Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ginger and my GLB

Ginger and Uncle H were the main topic two posts back. We are about to find out that Uncle H is not the only one to have a Ginger story. My Great Liberal Brother (GLB) also has a story or two, and here they are.
GLB is much older than I. How much older you ask? Let’s just say if I wanted to be mean, I could call him my Great Ancient Liberal Brother (GALB). In my brother’s defense in regards to his antiquity, I also remember Ginger, although I am not sure if they are actual memories or merely impressions fabricated from the stories I heard.
I should also mention, these stories for the most part have been placed into the Urban Legend category. You see my brother is a liberal and it is a known fact, all liberals exaggerate and often tell flat out lies. We might find out later in this short writing that it is not really his fault he’s a liberal, so let’s all have a little grace on the poor fellow for the moment. I realize that there are at least three readers who might disagree with my conclusions, but heck is it my fault they must have got a bump on their noggins somewhere along the line?
The reason is still unclear by the author how it is that our family gained temporary custody of Ginger. If you want to take the word of my GLB, it is all on you. He says, my uncle and aunt were on a trip and they needed someone to watch the large palomino; that reason is as good as another I suppose.
During the said time Ginger was in our custody; my GLB decided to take Ginger for a ride. At the time he was only eight years old and too short to muster a saddle on the tall horse, therefore he rode bare back. It was only to be a short ride which lends creed to the no saddle option. How the bridle was managed, only an eight year old knows for sure. From a fence post, the side of a wagon or maybe a boost from his older brother who was nine years old, my GLB landed on the back of Ginger. Ginger was no dummy and knew an eight year old was no match for his wily ways. Out of the yard GLB took Ginger. They went into the upper field that had been freshly plowed which ends up being fortunate for GLB. No sooner had Ginger turned the corner into the field then he took the bit in his teeth, thus removing all control from the master eight year old horseman. He took off like he was shot out of a catapult. The little boy hung on to rein and mane for dear life. Ginger streaked across the field, dirt flying high from hoofs. At this point my GLB decided it was time for a new plan. With only the courage, I mean foolishness young boys have, my GLB decide to dismount by letting himself not jump, not fall, but slide off the side of the racing palomino, which of course is exactly what he did. The soft plowed earth gave my GLB a good dusting as he rolled to a stop and watched Ginger head off for who knows where. My GLB was unhurt, so the story goes. I do wonder if he might not have cracked his head, after all he grew up and became a liberal.
The actual crack in the head probably happened a few days or hours later. Now my GLB has always been known for being smart but I do have to wonder from this next Ginger experience how smart he really is. If I had slid off a galloping horse because he took off on me, it would be a good piece of time before I got back on him.
My father had the mumps and was in bed. This required my mother and oldest brother to do the milking, leaving free time for GLB to be unsupervised; a very bad idea. He of course, as you guessed decided to ride Ginger once more bareback. This time he was using the horse to tormenting his five year old sister. She was standing on the stock trailer while GLB rode Ginger at a good gallop right at her (gee I wonder how sister came to be on the stock trailer?). At the last minute GLB would veer off and ride on by her. This of course had all the desired effects, much screaming. How many times these moments of ecstasy were repeated, I do not know. I am pretty sure like most big brothers, he wanted each scare to intensify, so getting a little closer each time was a requirement. The last scare ended abruptly. Just as GLB was ready to turn Ginger to the left, Ginger did an emergency stop. GLB shot over Ginger’s head as smooth as if he was a blob of milk being squirted straight from the teat of a cow. GLB’s head stopped his fall when it contacted the steel tongue of the stock trailer.
My mother had a policy, no blood, no doctor. How GLB managed this feat without drawing blood is beyond me. My mother had another policy, no fever or barf, then, ‘get to school’. My mother received a phone call the next day from the school teacher saying GLB’s eyes looked wrong. The teachers report was enough for mother to take GLB to the doctor. Thus a diagnosis and a doctor’s cure – a severe concussion and bed rest for two weeks.
Now a tale has been told and it is clear, my GLB did indeed fall on his head, resulting in him becoming a liberal.
So, here is my question - Dianne, Betty, and Arkansas Patti, did ya’all fall on your head at some point?

