Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A rose between two thorns -- and other interesting characters

(left to right above) Jerry England (yours truly), Barbara Jones, Monty Montana, Gary Parsons, and Tony Stanton.
Just before the picture was snapped, Monty in true cowboy charm whispered to Barbara, "A rose between two thorns."

Back in 1993, when I was struggling to make a living as a cowboy folk artist, a good friend by the name of Gary Parsons invited me to share his booth at the "Cowboy Christmas Show" at Cashman Field during the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) .  Attending the show was a huge commitment for me because it was a ten day event, which meant I'd have to double up on my work load when I returned home.

I had met Gary a couple years earlier through an introduction from the good folks at the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles.  We became instant friends, and I spent a lot of time with him over the next several years.  Gary was in the cowboy fashion business.  He sold and or brokered all sorts of interesting things, such as fancy boots and shirts, reproduction collectibles (like a Roy Rogers watch), and very sophisticated line of silver buckles and jewelry marketed under the name of "Hollywood Classics."

I have always been a big rodeo fan, but had never attended the finals before, so I was really looking forward to the show.  Better yet, Gary was a very popular guy who knew just about everybody in the cowboy world.  When I got to Cashman Field I learned that Gary had also invited several celebrities to share his both: Monty Montana, who had just published his biography "Not Without My Horse" and was sharing the booth to promote it;  Sharon Camarillo, a four-time NFR barrel- racing qualifier,  was selling her bits and saddles; Tony Stanton, the owner of Sunset Trails Silversmiths, was showing  his wonderful silver; and Barbara Jones, a designer of Western fashions from Bozeman, Montana, had her fashion line.  Looking back I guess my Lure of the Dim Trails furniture was a pretty good fit.

During those ten days at Cashman Field,  I met all sorts of interesting folks.  One was  Jim Shoulders (a hero of mine in the 1950s) who won five all-around Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association championships, seven bull riding championships, and four bareback riding crowns. Another was  Baxter Black, American cowboy poet philosopher, former large-animal veterinarian, and radio commentator.  He  had me in stitches from the moment he thrust his hand forward with his famous opening line, "Howdy, I'm Baxter Black. " I also met Leo Camarillo,  21 times NFR team-roping qualifier, six times NFR Average Winner; four-time World Champion Team Roper; one time All-Around Champion.

It sure was a thrill to watch 83-year-old Monty standing on his horse spinning a giant loop at the rodeo opening, and then spend all the next day swapping yarns with him.  Monty passed away fours years later, and Gary (I just learned) passed away in 2005.  They don't make 'em like those two anymore.

Don and Kathy Edwards with Gary Parsons at my display during the Cody Old West Show 1997

Learning about Blackfeet and Buffalo



The 1980s had been a period of affluence for me and my wife.  We were both working, and we had paid vacations that allowed for some reasonable travel.  We chose the Pacific Northwest and Canada for most of our destinations.

In the late 1980s we decided to take a trip through Montana, so we could visit Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.  I had been to both a few times before because I had relatives that lived near Kalispell, where my mother had been born.

In previous years we had visited the Museum of Man in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada; the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and before that the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming.  My thirst for knowledge of the Plains Indians culture was growing with every visit to those wonderful institutions devoted to collecting artifacts and the preservation of the culture, manners, and traditions of our Plains Indian tribes.

It was also about that time that I discovered three authors, whose personal contact with the Blackfeet tribe, gave them insight to write fascinating accounts of their lives, legends, culture, and mythology.

Those writers were:

George Bird Grinnell (1849 - 1938) who became a prominent early conservationist and student of Native American life.  He accompanied Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 1874 Black Hills expedition as a naturalist.  Grinnell was prominent in movements to preserve wildlife and conservation in the American West. For many years, he published articles and lobbied for congressional support for the endangered American buffalo. In 1887, Grinnell was a founding member, together with Theodore Roosevelt, of the Boone and Crockett Club, dedicated to the restoration of America's wild lands.

A few of my favorite books authored by him are When Buffalo Ran, Blackfeet Indian Stories, The Fighting Cheyennes, and Trails of the Pathfinders.

