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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Pancho

From Bronc to Pardner

By Ron D. Moore, Moore, ID

 

August 2010 Issue  

 

Part 1

     Suddenly Pancho’s head disappeared and the cantle of my saddle hit me in my britches’ pockets, nearly tipping me over the front end and sticking my head in the ground.

     I had been caught off guard, and the first jump loosened my seat and jerked the pack horse’s lead rope out of my hand. As I tried to regain my seat, the canteen dallied to my saddle horn was trying to beat me to death. The pack horse stampeded alongside with empty panniers flapping.

     I hollered “Pancho!” every time he hit the ground.

     It was February and the mesa was boggy, which caused him to sink to his knees. He soon grew tired. Two more jumps would have given him the victory. My forearms were sore and I had a cut in my chin from the canteen. The pack horse was so rattled that I had to rope her.

     The incident happened in 1983 crossing Brewer Mesa east of Young, Arizona . It was a country full of canyons and bluffs, and terrible oak and manzanita thickets growing among fields of boulders. There was no good place to land.

     It was cold and rainy, and I had not been paying attention to business when the pack horse’s lead rope had gotten under my horse’s tail. Remote and many miles from a medical facility, it’s not a country you should be riding broncs in, but I seemed to gravitate to those types of horses.

     The first time I laid eyes on Pancho, he was grazing along the road that wound down Cherry Creek, his bay coat ablaze in the morning sun as he raised his head to look at my truck. There were other horses there, but he was the one that caught my attention…and held it.

     I was crossing the Chapman Ranch, a small place with a sixty-head Forest Service permit. It was a place most folks in that country called a “gentleman’s ranch.”

     When I saw Frank, I asked about the bay horse. The gelding was eight years old, had been green broke at two years old, and turned out since that time. He had never again been saddled. Frank wanted eight-hundred dollars for a green broke, eight-year-old that was six years fresh. I told him I wasn’t interested.

     Weeks passed and I couldn’t get the bay horse off my mind. I hunted lions and bears for a living in some of the roughest and most intimidating country that the West had to offer. It took special horses to handle what I asked of them. There were no trails, but plenty of boulder piles, ledges, bluffs, and brush. Add my inherited attitude that I bought a horse to ride and not to lead, and all combined for many difficult miles.

     We ranched the same country and the cattle, being on their own most of the year, were wild. It took great horses and good dogs to catch and pen those cattle twice a year, but it didn’t compare to where a mountain lion led you.

     I paid Frank the $800, and met him a few days later at the ranch to pick up my horse. In the corral, the horse was a lot more scary than at a distance. He snorted and quivered at my approach.

     After thirty slow minutes, I managed to get a halter on him and lead him out the gate.

     Frank said, “I forgot to mention it, but when we loaded him at the lower ranch to bring him up here, it took five of us two hours to get him in an open-topped stock trailer.”

     He hadn’t brought that up before cashing my check. I had a Sooner four-horse, bumper-pull trailer with a full-length top. I rubbed Pancho’s neck and back until I felt like he had relaxed, then turned away and stepped into the trailer. He stepped in with his front feet, panicked and ran backwards out of the trailer.

     I followed with no pressure on the lead rope. I started rubbing him again, keeping it up for a time after he had relaxed. I turned away and without looking back at him walked into the trailer, he followed me to the front of the trailer, I tied him, and stepped out the escape door.

     Astonished Frank said, “If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

 I have gotten along with horses my entire life, including some that nobody could get along with. It’s not any special talent that I acquired through hours of hard work or study. It is just something God saw fit to give me and I am thankful for it. I tell everybody that horses feel sorry for me.

     When I started working Pancho, although he did not buck, he was a scary horse to ride. One couldn’t relax on him for a minute. You had to remain alert as he tended to see lots of boogers which caused him to jump sideways and attempt to stampede. If he had stampeded, it would most likely have resulted with him starting to buck. I was always able to head it off by getting his head pulled around to my leg.

     I poured it on him the first month by riding him several days in a row. The hard, tough days suited him, and he thrived on them. I wondered if, after all those years of not having a job, he reveled in having one as he crashed through the brush, and over ridges and rimrock. He and I traveled to peaks, crossed divides, forded rivers, and slept alongside each other under pine trees when we were caught out in rough country after dark.

     He was a pardner that I grew to trust and depend on. He never failed to give what I asked of him. My brother Rod was so impressed with him that he wrote a cowboy song about him.

 

     Once my friend Les Schalatner and I were cold-trailing a lion along the rim of Cherry Creek on Pendelton Mesa southeast of Young, Arizona . Soon it was too dark to continue and I called off the hounds. The rig was parked at Cross Trails, a set of working pens, some six miles from our location.

     Heading Pancho in that direction, I gave him his head and prayed that he wouldn’t step off of a bluff in the dark. I don’t know that I have ever seen a night as black as that one. I couldn’t see Pancho, my hands, nor could I see Les who was mounted on a paint mare with lots of white on her.

     Hours passed with only the clicking of the horses’ feet on the rocks. Finally the black and the silence got the better of Les and he asked if we were hopelessly lost. I replied that if I were mounted on any other horse I would be concerned, but I had complete confidence in Pancho.

     While there was a lot of bravado in my statement, there was some doubt in my mind that we might not be going in the right direction. We could not tell in the inky blackness with our well-being completely dependant on a horse.

     A few minutes later Pancho abruptly stopped. When I bumped him with my spurs, he flinched but he wouldn’t take another step. Fearing we had come to the edge of a bluff, I told Les to hold up. I dismounted, and walked face first into the back of my trailer.

 

[End of Part 1. Read the rest of the story in the next issue of RMR.]

 

[Want to Read Part 2? Click Here]

Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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