then burying it in your very own horse cemetery. Or, I suppose, you could kill it yourself, as if you’d be more skilled in horse killing than the pros at processing plants. Another popular option is to dump your old nag off in a National Forest or on BLM ground where they will soon come to be called “wild horses” and be wards of the state. Or, the horses are illegally turned loose on ranches when no one is looking.

“It used to be we had to be on the lookout for rustlers pulling into distant pastures and loading up our cattle,” said George, the elder statesman of the two cowboys. “Now we have to be on the watch for people dropping off livestock. I guess someone figured we needed another worthless nag to feed.”

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“I ain’t shooting a horse,” said Joe, the other cowpoke. “I’d rather shoot pool.”

“And I sure don’t want to dig a hole big enough to bury one in,” said George. “In the morning load up that worthless nag and throw in that broken down bronc saddle.”

The next day the cowboys were sitting at the bar eating their beans and George was eyeing every amateur who chalked up a cue. Finally he made his challenge by placing a quarter under the rail. When George lost the pool game in rapid fashion Joe couldn’t believe it. His mentor could’ve beat the oilfield roughneck with his eyes closed. Unbelievably, George proceeded to lose several more games to the cocky roughneck.

“I don’t have any money left young man,” said George to the roughneck, “but I got a saddle out in the trailer I’d sure bet against all the money I’ve lost here today.”

The overconfident roughneck took the bait and quickly won the game.

“Well, you’ve got my saddle, I might as well bet you my horse too,” said George.

The grizzled cowboy had to try hard not to win the last game but he finally succumbed and the last the two cowpokes saw of the roughneck he was proudly holding a saddle and a lead rope that was attached to the aforementioned white mare.

The cowboys laid low for awhile but after weeks of not worshipping they couldn’t stand it any more and went to the pool hall. The barkeep was glad to see them and told them, “That roughneck you pawned that sorry horse off on has been in here every night this week trying to lose that horse the same way you did, but he couldn’t find anyone as dumb as he was. But you can relax. They pulled out of town this morning.”

The cowpokes were glad to be back in their normal Sunday routine as they drove back to the ranch. There waiting for them in the remuda was The White Nightmare.

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