Frank Bird Linderman (1869 - 1938) who was a Montana writer, politician, Native American ally and ethnographer.  Linderman moved to Montana Territory in 1885 at the age of sixteen.  At the shores of Flathead Lake, he learned Indian ways and lived as they lived. To know them better, he mastered the sign language, a feat which gained him the name "Sign-talker," and sometimes "Great Sign-talker."  From 1893 to 1897, he worked in Butte, Montana and then moved to Brandon, Montana. Around 1900, he moved to Sheridan, Montana, where he worked several jobs, one as an assayer, another as a furniture salesman, and a third for a newspaper.  He also lived in Sheridan,  Kalispell, Helena, and Butte.  Linderman served in the state Legislature as the representative from Madison County, Montana in 1903 and 1905. He served as Assistant Secretary of State from 1905-07, after moving to the new state capital of Helena in 1905.  Through his work, the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation was established by law in 1916

A few of my favorite books authored by him are On a Passing Frontier; Lige Mounts, (Free Trapper);  Plenty-Coups (Chief of the Crows); Red Mother; Beyond Law; Indian Why Stories; Indian Old-Man Stories (More Sparks from War Eagle's Lodge-Fire); Kootenai Why Stories; Old Man Coyote Stories; Montana Adventure (Recollections of Frank B. Linderman); Recollections of Charley Russell; and Wolf and the Winds 

Linderman also developed a close personal friendship with the cowboy artist Charles Marion Russell.

James Willard Schultz or Apikuni, (1859 - 1947), who was a noted author, explorer, Glacier National Park guide, fur trader and historian of the Blackfoot Indians.  While operating a fur trading post at Carroll, Montana and living among the Pikuni tribe during the period 1880-82, he was given the name "Apikuni" by the Pikuni chief, Running Crane. Apikuni in Blackfoot means "Spotted Robe."  Schultz is most noted for his prolific stories about Blackfeet life and his contributions to the naming of prominent features in Glacier National Park.

A few of my favorite books authored by him include My Life as an Indian (The Story of a Red Woman and a White Man in the Lodges of the Blackfeet); With the Indians in the Rockies;  Sinopah: The Indian Boy; The Quest of the Fish-dog Skin; On The Warpath; Apauk-Caller of Buffalo; Rising Wolf--The White Blackfeet (Hugh Monroe's Story of his first year on the plains); Bird Woman (Sacajewa--The Guide of Lewis and Clark); Seizer of Eagles; Trail of the Spanish Horse; Running Eagle--The Warrior Girl; Dreadful River Cave; The War-Trail Fort--Further Adventures of Thomas Fox; and Pitamakan.

Over many years I collected and read nearly all the of the many dozens of books authored by them.  So, if you want to learn about Plains Indian life and culture during the "buffalo days," you can find no better resources  than the books listed above.  Many of these books are now available as free downloads from Google books.


As for my wife and I we are planning another trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meanwhile back at the ranch -- Nyoka Cliff


Nyoka Cliff, a part of the old Iverson Movie Location Ranch is located north of Santa Susana Pass Road and just east of Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, CA (photo 2009).


Beginning in the silent film era Nyoka Cliff has appeared as a background in hundreds of movies or television shows.  The name of "Nyoka" is attributed to a scene in the Republic serial The Perils of Nyoka (1942) in which star Kay Aldridge has a tug of war with a killer gorilla on the side of the cliff.


The cliff was often filmed across the Iverson gorge from a camera position in the Garden of the Gods. Above is a movie still for Three Ages (1923) starring Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy and Wallace Beery.


When filmed from the north as you see above in a photo from Wee Willie Winkie (1937), a "V" shaped notch, tree and footbridge help clearly identify the cliff.


Nyoka Cliff is also often seen in the background during action scenes taking place on a stagecoach road that wound its way up through the Iverson gorge, as we see above in a still for Old Los Angeles (1948) starring Bill Elliott.


Above is another movie still photographed from the Garden of the Gods.  This one was promoting The Daltons' Women (1950) starring Lash LaRue and Al 'Fuzzy' St. John.


To learn more about my research, and the books I've written about the Iverson Movie Location Ranch, and other Chatsworth, California filming locations see http://www.cowboyup.com/

Hula Poppers -- My favorite bass fishing lure


When my dad was living in Sacramento, California in the 1960s, he spent a lot of time bass-fishing at nearby Folsom Lake.  He liked to troll "Whopper Stopper" and "Bomber" lures, and he often came home with some nice fish.  I fished with him a few times back then, but it was usually so I could do some water skiing first.


