When a bunch of ranchers get together, no matter the occasion, the discussions are always lively. My most recent encounter with my longtime rancher friends was at Geraldine Huston’s memorial service. This was a very sad event, but she would have loved the homemade foods and strong coffee served at lunch afterward. Geri was one of many longtime ranching wives from this area.
A big bunch of us ranching types (we go way back in this business in this area) had a chance to visit over lunch after the service. The program seems to be the same: we discuss the weather, the cost of hay, politics to a small degree and then someone just remembers a story or two about a horse most of us at this remembered well.
Actually, how could we forget him?
He was a small grey gelding named Coyote. Our ranching neighbors up in the Sapello Canyon had some dude horses for sale, and Coyote was stirred into this mix. When our dude ranch here was in full swing (from the 1960s to 1990) we always needed gentle, mature mountain trail horses. Big boss Jim and I spent a long morning trying out all sorts, colors, temperaments and sizes of these horses, and he decided Coyote would fit our bill.
I could not see how he’d make a dude horse, but after a long discussion (known in the trade as horse trading) Coyote became a part of our dude string. We understood Coyote came with a story, but we soon learned there was a whole book of stories there about him.
Coyote was an orphan. He raised himself by stealing milk from any available cow. He probably had some mustang blood in him, which helped him survive. Yes, he was broken, gentle and just what we needed in a kid pony. Our son Carl was about 10. Coyote joined our herd and he had big plans to become a rodeo cowboy, a roper to be exact.
He instantly decided Coyote would be the roping horse that would make him famous, even though he was small. Jim figured Carl and Coyote would grow up together, and how right he was! Coyote was about 4 years old then, just right to be trained. Coyote also knew all the ropes so to speak, and Carl was just green enough and ambitious enough to tackle this character horse and all of his quirks.
Unknown to any of us at the time, Coyote was a real rogue horse. He had bucked off almost every rider that ever dared try him out. And sometimes he’d dump his rider a long way from home, making for a bit of anger with his rider for some reason. I have no idea how many times he threw Carl, bucking in some improbable places. However, I actually saw him throw Carl three times in the span of about 20 minutes one Spring afternoon.
Coyote’s gift (not a good term for that) was being able to know when Carl wasn’t paying attention, and he’d go stiff legged, put his head down and pitch Carl off before he had time to think, much less act.
Fortunately, Carl only had his pride hurt during these excursions, and they ultimately became the best of friends. Carl also learned how to build a loop and swing a rope while running full speed on this little horse. They never caught anything that I know of, but both of them had lots of fun.
Coyote has to be one of the greatest horses I have known, and he proved to us once again that every kid should have a horse, if he/she has a place to keep him and room to ride him. Horses are incredible therapists. Ranchers have known that for centuries.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.