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Distributed throughout the Greater Rockies Since 1993

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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

 

September 2010 Issue  

[The author recounts his memories of a tough, bay horse he rode in dry, rough country in Arizona and New Mexico .]

 

Part 2

     The following year while hunting bear in the Black Range of New Mexico, darkness overtook me, a client, and the young man who worked for me.

     We were on the north slope of Rail Mountain , a rough country full of bluffs. There was a very real risk riding through it in the dark. I was contemplating dry camping where we were until daylight, but the client didn’t like that idea.

     Looking north down the mountain, we saw the lights of Aragon twinkling like stars. It was a small village along the two-lane highway that ran from Reserve to Horse Flats. We were closer to Aragon than to our rig, so we decided to try and make our way down a long canyon leading off the mountain in the direction of the village.

     The rocky bottom of the canyon was made up of light-colored rocks and I surmised if we stayed in the canyon bottom, we should be able to see well enough to ride. There was no chance of getting out of the bottom as the yellow pine and juniper forests were as black as pitch.

     Hours later Pancho stopped in his tracks. I bumped him with a spur, but again he only flinched. I dismounted to see why he wouldn’t take another step. I walked past his head with my hand outstretched and found a new, five-strand, barbed wire fence blocking our  path.

     We followed the fenceline, and a half hour later we pulled up at Steve Lumpkin’s in Aragon , New Mexico . As we tied our mounts to the fence surrounding the yard, we were met by Steve.

     I glanced at my watch for the first time that day. It was three o’clock in the morning. Although I had no idea of the time when I called, it was typical of the hospitality found among Westerners to invite us in.

     I phoned Dale Mitchell to ask if he could come and haul us back up to our rig. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said he would be there as quickly as he could. We went into the house to drink coffee braced with stiff shots of whiskey to await Dale’s arrival. Tied to the fence was a mule, two horses, along with six hounds, a bear skin, and three smelly unshaven hunters for Dale to haul back up the mountain.

     It takes an exceptional horse to thread his way through that rough country without stepping off a ledge in the pitch black night with no guidance from his rider, but Pancho never failed to meet the challenge.

 

     Pancho only ever bucked twice with me, and the second time was again my fault. He was three months’ fresh and I had been graining him and the other horses twice a day in anticipation of the grueling nine months of work about to begin.

     It was early in the morning and time to shoe them. Pancho was standing alone in the corner by the stack yard. I headed down with a halter and caught him. He was rolling fat and felt good.

     Foolishly I decided to ride him back to the barn. I had never ridden him bareback, but I figured now that he was a seasoned horse he would probably tolerate it. I knew better than to jump at him so I pulled up a wire milk crate, stepped up on it, and slipped onto his back. He instantly broke into bucking towards a wire fence.

     He was so fat it was like trying to ride a basketball; no sooner would I get a handful of mane than he would jerk it away. After four big jumps we came to the fence and he turned back hard. To my amazement I found myself still aboard. A few more jumps brought us to the stack yard and another hard turn back sent me flying above him, landing on the small of my back, and slamming my head on the ground. All I could do was grunt.

     I didn’t hold it against him, and he and I had many more great years. When he was twelve years old, he got stiff in the front end and became unable to handle the steep slopes and the rocks. I gave him to Jim Boyce and he lived a good life babysitting Jim’s young daughters. After Jim’s daughters grew up and left home, he gave Pancho to an elderly man who rode trail a couple of times a year. Pancho lived like a king under his care and got to live out his life in the valley where he and I got acquainted. I was able to see him often.

 

     In fifty+plus years of roaming the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierra Mountain chains I have many stories of special horses, but the constraints of space prevent telling those now. The horses that I am referring to are ones that, without a job, would have been waspy, dangerous broncs. They would have ended up hurting someone and likely ended up in the killer pen. They were the old-type, cold-blooded horse and are about extinct. They were unlike the great-dispositioned horses that are bred today.

     Any cowboy long in the tooth that spent any of his younger days on a Western ranch will know of which I speak. They made tough durable mountain horses but were not for the weak of heart.

     At sixty-nine years old, I still own one of these old cold-blooded horses. His name is George. He was foaled and spent the first ten years of his life on the McKee Ranch on the Medicine Bow River at Elk Mountain , Wyoming .

     When my kids and grandkids are here at the ranch, they spend a lot of time at the corrals rubbing on the horses. But George stays aloof and always moves out of reach. They are content to refer to him as “Pop’s horse.”

     Every spring I spend the first few days talking him into not sticking my head in the ground and thus far he has spared me. My circles are getting shorter now, but George and I are aging together. When they get too short to keep the edge off a bronc, he won’t need the big circles.

     As I get closer to crossing over the Big Divide, I spend some time each day reflecting on the long, tiring days in the saddle roaming around the Western mountains. I recall being half frozen, wet, sore, and worn completely out, only to repeat it the following day.

     Those days had one common denominator; I was always astride a great horse. Aside from the snorts and eye rolls, I wouldn’t trade one of those days for all the gold in Cap Atwood’s teeth!

 

[Want to Read Part 1? 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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