Uncle H will return on the next post…I promise.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Uncle H – Wild Horses part 2

A light breeze rustled the sage brush filling the air with its ancient aroma. Each horse was backed out of the stock trailer and the sound of hoofs on the wooden ramp echoed off into the darkness. A nip was in the air and the sky was beginning to lighten signaling the coming sunrise over the South Hills. This was not Uncle H’s his first wild horse hunt, but he was full of anticipation. He was aware of the danger involved in this endeavor but where, when and how it would come he was unaware, maybe that was half of the thrill.
On the last trip they had spotted a special horse, a young sorrel with a white blaze on his forehead. They hoped to find his band today. He was full grown, but still young, powerful and wild. He looked as if he could run like the wind. They knew a horse like this would only be caught using a keen strategy.

It was not that long ago when Uncle H had been told he was either too young or too little for such hunts, but now at 16 years old, here he was expected to hold his own. Today the plan was to get to the shallow valley where the horses came for water in hopes the band would be there. It didn’t take them long to adorn their spurs, tie down some food and make ready their lariats.

The three brothers headed out following a winding route south picking their way through the sage brush. Just as they hoped, it wasn’t long before they spotted the band of about 15 horses and the white faced beauty stood out amongst the bays, palominos and blacks. The mustangs heard the brothers coming before they saw them. The brothers rode south along the ridge of the shallow valley constantly drawing closer to the mustangs. This was a good place for the stallion to bring his band. It offered plenty of feed, water, and a good view of any approaching danger. The stallion watched the three horsemen making their way closer. Drawing closer, restless hoofs could be seen stomping. It was if a line had been drawn and when the brothers crossed it, the stallion began moving his harem away to the east.

That was the signal, Uncle P took his leave. He was a good horseman and born a century too late. If it had four legs, Uncle P wanted to hunt it. He took off at a full gallop. They had found when chasing mustangs, the horses would make a wide circle and return to where they started. At the completion of that large circle that was when the stallion would be caught.

The remaining two brothers had a good 45 minute wait ahead of them. They found a large boulder surrounded by tall sage brush. This combination gave them good cover while they waited.

It didn’t take the mustangs long before the stallion changed his tactic from evade to escape. The group was now moving full out. Up and down ravines they raced. Many of the old mares hooves were as big as platters having never been trimmed, and as a consequence they were not fast, but they all had wonderful endurance. A horse is designed to run and run they did. Uncle P closed the distance pushing the tribe on. His goal wasn’t to catch his prize yet but to wear him down. The stallion followed his band in single file while a dun mare led the band straight to the edge of the plateau. Down a 400 foot steep embankment they went, they took the grade at a full gallop. A ball of dust arose and rocks dislodged making the trail a dangerous path. Reaching the bottom they crossing a small stream, with water splashing, they funneled through a break in the thick scrub brush that lined the gully. Up and over ravines they ran into the morning sun.

The mustangs began a long gradual turn back to the west and north. Eventually just as planned the band returned and broke the high plateau in the east and emerged at the head of the valley. Uncle P’s horse was nearly played out. He had enough left for a uniquely colored grulla colt that would offer him little trouble. Now firmly in the valley his mission was through, he urged his horse on crowding the colt. He sent the loop of his rope around the neck and reined him in.

The band of mustangs piled by and Uncle H and Uncle W now began to move out with gusto charging hard and fast intent on the sorrel stallion. It took little time with a fresh horse for Uncle W to position himself for his first opportunity. He began swinging his lariat high over head. His horse instinctively moved in closer. The young stallion was not yet willing to be mastered by the rope and before the rope was sent flying the stallion veered hard to his left, splitting away from the herd.

Recovering, the two brothers followed at full speed. Sage brush whipped at them stinging their legs. The chase went on with the young stallion attempting to out distance the two horsemen. Rushing on, a jack rabbit popped up and ran left then right ahead of Uncle H’s horse before finding a safe place.