When dad passed away I inherited his tackle boxes.  Over the years I've combined his lures with mine.  I snapped the photo (above) of some of the older lures in my tackle boxes.  I'm pretty  sure one or two of these are collectible.


Wow!  Can you believe the prices in this 1970s Arbogast pocket catalog (above)?  I've got a tackle box full of Arbogast lures because they work.

I'm more of a trout fisherman than a bass guy, but I gotta tell you fishing for bass on the surface just before dark is pretty exciting stuff.  My favorite bass lure is the hula popper.  Just cast it to a likely-looking spot and let it sit until the hula skirt flexes.  Then retrieve it really slow, stop, and with a quick jerk on the line pop the lure.  Watch for the dorsal fin breaking the surface just before the strike.  It doesn't get a lot more exciting, except maybe a big cutthroat tail walking on the water :-)

Wilderness canoe travel -- The portage

Portage is an old voyageur term left over from the fur trade days.  It is defined as "the act of carrying a canoe and packs overland between two bodies of water or to avoid river obstacles such as rapids and waterfalls."  The trail used to carry canoe and gear is also known a portage.  Portages are measured in "rods"--a rod is 16.5 feet or 5 meters.  There are 320 rods to a mile.


On calm water with no headwind, two paddlers can usually travel two or three miles per hour by canoe, but the variable that makes it difficult to predict time and distance is the portage.

Unloading, carrying, and reloading your canoe and gear on portages takes considerable time..


Just knowing the length of a portage doesn't give you all the facts to estimate the time required to make a portage.  There are too many other unknown factors, such as how long it will take to find and make a landing, the condition of the trail, changes in elevation.  Some portages are nearly impassible because of muddy conditions, excessive tree roots, downfall trees, and landslides with loose rocks..


My advice is always allow an extra day or two, and bring a good book to read for those days that you find yourself wind bound.



Cowboy Culture -- Zinger a son of Far Ute Keno


His registered name is Q.T. Zingaro; his barn name, Zinger.  He is as steady as a horse can be.


He is a lover.  He's the one horse in our barn that actually shows his affection. 


And, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

His sire was the legendary Far Ute Keno one of the winningness paint horses ever.

Far Ute Keno's show Record
Superior in Halter (62 points)
Superiors in Hunter Hack, Working Cowhorse, Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle
11 APHA ROM's in performance, with APHA points in 15 different open performance classes
APHA Reserve National Champion
Grand Champion 23 times in Halter

92 foals with APHA show records; APHA World Champions, APHA Champions and performance ROM earners

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cowboy Culture -- A boy, a river, and a fox in a box

Fresno River photo courtesy of Bill and Karen Haley

I'll never forget the first time I saw the river.  It was 1957.  My dad was building our new home in Oakhurst, a sparsely populated community--of about 357 people--in California's High Sierras.  I had been helping dad frame the new house, and on a day when he didn't need me, I decided to explore our new neighborhood.  From our home site, I could see a line of trees about 300 yards away on the other side of the highway, so I took my dog King and started hiking downhill toward them.  

King and I crossed the highway, climbed through a barbed wire fence, and continued downhill across an open field to a beautiful grove of cedar trees.  King was still a pup, not quite two years old.  As soon as he saw the river on the far side of the the cedar trees he rushed head long into the water.  When he hit the water he stopped short, and tried to balance on two legs rather than put a third paw in that icy cold water.  It was the funniest thing I had ever seen a dog do.  As soon as King gathered his wits, he quickly turned and bounded back to me.  That was the last time King tried to cross the river.

To me that river was a wonderland.  In the mud under the cedar trees, there were all sorts of animal tracks.  I identified deer, raccoon, coyote, squirrel and rabbit tracks; and there were many different kinds of bird impressions.  That afternoon King and I explored the river.  There were no homes or any other sign of human inhabitants for more than a half mile upstream or down.   As a 15-year-old who was keenly interested in outdoor life, this river would be my very own wilderness, my private place to hunt and fish.  And it was practically in my front yard!

The Fresno River (as I soon learned its name) wasn't very big.  It was narrow and shallow--except for a few deeper pools--and it was cold water that originated somewhere in Yosemite park a few miles to the north.  The river tumbled downhill, carved its way through canyons in Oakhurst, then turned toward Ahwahnee, and eventually dropped down to leveler cow country somewhere beyond Raymond.  My section of the river had relatively slow water compared to upstream, where it cascaded from higher elevations.  

