Lee Pitts: A longer short-cut
January 12, 2012
Every Christmas I look forward to getting a traditional card from a ranch family in which every member is mounted on a good looking Quarter Horse with a silver bit in its mouth. So you can imagine my dismay when their 2011 Christmas card arrived and they were all mounted on a lazy man’s horse… an ATV. What is the world coming to?
I just don’t get it. The opportunity to ride a horse for a living is why many of us got into the cattle business to begin with. If I wanted to ride a glorified motorcycle for a living I’d have become a freeway cop or an X Games superstar. I’d have thought that no self-respecting cowboy would be caught dead on a Honda, but lately I’m seeing more ATVs unloaded out of Goosenecks, instead of a good horse. Just one more sign of the moral decay in this country.
There’s not a four-wheeler made that can cut a cow like a good horse, and an ATV can’t go everywhere a steer can. I’m also curious, what do you do if you see a sick calf that need’s doctoring? Where do you take your dally, on the handlebars?
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m just as lazy as the next guy and I’m a greenie too, I’m all for conserving energy, but you’re never going to catch me on the back of some Japanese cowhorse. Not that I haven’t taken some shortcuts as a cowman. I have. In fact, I think I’m the guy who first came up with the concept of “trailering.”
Every once in a awhile I have an occasional streak of brilliance and one day as I was saddling up my wonder-horse Gentleman the idea occurred to me that I could load him in my antique two-horse trailer, drive down the freeway that borders the ranch, and save myself a lot of time in the saddle. It would also “save” my horse and be safer because I wouldn’t have to risk my life riding through The Devil’s Garden with boulders the size of Volkswagens, or up the steep mountain known around these parts as Achilles Hill. So named because it was the easiest place on the ranch to get killed.
One dewy morning Gentleman and I went skiing down the triple-black-diamond Achilles Hill on his slick horseshoes and ever since then Gentleman has shown a particular disdain for winter sports. Other than trailering down the freeway, that was the only time he’d ever gone faster than five miles per hour in his life. And did I mention that the hardest thing about riding in such country is the ground. You had to be real careful at all times to avoid coming in contact with it. Which I didn’t.
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It’s a short, sticky path we follow between “trailering” your horse and becoming anything more than a “windshield cowboy,” which is cheating, plain and simple. Riding a pickup instead of a horse is not what real cowboys are supposed to do, and I was always a little embarrassed that I would do something so un-cowboy like. So I was really careful not to let anyone see me trailering down the highway. Especially the cops, because my trailer was missing a few things… like lights, fenders, safety chain, current registration and an effective manure containment system,
Trailering didn’t always make life easier. Some days I trailered and some days I didn’t, depending on the task at hand. I’ll never forget the long day Gentleman and I spent fixing fence along a really steep section. Modesty prohibits me from admitting that I’m a good pliers-man, but due to my thriftiness I can fix even the biggest breaks with a minimum of new wire. After eight hours of fencing Gentleman and I still had to traverse Devil’s Garden and Achilles Hill before arriving back at headquarters.
There my wife greeted me with a puzzled look on her face. “I thought you took the trailer this morning,” she stated in condescending fashion.
I paused briefly to consider the possibility and got back on my horse.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
With just a hint of dejection in my voice I replied, “I forgot something.”