The race lasted for another two miles before Uncle W sent his loop neatly around the white blazed head. A quick wrap of the rope around the saddle horn and by reining in his horse the rope tightened. The stallion fought against the rope jerking his head left and right. Uncle W yelled instructions at Uncle H who was moving in toward the stallion. His first attempt went wide but on his second attempt Uncle H’s rope flew over the stallion’s head. Now with one rider to the right and one to the left the stallion’s capture was insured. He reared up and pawed the air but now the riders were safe and it was only a matter of time before the stallion submitted to the rope.

Two hours later the two arrived at the truck with a tired stallion. There was an old but secure pole corral there. They put the stallion in the enclosure along with the smoky gray colt Uncle P had caught.

The brothers took time for some coffee and admired their catch. Once rested the brothers headed back out to the plateau for some more fun and they added another colt. The day was getting late and it was time to load up.

The wild stallion had regained his strength resting in the coral and was not ready to cooperate when it came time to be loaded for the ride to Uncle W’s ranch. Our truck was backed into a gully, we each got a rope onto him and thought we could safely maneuver him by one of us being on each side of him with a rope fastened to our horse. P was in the front and W and I were on opposing sides. When P got close enough to the truck he got off his horse, unfastened the rope from the saddle horn and fed the rope through the slats and around a sturdy post in the front of the truck. As W and I moved the wild horse closer to the truck, P was to take up the slack on his rope. It was working fine until the horse got his hooves onto the bed of the truck and then spooked. W and I had both moved in leaving slack on our ropes thinking he was in the truck and that P had him secured from the front. Somehow, the horse got loose from P and came charging out at full speed. My horse got excited and made a complete turn which took the rope, I still had fastened to my saddle horn and the other end to the charging horse, in a circle around my mid-section. Thank goodness the rope was still loose enough and I had enough presence of mind to IMMEDIATELY eject myself from the saddle. I hit the ground hard and the wild horse hit the end of the rope fastened to my horse, the rope snapped clean. I would have been cut in half and probably killed had I stayed in the saddle.”

W still had his rope on the horse and P took no time getting hold of the second rope. After dusting myself off, recovering my horse, we again prepared for the load, which worked much better on the second try.

The wild horse population in the US today, depending who is speaking, ranges from 13,000 to 33,000. There have been attempts with legislation to protect and keep a healthy balance to the Mustang population here in the west. To say this discussion is controversial is an understatement. In the mid 1800’s accepted estimates of the wild horse population was between 5 and 8 million. Starting in 1915 a steady decline existed in the US horse population in both wild and domestic horses. It seems we exchanged are horses for our dogs. Approximately ½ million horses each year were sent to the dog food factories. By 1971 it was a crisis and the wild mustang was threatened with extension. President Nixon signed a bill protecting the wild horse population and turning the management of these horses over to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There is no shortage of critics of the job the BLM has and is doing. In reading some of the critic’s writings, it is hard to argue that BLM’s methods are not indeed cruel, if the reports are accurate. BLM position is that the herds need thinning and so roundups are scheduled about once every four years. These roundups are done by helicopter, often in 90+ degree weather, pushing the horses for miles to holding pens. The result is that the very young and the old sometimes expire from exhaustion and overheating. In an August 10, 2010 round up in Nevada it was reported that 34 horses died. This does seem cruel and over the top and it seems there should be a better way.
In addition, the herds numbers seem low in what the BLM deems appropriate for the size of range these horses have available to them. Granted I know little to nothing about range land and what a correct horse per acre ratio should be, but in Idaho the BLM has established for the 477,656 available acres the appropriate population for wild mustangs is a mere 617.

The wild mustang holds a romantic ideal with those of us who love the stories of the old west. It is a shame that Uncle H was one of the last to be able to hunt and capture a wild mustang.
To Be Continued...

