Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Water, water nowhere…

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Date Creek itself

Back in college I used to do a lot of backpacking with one of my friends. One time he and I were headed out to backpack in the Chiricahua Mountains and as we were pulling our packs out of the car I noticed that he had a milk jug full of water in the back seat. When I asked him what it was for, he told me it was so we’d have something to drink on the way home.

But it’s in a milk jug, I said.

It’s okay, he replied. I cleaned it really well.

I just smiled and shook my head. Trust me, you aren’t going to want to drink that.

He argued with me, but I knew I was right. How did I know this? Because I’d long ago made a similar mistake… Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Water, water nowhere…”

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Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Fun with tractors

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The old loading chute at the ranch headquarters

Time for the tale of how I earned a scar worthy of a champion.

In the early days, our lone piece of “heavy” equipment on the ranch was on old Ford tractor. I’m guessing that it was of a 1940s vintage, but without going to the trouble of emailing my sister for verification, I can’t be sure. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

It wasn’t a big tractor, nor did it run very well, which meant that most time it had to be fixed before you could use it. That also meant that it fit right in with the rest of our rusty, crumbling, creaky equipment.

One of the tractor’s more entertaining traits was it complete and utter lack of functioning brakes. They were just useless metal appendages affixed down near your feet, fun to stomp on, but nothing else. If you wanted to stop, it was best to plan ahead. As in, Hey, there’s a gate coming up in about fifty yards. If I don’t want to crash through it, I better take action now. And, since the tractor had a top speed of about five miles an hour, fifty yards gave you plenty of time to take action.

Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Fun with tractors”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 2

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This is the big truck, after the wooden racks were replaced by a water tank.

I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t riding Cortez, my horse, on that fateful day. I have some vague recollection that she had a limp. I’m not even sure how the decision was made that Dinah should be her replacement either. Maybe it was just the universe having a little fun at my expense.

However it happened, one fine day we loaded Dinah and Kim’s horse, Suzy, into the Big Truck, piled into the cab and headed for the tiny town of Bagdad and my date with infamy.

You know, I’m going to go off on a side rant here, triggered by my traumatic memories of the Big Truck.

One of the things that I really hated when I was a kid was how we were always different. All I wanted to do was fit in and just be like everyone else. But it was not to be. Even around other people who were different, we were still more different than them.

Case in point: the Big Truck. When we went to gymkhanas or any sort of gathering where people brought horses or livestock, everyone else had horse trailers. Why? Because they’re low to the ground and it’s easy to load and unload your livestock from them.

(find part one of this story here) Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 2”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 1

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View of Date Creek Mountains

Shortly after I bought Cortez, Mom started taking Kim and me to compete in gymkhanas. And now I’m guessing that you’re wondering what in the heck a gymkhana is. Well, it’s like a rodeo for kids. However, instead of roping or bull riding or any of that dangerous stuff, you have events like barrel racing, pole bending and the keyhole race. They’re all timed races with some pattern you have to get your horse through as quickly as possible.

Surprisingly, I actually did pretty good. Scratch that. We did pretty good. I wouldn’t have done so well without a horse. Cortez wasn’t fast, but she was very responsive to the bit and, not being a big horse, she was quite agile, which really came in handy, especially in pole bending and the keyhole. (Contrary to what you’re thinking, no poles are actually bent or harmed in any way in this event. A half dozen long poles set in buckets are laid out in a line about 8 or 10 feet apart. The idea is to weave through the poles as fast as you can until you make it around the last one in the line, then you run straight back across the finish line. Knocking over a pole gets you penalized. Missing one gets you disqualified.) Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 1”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Time for a real horse, part 2

My lovely wife, Claudia, at the ranch. On her first roundup years ago, she got to go on foot! Why ever did she stick around?

So the first horse I tried out turned out to be a lemon. There was nothing for it but to keep on trying. The right horse just had to be out there.

The next horse that arrived at the ranch was a friendly-looking mare. The initial stages of saddling and mounting all went well enough. I was feeling pretty positive.

As luck would have it, once again I was going to be riding down the creek. I don’t remember the details, but I imagine we’d missed some cattle and we were just checking the pasture again. The difference was that this time Scott would be riding with me. Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Time for a real horse, part 2”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Time for a real horse

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My younger son, Daniel, at the ranch a few years ago.

Okay, money in hand, I was ready to buy a horse that didn’t suck! How hard could this be?

The first horse we got at the ranch for me to try out looked pretty good. At least he wasn’t swaybacked or 200 years old. I saddled him up and got on. Not once did he try to bite me, which put him way ahead of Lady already. In my book, any horse that resists the urge to bite me gets a gold star right off the top.

I clapped the spurs to him and he moved into a trot, then a lope, without too much trouble. He turned when I pulled on the reins. As an added bonus, he stopped when I wanted him too. Not once did I come close to being crippled for life, which put him ahead of Misty.

A person could get used to this, I thought.

I looked in the horse’s eyes. There was no dull glaze. No incipient madness lurking. He was beating out Beauty, the zombie horse, too! Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Time for a real horse”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – horrible nags part 2

My older son, Dylan, a few years ago in the creek at the ranch. He’s about twice as big now.

To round out the triumvirate of Date Creek Ranch nags I was stuck riding as a kid, there was Beauty. Beauty was all black, just like the Black Beauty of movie fame (read part 1 here).

And right there all comparisons between Beauty and her namesake ended.

There was nothing majestic or glamorous about Beauty. In fact, there was something terribly wrong with that horse. She never spooked the way the other horses did when something unexpected or scary happened. She was never playful or grumpy or had any discernible moods at all. She didn’t interact with the other horses. Most of the time when I saw her out in the pasture, she was just standing there with her head down, unmoving. She basically plodded along through life with her head down. It was like she was like some kind of zombie horse. She only barely responded to the reins. Spurring her or swatting her with a riding crop produced hardly any effect.

Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – horrible nags part 2”