Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Floyd's Horse Stories: Horses I Have Known

I’m honored and rather tickled pink to share this with you.

Today, we’ll be starting a new series. This one is just stories. Good old, horse stories, and certainly not my own. Stories from a man born and raised with horses. Stories from a man who put more miles on horseback in the mountains than I will ever be able to amass in my lifetime. Stories from a man who began riding and working horses back when he had to, when the horse was the primary available mode of transportation and means of work. Stories from a man who still today at the age of nearly 78 is out there riding the high mountains, and one of the best riders I know. Watching this man sit in the saddle, so comfortable and confident, so knowing and experienced, opens the door to the many stories that must have made this man who he is.

These are the stories of my dad-in-law, Floyd Getz. Floyd grew up on a big family owned cattle and sheep ranch outside of Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. He grew up back in the day when horses were still used by many as both transportation and work force. And unlike so many back in the day who were quite satisfied turning in the bridle for the truck or tractor key, he grew up loving the horse and choosing a life that would enable him to continue riding. This love continues still… The horse has been a part of Floyd’s life, not just as working partner, but as focus and an obvious love.

These are simple stories, in a way. There are no big traumas or dramas, just a man growing up riding and working with horses. But so interesting and intriguing to those of us for whom this life is no more than chapters to someone else’s story. Which I suppose, is exactly what this is for me. A good opportunity for me to peak into a world I missed.

So, today I’d like to share with you the first installment of what I hope will be many a fun tale. Floyd’s horse stories: Horses I Have Known.

Horses I Have Known: My first riding horses

The first horse I remember, the first one I considered really to be mine, was Nellie. Nellie was a five year old mare when I first started riding her to school. I was six. Every day, I’d ride Nellie those three miles to school. The trip took about 35 minutes each way, as we’d lope half the way there and half the way back.

I rode to school, no matter if it was snowing, or cold, or raining. I don’t ever remember being taken to school, and you can be sure I couldn’t miss school. It was one of those things we just did. You didn’t question or think about other choices and easier, more comfortable ways. You just got on your horse and rode off to school.

At the school yard, we had a barn we could keep the horses in while we were in class. There were maybe six other kids who rode to school as well, and their horses would keep Nellie company while I was in lessons. Dad would take hay to that barn so Nellie was able to eat during the day.

That first year I rode her to school, Nellie had a colt that followed us to school. We didn’t think that too unusual, just what had to be done. Over the years, she had 5 colts, another one of which followed alongside while my younger brother, Melvin rode Nellie to school.

When Melvin started school, we rode Nellie double. We did that for 2 years. Then I got Ginger, and Melvin got Nellie to himself for a year. He rode her just one more year, then moved onto a big black horse named Skeeter.

When I turned 10, why, dad bought me a real nice saddle, a 16” Heiser saddle, brand new from Montgomery Wards. He paid $50 for it. That was also the year I got a new horse. That was when I got Ginger.

Ginger belonged to our neighbor and hired man’s boy. The man had bought the horse for his boy, who rode the horse to school. He was a dandy horse, and I was terribly envious. But that man got called into the service, the family had to leave, and they sold the horse to Dad. So, I ended up with that fine little horse.

Ginger was a little sorrel gelding with a light mane and tail, about 13 hands high, just a little horse. He was the horse that taught me to cut cattle. You could ride him into a bunch of cattle, point out the one you wanted, and hold onto the saddle horn. Ginger would bring that animal out. All you had to do was hold on. He loved that work, and he was good at it.

Anyway, in the morning while we were getting dressed and ready to go to school, Dad would go out and get the horses ready for us. Mom had made me a canvas bag that held food and a thermos that would hang over the saddle horn for me to bring my lunch to school. Well, one morning, I grabbed that canvas bag and headed out. That night, we had got two feet of snow. Pretty deep for the Valley, though I suppose pretty deed for anywhere, especially if you’re a horse. Ginger didn’t like it one bit. I would get on him and go out maybe 100 yards, then Ginger would stop, turn around, and head back to the barn. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get that little horse to plow through the snow. My brother was with me on his horse, but all that horse would do was follow, so that was no help.

Finally, my Uncle Bill got on Ginger and made him ride all the way to corner and back. There was this grown man plowing through the snow on the little horse, sitting up in my tiny saddle. Ginger was good to go after that. Figured taking me through the snow was easier than dealing with my Uncle Bill. So, off we went through the snow, once again to school. Oh, and by this time, my next younger brother, Alan, was with me riding double on Ginger…

We spent a lot of time in the saddle, and a lot of time doubling up back then. One day I was coming home with my brother, Alan, behind me. They had just paved the Gun Barrel road. It was the section we rode on for 1 ½ mile north of the property corner, a main road in those parts. I was coming home with Alan behind me. We always rode on the west side of the payment, because it was wider between road and bar ditch, so we’d have more room. Then, as you got to the property corner, you had to cross the pavement to go in the gate on the other side of the road. We were loping down that road, and just as we made that sharp turn across the payment to get home, Alan lost his balance, flew off from behind me, and skidded along on the pavement for a ways. Always something.

Another day, I had just come home from school, and Dad had left word for me that there was a bull out in east corral. I was to take that bull a few miles over to the Parma Ranch to turn him out with the cow herd. Ginger and I get him out of the east corral, drive him the 2 miles to the county road, then down that county road about quarter mile, then through a gate and down a lane and to the canal. Across the canal there was a home made bridge, only about a year old, made of new planks. That bridge rocked and rolled when any animal walked on it. Well, the bull took one step on that bridge and turned around back mighty quickly at me and Ginger, and ran right past us. He didn’t want a thing to do with crossing that bridge.

We stopped him about a quarter mile away, got him back and tried again. Still no luck. I unwound about 8-10 feet of my lariat, and kept the coil fastened on my saddle. I was using the lariat rope to whip bull to try to get him to move. I got him back to the bridge, and was trying to get him to go with that rope, when that bull turns and runs clear back to the county road. Problem was that the knot on the end of the lariat rope got caught on the bull’s tail. When I stopped and the bull kept running, he ripped the lariat tie strap clear off my saddle. I had been feeling proud and thinking I looked pretty good in my brand new saddle and riding Ginger. And there I go and get the leather strapped ripped clear off the nice saddle.

Meanwhile, the neighbors hired hand, Louis Ortega, sees me, and closes gate so the bull can’t go back all the way to the main road. He grabs that rope and runs it over a fence post. Why, of course the rope came out of bull’s tail, but with a gob of tail hair tangled in there. Louis had a bull whip in his pick up. He got it out and helped me get that bull across the bridge. As soon as that bull was half way across the bridge, he saw the girls on the other side and everything was easy from there.

Still, it was well after dark before I got home.

See? Pretty neat stories. This is only half of what I wrote down in our “interview” last night, but I’m thinking most of you don’t have time in one sitting for more than this. So, I’ll call it quits for one day, and look forward to sharing more of Floyd’s horse stories with you again soon.

Until next time…

Photo credit: Patrick Hall