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uncle H – Wild Horses part 1

Is that Uncle H???
Catching a wild horse was a childhood fantasy of mine. When I was a small child my father bought a wild colt from my Uncle P, caught in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. As a boy I had images of racing through large mountain meadows, a herd of horses ahead, browns, blacks, pintos, and of course the beautiful appaloosa, all there for the taking. In my dreams I always closed in fast. My rope would circle the head perfectly of the lead stallion; he always had wild eyes as he would twist and stare back at me, his captor. Then I would throw on the binders setting my horse back on his haunches stopping the stallion in his tracks. He was always coal black and had perfect lines. Fantasies are great that way. You can ride the fastest horse, throw the perfect lasso, be the real deal, be the Marlboro man. Hmmm… that sounds really wrong.
What was just a fantasy for me was a reality for several of my uncles, including Uncle H. The blond mane of the golden palomino waved in glory as it bounced and waved in the wind along the outstretched neck of the tall stallion. Ginger was a truly fast horse and his gallop would eat up real-estate faster than a land tycoon.
A group of wild horses were ahead and Ginger had been given his rein. With Uncle H on his back the two were soon leading the charge. Two brothers now eating dust urged their horses on, doing their best to keep up. Across the rough terrain they went dodging lodge pole pines.
Uncle H was moving in close and began working a loop into his rope. The loop hung low as he streaked toward his prey and in an unfortunate moment the rope snagged a piece of brush. Immediately the rope began peeling out taking with it pieces of flesh caught between the saddle horn and Uncle H’s fingers. Blood dripped freely down and across the saddle horn.
The rope now whipped about slapping Ginger across his rear flank, startling him. Fully spooked with ears bent back, and nostrils flared, Ginger took off in a panic. Uncle H hung on and realized quickly, reining Ginger in was impossible.
The hot sun shined bright, highlighting the drama. Bright yellow desert flowers streaked by in a blur, while Ginger held a full throttle. Madly they raced down the mountain. Ginger was wild with fright trying to escape the long snake nipping at his back side. Uncle H knew his only hope was to hang on, as all efforts to rein in Ginger went for not.
Down the mountain they flew in a storm of dust, with the wild horses leading the way. They were gaining fast on the brood and it wasn’t long before the two slid past the wild bunch smoother than butter. Desert brush tore at Ginger and whipped at Uncle H’s legs, tearing skin and britches.
A field of loose shale could be seen ahead. Uncle H left a prayer in the dust, in hopes that Ginger could keep his footing. They hit that field at full tilt and sure as anything the footing was lost. Ginger reacted by collapsing his rear legs. The ground look closer to Uncle H then he wanted with the sharp shale now up close. Down they slid. The shale sliced a long gash in Ginger’s belly. The field came to an end and the prayer must have been answered because Ginger was once again up and off at a full sprint.
His neck stretch long as his legs pounded the ground. The invisible demons had not given up the chase and the terrorized horse skidded around the edge of a ravine making his escape. He followed an old trail along a rock overhang. Turning hard he launched down the mountain like a locomotive. Together they ran jumping small ravines, fallen logs, and boulders. In a flurry of dust they came down the mountain. After some time they finally hit level ground. Ginger began to ease up, near exhaustion. His wet withered sides carried a layer of foam and his great chest expanded taking in large volumes of air. He had finally run himself out and Uncle H was allowed to rein him in. They eased to a stop both spent from the race. As Uncle H dismounted to check Ginger’s condition he was never happier to get off a horse. The wild horses escaped capture that day and Uncle H had the arduous task of back tracking the miles they had just covered, coaxing along a still frightened, tired, and wounded horse.
Not all of Uncle H’s trips ended in futility. He tells of another time when he had lassoed a wild colt and again Ginger was in a running mood. It is a sad tale. Few details were given, only that Ginger about drug that poor colt to death before Uncle H could rein him in. In the end the colt healed up and Uncle H had a nice colt.

