Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tough Ranchers

We depended on our horses on the ranch.
They were usually well trained and quiet, something you needed when you worked cattle. A jumpy horse would rile up said cattle and get them nervous.
This made them difficult to handle. They may hurt themselves or just go running in some crazy direction and lose lots of precious weight that Dad had just spent many feed dollars trying to put on their bodies.
Because, let’s face the hairy truth: Cows aren’t the geniuses of the ranching community . . .
It takes many years to make/train a quiet cattle horse.
You start with a colt that is full of lots of energy and you train and train using various techniques to develop a well-behaved horse.
Having said all that, somewhere in the training/breaking process, you have to use the ‘green broke’ horse to work cows as part of their schooling.
Our family had a friend that I’ll call RG, who was in the middle of one of these young-colt/quiet-horse processes.
On a beautiful spring day RG and several members of his ranch crew were taking a large herd of cattle from their ranch headquarters to the spring pasture—a trek that put Dad’s ranch at the half way point.
Our friend dropped by earlier in the day and left his green broke colt, planning to trade his well-trained cattle horse for the green horse at the halfway point. This would give the green horse the opportunity to work with cows, but the cows would be tired and quiet and not likely get excited if the horse got a little jumpy.
I was up at the barn when our friend rode up to exchange horses. He quickly saddled the green horse and mounted.
I guess his horse was not quite ready for any cattle drive because he pulled his head down and started bucking.
Now, initially I thought that this wouldn’t be a problem. RG was a seasoned cattle rancher and he could manage a green horse.
Then I realized that RG was also 75 years old and maybe not as strong as a young rancher.
The horse bucked several times.
I held my breath. With every hop of the horse a word popped into my head.
Don’t!
Fall!
Off!
The!
Horse!
You!
Are!
Old!
And!
Will!
BREAK!
I hoped and prayed that RG could get things settled before he was piled.
And I would have to call an ambulance.
But RG couldn’t hold on any longer and the horse piled him good. He groaned and let go of the horse’s reins.
My body hurt just seeing him get planted.
It seemed for a brief moment that RG was down for the count and I was afraid that my greatest fears had come true.
I was about to run over and ask him if he was ok when RG pulled himself up, spun around and grabbed the reins of the horse. He placed his foot in the stirrup and swung into the saddle.
It was like a reflex action. I was sure that RG was hurt and would have liked to come into the ranch house for a rest.
I thought: ‘RG is going to be sore tonight.’
Once RG was back in the saddle, his horse settled. He said, “I’ll be back later for the other horse.” Then headed down the road after the herd of cattle.
I watched anxiously as he rode away, not wanting to see a repeat of the piling episode.
I didn’t.
I learned something from this: These old ranchers are tougher than my generation.
Marlboro man you ain’t got nothin’ on RG!

It's fun to see stories of the Stringam Ranch from a different set of eyes.
Today's adventure is courtesy of my little brother, Blair.

18 comments:

  1. Love it. Yup, always have to get back on the horse. I remember that much from my riding lessons!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh. The hardest part about learning to ride is the ground!

      Delete
  2. Old cowboys always get back up on the horse. It may hurt like Hedoublehockeysticks but they still get up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. One thing I've learn from your family is how much goes into that lifestyle. When you are not familiar you just think about the cows, horses, etc. But, you never think of all the steps it takes to get to each point. Like training a horse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All the background that is the REAL work! :)

      Delete
  4. That sounds like the rider from the 'Pool.' I remember Mike used to carry a transistor radio with him so he could catch the news. One day he stopped for a smoke and to catch up on the news. He turned the radio on and must have had it between stations. He also was unaware that the volume was turned up. He suddenly hit the station which blasted out long and clear. The startled horse planted him right there....

    ReplyDelete
  5. Those in the know always say ... get back on that horse!

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a cool story--agree with you about the message of resilience-getting back in that horse!
    Estelle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who is who said 'the things we don't want to do are usually the things we should do'? Sigh.

      Delete
  7. Ouch, all right. I wouldn't want to do that at age 64!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I wouldn't have wanted to do it at 50! Or even 40, as long as we're on the topic...

    Good story from Blair! I kept thinking, this doesn't seem like Diane's writing ... close, but not quite :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so proud of him! Of course I did have a hand in raising him! ;)

      Delete
  9. They certainly did make them tough back then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I keep thinking of what I'd be like in the same situation! Yikes!

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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