Thursday, April 10, 2014

TTTT: Piss'n

Dick brought four new horses to the barn late March or early April. He had picked them up outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming, at the end of a BLM wild horse round-up. I don't know now, if he knew someone in the BLM, or if he was just lucky, but without a lot of too-doo, he loaded four wild mustangs onto his trailer and hauled them the five hours home.

They came off the trailer snorting and scared. There was a big, bright chestnut mare already pushing 16.3 hands I wrote about earlier. They believed she was pushing four and in the end she turned out to be a really nice roping horse. The second horse was a two year old chestnut with flaxen mane and tail, scared out of her wits. The third was a neatly built black mare, missing her face which had been badly cut when they loaded her in the trailer. This little mare would be the one I broke in and she was a sweet little thing that never really got beyond being timid. Both of those mares would be sold for $100 a piece a year later.

The fourth horse was an old style dun, with a black mane and tail, dorsal stripe, tiger stripes on his upper legs and four black stockings. He was short coupled, with a thick neck and a blocky roman head. He had powerful hind legs and was heavily muscled. He stood just about 15 hands and just looking at him was enough to remind you that dynamite comes in small packages. He was also a stallion. Dick named him Piss N Vinegar, but just called him Piss'n. As in "pissing me off".

Dick locked him into a wooden stock corral with eight foot high fences. He figured to get the vet out to geld him as soon as possible, but until then a really solid and high fence should suffice. It had been raining for about a week at the point he turned him loose and he didn't hang around to see what was happening.

I was in the barn, messing with my four year old Ace when all hell broke loose out in the corral. I got to the entrance to the barn just in time to see Piss'n launch himself for the second time at the upper rail of the corral. He managed to hook his right front foot over the top rail, but missed with the left, scrambled at the poles for a moment, and then fell heavily onto his left side, rolling with cat-like quickness to his feet. My heart was in my throat, thinking he was going to break a leg, as I watched him try a third time. And you know what they say: third time's the charm.

I watched him do it and I still don't really know how he managed. He hooked both front feet over the top rail and then kicked and thrashed with his hind legs until he teetered on the top pole of the corral, still trying for freedom. For a split second it was touch and go which direction he would fall, but with supreme effort, he kicked himself over the top and pretty much summersaulted down the fence, landing heavily in the mud puddle on the far side of the fence. In a flash, he was on his feet and headed for Wyoming at a dead run.

Not knowing what else to do, I swung up on Ace bareback and cantered up to Dick's trailer. After pounding on the door for a few moments Dick answered and I managed to let him know what was happening, although at that point in my life I wore thick glasses and couldn't see more than two feet in front of my face in the downpour we were having. I pointed in the general direction Piss'n had headed and with a slew of cuss words, Dick headed for the barn at a dead run. I took Ace back to the barn at a slightly slower speed and tacked him up.

Several other riders were out, waiting to see if the rain would break, and at the news of a horse on the run, they willingly saddled up. Within ten minutes we had a posse of ten or so riders, ready to chase after Piss'n, despite the weather. Dick realized he had forgotten his best rope in the trailer and sent me to fetch it for him. Ace was saddled and ready, while Dick was still getting gear on Popcorn. He had saddled Popcorn with his roping saddle, crupper and breastcollar, since we were figuring we would have to rope him to get him back. I raced Ace up to the trailer and slid off, racing inside to grab Dick's rope, then came back out just as they came riding up. I tossed Dick the rope and then swung into the saddle as the whole group whirled and took off after the stallion.

I settled myself, spun Ace, still gangly and awkward at an early four, to chase after them. He blasted forward and tried to cut the corner around the house. Both front feet slipped in the mud and he sprawled onto the ground. I came off his head like a spear, ramrod straight and head first, to land in the thick mud on my face, plowing forward.

I had mud packed between my glasses and my eyes. It was ground into my teeth and up my nose. I had wrenched my neck pretty good when I slid, arching my body up and almost over my back. By the time I had my glasses cleaned off and the mud dug out of my body crevasses, the pack of riders was gone. I trudged up to the barn and found a towel to clean up with. Then I unsaddled Ace and put him away, opting to pull Queenie out and saddle her. I scraped as much mud off of me, my tack and my jacket as I could, then pulled myself up into the saddle and sent Queenie off to find the group.

During this time, Piss'n had led the band a pretty merry chase. Most of the people riding with Dick were moderate horse riders on geldings. The geldings weren't very interested in letting that pissed off stallion get any where close to them, so when they would begin to get him cornered, Piss'n would pin his ears, snake his neck and go after the horse. A couple guys got dumped after their horses spun and ran in fear. More than just me hit the ground that day and some of them opted not to get back on.

