Saturday, January 28, 2017
Where Horses Come from
I'm sure you can figure out that it has something to do with horses.
And you'd be right.
Allow me to explain. And to do so, I'll have to tell you a story.
But first a little lesson in land surveying . . .
On the Stringam ranch, at its heyday, there was a lot of land.
A. Lot. Of. Land.
Two and a half townships.
Pastures were measured off in sections. 640 acres.
Sections were grouped into townships. 36 sections to a township.
With me so far?
Well, the ranch covered two and a half of those.
Not the largest ranch in Southern Alberta, but up there somewhere.
You've probably heard the term 'wide open spaces'?
That would apply here.
An animal let loose in one of those pastures had a lot of ground to cover.
And an endless selection of things to get into. Good. Or more frequently, bad.
It wasn't unusual for a cowboy out checking the terrain to come across animals in dire need of assistance. Animals that had been attacked by cougars or wolves. Cut by barbed wire. Foundered in a mud pit. Even lamed by an altercation with something as innocuous as a gopher hole.
In fact, with all the room out there for anything to happen, it's a wonder more 'anythings' didn't.
Happen, that is.
Also. When animals are out on the range, hijinks occur.
And that leads nicely into my story . . .
And the Catch Colt.
Our little herd of working mares and geldings (male horses with their 'male' bits removed) had been turned out to pasture.
They lost no time in heading for the nearest far-away place.
And you know just how far-away that could be. (See above.)
A few days later, those same horses were brought back into the ranch for their next work shift.
They came in as they went out.
No more. No less.
Or so we thought.
In fact for several months, we so thought.
Then one of the mares began to show signs of grass-belly.
I mean that girl could eat.
Ten months later, she surprised us by proving her belly wasn't full of grass.
Okay, I'm pretty sure that my dad, he of the veterinarian doctorate, figured it out long before I did.
But for me, it was a grand surprise to see, next to our newly-lean mare, a fine little roan foal.
A little girl whose parentage was very much in question. We didn't own a stallion. (Male horse with 'male' bits intact.) None of our neighbours ( I use this term lightly) owned a stallion.
No wandering stallion had been reported in the district.
Where did this little girl come from?
Her attentive mother hid her secrets behind quiet dark eyes and a far-away look.
I think it went something like this: Tall, dark stranger wanders into the campsite. Wows the ladies with stories of far-away lands and grand exploits. Invites the quiet one out for a stroll and enticing dip in the cool waters of the Milk River.
And . . .
Now you know where 'catch colts' come from.