On the other side of the river was a large meadow that at one time must have been a pasture for horses or cattle or both because there was a decaying old barn on the edge of that grassland.  Wandering down stream and rounding a bend, I found a small waterfall, and below it, a long pool of slow water that soon became my favorite swimming hole.

Upstream a few hundred yards was a bend in the river, and at the bottom of the bend was a huge granite boulder about ten feet in diameter.  To one side of the boulder was a deep pool, which always produced at least one good-sized trout.  If I wanted a trout dinner all I had to do was hike down to that boulder, toss my line in the water, and in a few minutes, I'd nearly always have dinner.

Somewhere (maybe it was Boy's Life magazine) I had read about fur trapping and traps.  I constructed a wooden box trap with the intent of catching a raccoon.  Maybe I could make a pet of one, or maybe I was just thinking of having my own "Davy Crockett" fur cap.  I built my box trap and selected a grassy area under the biggest cedar tree on my portion of the river.  I placed my trap with great care, trying to leave as little human scent as possible.  I checked the trap daily. After about a week, I found clear evidence that the trap had been sprung by a raccoon, but he had apparently simply lifted the drop-down door and let himself out.  Undeterred, I reset the trap, and within a few more days I found a very angry gray fox in my trap.  The fox had been clawing at the hardware cloth in the end of my trap and already could get a paw through it.


I dragged the box trap with its captive fox home.  It was the longest 300 yards I had ever hiked with that fox snarling and growling every step of the way.  When I got home dad helped me build a cage for the fox.  I wrote a letter to the Fresno zoo offering to make them a present of my prize fox.  In a few days I received a reply from the zoo.  It seemed they had no shortage of gray foxes and suggested I turn him loose.  I did, but that rascal returned every few days for months to visit the strange place where he had been confined and fed raw hamburger.  

Afterward

As of 2010 the population of Oakhurst is approaching 13,000 people.  The barn in the meadow is long gone and has been replaced by a school.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cowboy Culture -- B-Western rock hunters

About a dozen years ago,  while I was watching an old Western on television, my wife asked, "Is that Chatsworth?" She was referring to a chase scene with good guys chasing bad guys as they galloped along a rocky ridge line.  "I think so," was my reply, but it could have been Corriganville or even Lone Pine.  They all looked pretty much the same to me.  I think that exchange might have been the starting point of my quest to identify filming locations in Chatsworth, California.

After many years of research and collecting memorabilia, I wrote a book titled Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas (published in 2008).  Before the ink was dry on the first press release for the book, I started hearing from other B-Westerns movie historians.  During the next two years through exchanges with new-found friends, my knowledge of Chatsworth filming locations doubled.


(photo above) Jerry England (front) with new friends and fellow B-Western movie historians Bill Sasser (middle), and Dennis Liff (rear) hiking in the Iverson gorge on the lower Iverson Ranch during the summer of 2010.

When my fellow Iverson Movie Location Ranch researchers are gone it's unlikely anyone will know or even care about the fantastic movies and television shows filmed in Chatsworth, California.

(left to right) Dennis Liff greets Bill Sasser on the upper Iverson Ranch (2009)
Hats off to folks like Bill Sasser, who is a board member and Director-At-Large of the Williamsburg Classic Film Guild, Inc. which for many years has presented the annual Williamsburg Film Festival for many years.  Learn more about the festival at http://wff5.tripod.com/

You may have seen Dennis Liff's research on his blog at http://iversonmovieranch.blogspot.com/


Tinsley Yarbrough at the remains of Miner's Cabin on the upper Iverson Ranch (2009
And finally, Tinsley E. Yarbrough, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at East Carolina University, has written about movie locations for many years in Boyd Mager's Western Clippings.  He recently authored Those Great Western Movie Locations, a 365-page hardback with approximately 400 stills and information on more than 100 filming sites.  See http://thosegreatwesternmovielocations.com/

Tinsley is also the author of nine books on American jurisprudence.

To learn more about the Iverson Movie Location Ranch see my post at http://a-drifting-cowboy.blogspot.com/2011/11/primer-on-iverson-movie-ranch.html



Loons and other icons of the northwoods


As a native of the state of California there are several things I never experienced until my first trip to the northwoods.  During that trip to Canada I encountered birds called common loons.  Loons fascinated me with their behavior and extraordinarily beautiful call.  A  canoe trip in Ontario gave me the opportunity to study them for a few days.  I discovered only a single pair of loons inhabit most smaller lakes or ponds.  Their call has been described by poets as weird, sad, wild, howling, laughter. 

