Saturday, August 24, 2013

Of Old Men and Great Horse Stories

At my job I am surrounded by youngsters.  They are good kids and I like most of them very much.  They are polite and hard working, and just down right fun to be around.   One of them got a visit last night from his Papaw and Nanna.  

It was the highlight of my evening.

Youngster's Papaw, came to my register, and standing next to me was also his great niece (who also works there). So as she spoke with his wife, he and I chatted.  Very quickly we were deeply engaged in a wonderful conversation about what is clearly his favorite topic in the world.


Luckily, that is also my favorite topic in the world as well.

Papaw is a retired roper.  From the sounds of it, he is/was just an amateur, but an amateur with skill.  Even more important, Papaw is a horseman.  He talked about the old cowboys who taught him how to rope. Not just rope the easy steers, but to rope those "trashy steers" that no one else could hit.  Not only did he learn how to toss a loop but he learned how to push a loop with the palm of his hand, and when to use that little trick, in just the right situation.  He learned how to make that rope do his bidding, with the flick of a wrist or just the right little twist to one side or the other.

When he spoke of roping it was very reminiscent of the way Michael Johnson speaks of roping in Healing Shine.  It was with an adoration that one would speak of a first kiss, or a first love. I have never been into roping.  I always said I could care less to ever learn how to rope.  But listening to these men speak of it...I don't makes me feel a little differently about it all.  To have that passion and that skill.  It must be a beautiful feeling.

He told me about his favorite horses of his past.  The ones he raised and trained from a colt.  He talked about ground work and lunge lines and about how he never once put a tie down on any of horses.  He talked of how it was vital to him to always run on a loose rein, and he never wore spurs.  Yet he said he rarely ever got out run by a steer.  His horses liked to rope, and that is how it is supposed to be.

He also told me a story about a time when he was the working the chute.  A man came into the head box on a horse that was just lathered head to toe. The man (and I use the term lightly) had been out warming up and spurring the crap out of his horse.  When he wasn't spurring him, he was beating him over the head with the rope.  One can only assume that he was trying to get the poor horses adrenaline up to have a fast run. Papaw watched this for a minute and then simply walked away.  He refused to work the chute for someone who would treat an animal like that. Especially since (he said) the horse was not doing anything wrong.  It was that way the entire night. If that fool came to the box. Papaw walked away.  He told me that he has regretted to this very day, that he did not simply offer to buy the horse from the man. Clearly the man didn't think the horse was doing anything right, so he probably would have been happy to have the cash.

Of course I shared a little of my story with Trax.  I told him of his history, about our first show, and how I failed my horse. I'll admit in doing so, I got a little teary eyed. I honestly shared my shame at my lack of understanding for what Trax needed.  I don't know why, but I told him the whole story, what I did wrong, what I did right, how it made me feel, and what I am trying to accomplish now.  I mean I didn't know this old man from Adam, but here I was spilling my guts to him over the register counter.

Do you want to know what he said to me when I was done and tears were running down my face?

He said, "It's okay, we all make mistakes, but you are learning from them and your boy knows that. He will keep trying for you because he knows that you are trying for him."  He was teary eyed too. (I swear it's true)

Then he told me another story.  This one was beautiful.

He told me about his best horse ever, Sonny.  He was a big horse of great breeding.  He had him out at one of the local roping competitions and doing pretty well.  While he was in between turns an old man in bib overalls and a plaid shirt came up and spoke to him. He had a piece of straw sticking out one side of his mouth.

The old man said, "That's a nice horse you got there son."

Papaw said, "Why thank you."

"Do you know why he does so well for you?"

"Because I trained him well?"

The old man smiled, "Well that too, but no. There is another reason."

"What's that?" Papaw asked.

"He loves you. That horse loves you and he wants to please you.  You love him too don't you?"

"Why yes, yes I do."

Then they went on to discuss the special love between a man (or woman) and his horse.

The old man said to him,  "If a man and a woman could love each other like that, there would never be divorce, and it would be a relationship made in heaven."

Papaw agreed, and just then someone called to him and asked him to herd a steer for them.  When he went back to finish the conversation the old man was gone.  No one he asked knew who the man was, or where he had come from. It was as if he had just vanished as quickly as he appeared.

Papaw said to me, "I think that man was an angel."

Yup, we were both teary eyed again.

Finally I stopped to look at the clock. Holy Moly!  Over half an hour had gone by in a flash!  Luckily it was so close to closing time, not a single person had come to the register in that time.

I said, "Well I'd best let you folks on your way."

His wife said, "Thank you!  He'd be here all night if you let him."

I smiled and thought to too! 

This was a man that is passionate about the relationship he has with his equine brothers.  He cares about how they feel, and that they are treated well.  He has a couple of rescue's now.  He no longer rides, but he still loves his horses (and the donkey and the mule which he rescued and cares for) and appreciates them for the individuals that they are.  Even more important, he is passing his passion on to his grandson as well.

I want to be like him.


  1. You should have asked them to dinner sometime. I'd be willing to bet you could learn a lot from him and his wife. They sound like jewels!

  2. from one horseman to another, Cindy, I understand.



  3. I unfortunately have never had a horse although I always wanted one. But I do understand the relationship one can have with an animal. I don't want to sound like the crazy cat lady, but I do have that connection with my eighteen year old cat