I followed the churned mud and hoofprints. It wasn't hard to follow, because that damn stud went straight through any fence he came to. There were fence posts down and snapped wire between the corral and the far fields were he was running free. Queenie and I moved carefully, with me peering through foggy, wet glass at the blurred shapes moving through the grey. We traversed a couple of small ditches and one fairly large ditch, which required a bit of a swim to get across (more of a canal, honestly) before we got close enough I could hear Dick cussing.

By the time I caught up to him, there were only four riders left giving chase. Piss'n was out in front doing the tail flag, you can't catch me dance. Popcorn, already pissed off he was being ridden in weather that really deserved to be observed from the inside of a stall, was about ready to knock that stallion into next week. Piss'n slowed enough to allow that little gelding to get close, and then turned and charged toward them, teeth bared and his head snaked low.

Popcorn, ears pinned and a determined look on his face, charged the stallion, playing their own little game of chicken. Dick had his rope and as they got close, he readied his throw. At the last moment, Popcorn dodged to the side, swinging his hips toward the stallion and double-barrel kicked Piss'n in the ribs as he went past. Dick missed the throw and almost got tossed as the stallion careened past. The stallion squeeled like a stuck pig, spinning to come back.

Popcorn, seeing the stallion coming, bared his teeth and charged to meet him. Dick was riding with the reins looped over his saddle pommel, working his rope with both hands, building a loop. As the two horses raced on a crash course for each other, I pulled my rope out. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get a loop on him first (I'm not that crazy) but I wanted to be ready in case Dick got the first rope on him. Stretching a horse between two riders is a way to get them home without any one getting hurt, kind of like mobile cross ties. The stallion once again over ran Popcorn, but this time instead of kicking Piss'n, Popcorn spun and raced alongside for the three steps it took Dick to get his rope out of his hand.

As the loop settled over Piss'n's head, Popcorn braced his front legs and set down. Dick just barely had time to dally before that stallion hit the end of that rope and flipped head over heels into the mud. A geyser of muddy water and thick mud shot into the air and Popcorn slid forward a couple of feet. Piss'n just lay there for ten seconds or so, gasping for air, and then bounced to his feet just as my loop settled over his head. Then a third loop dropped and now there were three horses tied to the stallion.

I and the third rider kept the ropes stretched on either side of Piss'n, ensuring he couldn't get close enough to either of us to intimidate our horses. Dick rode behind Piss'n, leaving his rope on in case he needed it.

We dragged that horse the entire way home. He would plow his front feet into the mud, bracing and refusing to step even a single time toward the corral. Dick would pop him on the butt with the other end of the rope, which didn't do much in the way of motivating Piss'n to move. Finally, frustrated, Popcorn would bite the stallion on the flank or the back of the legs, sometimes hard enough to strip hair from the flesh. Piss'n squeeled and struck and fought, only giving in when Popcorn made him go forward.

Finally, we reached the corral and forced Piss'n inside. Dick rode Popcorn out and grabbed another rope, then went back in and threw Piss'n. He attached hobbles to the horse's back legs, to his front legs and then ran a rope between the two. That done, he went to the house and scheduled the vet to come out the next day and geld the stallion.

8 comments:

  1. God you tell the best stories!!! And I LOVE Popcorn! What did Dick end up doing with Piss'n after he was gelded? Sounds like even gelded he'd be a handful.

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    1. He settled into a pretty decent horse after being gelded. Dick got him going under saddle and we spent one summer riding a lot on the trails up in the mountains around Pocatello.

      As far as the four mustangs went: the two younger mares were sold to someone for $100 a piece. The rawboned mare was developed as a roping horse and sold to someone who was competing in the local rodeos. Piss'n went on to develop as a solid all-around cowhorse and was being used on a cow ranch somewhere. Nothing fancy and not for show. He was solid with cattle and sure footed in the mountains.

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    2. Awesome. Sounds like happy endings all around!

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  2. I'm pretty sure my friend owns that horse now. His is a buckskin mustang our of rocksprings who had a rocky start.

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    2. I can't do math in the morning.

      Thinking back, I believe Piss'n was probably born somewhere between 1972 and 1974. That would put his current age between 40 and 42. I guess there is a slight possibility he might still be alive, but probably not. Maybe your friend owns one of his offspring? I worked with Dick between September of 1977 til sometime in 1979. He moved with his horses in 1979 and I talked to him once after that.

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  3. God I love these stories. And I fucking love Popcorn.

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    1. ^ I want to "like" Liz's comment. Blogger needs to get with the times. Lol

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