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Copyright 2012 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;


Backcountry Tales from the Selway

By Mae Klette, Sunburst, Montana


November 2012 issue  

    Following a Grizzly’s Trail

     At the end of the summer of 1963, our 26-mile ride out of Idaho ’s Selway Wilderness to the trailhead where we parked our truck at Selway Falls , included an unexpected adventure.

     The trail, which began at the hunting lodge we took care of during the summer, started out beautifully. It was a two-horse-wide trail, shaded by pine trees, and we crossed a well-built wooden bridge over the Selway River .

     After a short distance, however, the trail narrowed to a one-horse-wide trail with a granite wall on the right side, a sheer drop into the Selway River on the other, and no room to turn around.

     This was our second trip out, and it was proving to be a peaceful ride, unlike the first one which had included some excitement by an obnoxious little red mare that had been provided for me.

     This time I was riding my Paint gelding named after the Christensen Brothers’ War Paint — on account of his color and markings…not his bucking talent!

     We expected a leisurely ride until the breeze began to sift dust back in our direction which carried a faint, unexpected odor. The horses stopped! They looked back over their shoulders for a way to turn around and shivered on a very warm day.

     Dad stepped off to look at the large grizzly bear tracks in the dust and the break in the granite wall where the bear had slid down to the trail. The bear had left scent fresh enough for all of us to smell and get nervous. I didn’t like this one-horse-wide trail with no turn-around room!

     We waited until the horses would walk on slowly, while we talked louder than usual to the horses and each other to make sure the bear knew we were following but not trying to sneak up on him. When the horses stopped, we waited again.

     A couple of times, we smelled the bear and heard it grumbling, probably about the strangers on its trail. It seemed like hours, but was more likely less than one hour, when we heard rocks falling ahead where the bear scrambled up the mountain through a break in the granite wall.

     We waited for the dust to settle, then rode on to the break to see the grizzly bear close to the top of the mountain looking down to see what had been on its trail. We sure were happy the bear found a way up the mountain before the trail got wide enough for him to turn around and meet our horses nose to nose!

     When we got down to the river and the old growth oak trees, we rested and cooled off while we talked about our latest Selway adventure…not to be the last, but definitely the most “grizzly.”


Chub Could Surprise You

      Chub — no doubt named for his description — was a hairy legged Clydesdale-something cross. He was the calmest, most dependable horse I ever met. But Chub could surprise you. He sure surprised me a few times!

      For a horse that rarely moved faster than a slow walk he could really move if he had the right incentive.

      In the early 1960s, we had a base camp in Idaho , west of Darby , Montana , and one day, Mom and I were leading horses to water at Bargamin Creek.

      Mom was leading Chub, and I was leading two horses just behind her. Mom decided it would be easier to ride Chub bareback with a halter than it was to lead him, because leading Chub was little like pulling a log up stream by hand.

      It seemed to be a good idea until Chub spotted a bunch of clover he couldn’t resist. Chub spun to the right, and mom spun to the left!

      As she got off the ground and dusted off her jeans, she called Chub everything but a horse! I was trying not to laugh but couldn’t stop myself. Then she heard a couple of guys across the creek laughing. The look she sent their way must have been scary, because they suddenly remembered somewhere they needed to be. That was the only time Mom ever tried to ride Chub.

      The only time I rode Chub was after we herded the bunch by foot off the hills to the Snake river near Clarkston , Washington , where we had pastured them.

      I put a halter on Chub, and was just about to jump on him with my hands on his mane when the bunch ran by us. He spun to the left, tossing me up on his back as I grabbed his thick Clydesdale mane with both hands. His lope was surprisingly easy to ride and the only time I ever saw him go faster than a trot. His trot jarred the rider from head to toe, so he rarely had to move faster than a walk.

      Overall, Chub was a good-natured horse. He probably thought fighting just wasn’t worth the effort. An obnoxious palomino mare named Goldie, that we borrowed from a friend of Dad’s, made the mistake of pushing Chub too far.

      She bit a chunk of hide out of Chub’s rump to chase him away from his food. Chub whirled and planted both big hind feet in her ribs. As she was trying to get her breath back Chub went back to eating.

      Goldie walked  a big circle around Chub from then on. She learned, as we all did, Chub could surprise you!


            Freelance writer Mae Klette spent many teenage hours in the saddle helping her parents who outfitted in the 1960s in the remote wild country of the Selway River . She lives in Sunburst, Montana . RMR has published a number of her stories, including “Tough Little Red” (Oct. 2009) and “Half-Assed Equine” (Oct. 2006).


Copyright 2012 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;


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