To be continued…

Monday, November 8, 2010

Uncle H the Early Teen Years

Teenage years bring big changes. The body goes through a metamorphosis. The mind begins to actually have rare moments of rational reasoning. Lessons of cause and effect are in constant bloom and the opposite sex shapes a whole new world. Uncle H was no exception to these changes but other changes were in the works for Uncle H during his early teen years. It was 1949, he just had his 13th birthday, school was out for the summer and his younger sister had come down with rheumatic fever. This illness caused the family to move to Arizona. The doctor said a warm dry climate was needed for his sister to get well.
 A work opportunity was open in a saw mill in Oregon, where an older brother lived. So, off Uncle H went to his brother’s for a summer of working in a saw mill at age 13.
Child labor laws were not completely non-existent at that time. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act stated that children under the age of 16 could not work in manufacturing and mining. It seems a loop hole was jumped through or more likely a law ignored that allowed my Uncle H to be employed at such a dangerous job. Child labor laws at the time were rarely enforced and the biggest deterrent to child labor violations in American history was the political and societal attitude change that all youth should receive an education, at least up to eight grade. Truancy was easier to monitor than child labor violations. So, when children were in school they were not working. Machinery inventions and improvements in production methods also helped reduce the demand for child labor. The Great Depression was another deterrent because for every child working caused an adult to be displaced from the work force. Resistance to changing the child labor was argued by employers because they found children easier to control, less likely to organize into a union, and required minimal wages.
Uncle H describes his time at the mill. “I went to Oregon to work in a portable saw mill. I lived at my brother’s place. I do remember that someone had to pick me up each day for a ride to work.  The mill was in the forest and they would saw the bark off of the logs, leaving a square log called a cant.  My job was to stack the cants onto the trucks.  The mill was on a platform leaving the trucks at a lower level. The cants were too heavy to lift, but when rolled out onto conveyor rollers, I could get them almost balanced in the center, pivot them and then shove them onto the truck bed.  I remember that it rained almost every day.  Not hard, but a slow rain which would get my shirt soaking wet.  I learned to take two shirts to work so I could have one hanging by the engine, which was under a canopy where it could dry. I would keep changing shirts when the one I was wearing became too wet.  Most of the timber they were working on was not too large, so I could handle it okay.”
All through my Uncle’s writings there is an absence of ‘poor me.’ Note his last line in the above paragraph, ‘so I could handle it okay.’ He was creative and somehow able to handle what he should not have been able to handle.  My uncle was small for his age. He writes of being less than 5 feet tall upon completing the eighth grade. It baffles me that a kid less than five feet tall, probably weighing about 80 – 90 pounds could be doing a job like this. Uncle H was an amazing young lad.
When that summer was over instead of heading back to Idaho, Uncle H met up with his Mother and sister in Arizona. The move did not leave enough money for a cow or maybe the desert meant buying feed year around, so Grandma bought a goat.
‘I wasn’t crazy about drinking goat milk, but I had to learn.  At least there were only two teats to milk instead of the four as with a cow.  Of course, I much preferred to make a pet of the goat and she was soon so tame that whenever I was out she would follow.  I took that goat on hikes up the mountain behind our house, and she would follow just like a dog with no leash.  We had a good time together.  One time when I was pulling some weeds in a ditch by our house she decided to take a bite from my straw hat.  I just reached up and tapped her back a couple of times until finally she gave me such a butt in the head that I fell smack on mine, ‘butt’ that is.  I guess she liked being a pet better than giving milk also and you know what that meant with Mom.  An older brother was in the area at that time, so Mom tapped him to come and help me butcher the goat.  I wasn’t about to help with that and took off on a long hike up the mountain.  Brother was never too happy with me for running out on him, but I just couldn’t do it.
Mom always had a way of finding me a job.  That first summer in Arizona I worked in the melon fields, driving tractors again.  I had to get up at 3:00 A.M. to catch my ride to where they stored the tractors.  We would fill our tractor with gas, check the oil, etc. and then head for the melon fields that were usually several miles away.  We started work at daylight so we could be finished by about 3:00 in the afternoon, since it got so hot.  I remember getting hit in the back of the head by someone who threw a cantaloupe at me while I was pulling a trailer down the field.  I guess I was getting some of my own medicine back for the throwing I had done in Idaho.  Anyway, they thought it was funny, I didn’t.’
Junior high boys are possibly the most merciless breathing critters on earth and Uncle H found himself on the brunt end early teen teasing. He was small and tough and the teasing resulted in more than one fight. His last name easily manipulated to contain the derogatory term ‘shit.’ Thus this was the curx of most of his fights.

He loved basketball and played on the school team both his seventh and eighth grade years. While in eighth grade he played on his eighth grade team, but because of his small stature he often played on the seventh grade team also.

Uncle H’s early teen years were much different than mine but his small size I can relate to. I was never hit in the back of the head with a melon, nor did I ever have to eat one of my pets. Thank goodness, I think cat meat would be horrible.
To be continued…