American poet philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, "In the middle of the night, as indeed each time that we lay on the shore of a lake, we heard the voice of the loon, loud and distinct, from far over the lake. It is a very wild sound, quite in keeping with the place and the circumstances of the traveler, and very unlike the voice of a bird. I could lie awake for hours listening to it, it is so thrilling."

In his journal he wrote, "This is of the loon—I do not mean its laugh, but its looning,—is a long-drawn call, as it were, sometimes singularly human to my ear,—hoo-hoo-ooooo, like the hallooing of a man on a very high key, having thrown his voice into his head."


In my own experience I would hear a nearby loon call, then somewhere in the opposite direction--at the far end of a lake--its mate would answer.  Loons feed off fish, amphibians, and crustaceans, and are wonderful underwater swimmers.  It was great fun to watch them dive, swim a great distance, and then resurface on the opposite side of your canoe.


Another thing you aren't likely to find in California is a fish called the Northern Pike or "Jackfish," as they are known in Canada.  They are considered a sporting fish because they are wonderful fun to catch and play--they are determined fighters that won't quit easily.  I caught and released several pike on my trip to Algonquin Park, and I discovered that they readily hit a "Needlefish" lure or similar spoon when trolled behind a paddled canoe.


While not strictly limited to the northwoods, I've always associated the moose with this area.  The majestic moose has been the subject of a great many artists who are considered northwoods painters.  Artists like Philip Goodwin, Carl Rungius, Winslow Homer, and Arnold Friberg who illustrated sporting magazine covers and calendars often included a bull moose and sometimes painted them showing an encounter with a canoeist.  I recall being awaken one night in Minnesota by a thrashing sound in the willows not far from my tent.  In the morning I found moose tracks not more than five feet away.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cowboy Chic -- Letters from a cowboy's desk


Whittlin' has long been recognized as a cowboy traditional art form, so it just seemed natural to add some to my cowboy furniture.  In time, my relief-carvings became the signature which separated my artwork from that inspired by Thomas Molesworth.


The desk and mirror above are two of my early carved creations.  I used a scroll saw to cut small characters out of a bass wood slab.  Then I chip-carved, painted, and applied them to furniture.


On my "Buffalo Medicine" desk (above) I stained the carvings then applied them on an unstained background to create more contrast.  The pierced keyhole chair with a blanketed Indian on the back was inspired by Maynard Dixon, one of my favorite Western artists.


The "Moon Over Montana" desk (above) was my all-time favorites, so I gave it to my wife for her birthday a few years back.  I especially like the beaver-gnawed stretchers that I found in Montana.  The pierced-back keyhole chair with a momma bear and a gigantic trout was my most innovative chair back.


The photo above is a close-up detail of the top front carving on the "Moon Over Montana" desk.


This photo (above) is a close-up of the mirror-image ends on the "Moon Over Montana" desk.


These two little bear cubs climbing a tree adorn another desk I called "Yellowstone."


Finally, here's a close up detail of the Steer Ropers desk at the top of the page.

Northwesterns -- Voyageur, canoe and fur trade adventure stories

Frank Schoonover illustration from Sled Trails and White Waters (1929)

Many years ago when I was still working long hours as a construction manager in the corporate world, I needed a diversion to clear the cobwebs from my mind.  What would be better than a trip to the northwoods?

But, alas I had no means of getting there, so I settled for a vicarious adventures with writers of Northwesterns.  What are Northwesterns you ask?  They are action packed adventures--like a good Western--except the setting is the "Northwoods" rather than the "West."  The characters are voyageurs, Native Americans, fur traders, and mounties, along with the same typical outlaw rascals you'd expect to find in a Western.   

Schoonover illustration from Haper's magazine


In a Northwestern, the canoe replaces the horse; the dog team, the buckboard; and the fur trader's daughter replaces the rancher's daughter.

My list of Northwesterns authors includes George T Marsh, James B Hendryx, James Oliver Curwood, and Lawrence Mott.  In today's computer world you can actually download and read some of these wonderful novels for free on Google Books. 

My favorite writer (from the list above) is George T. Marsh.  Here's a list of his books:
Toilers of the Trails (1921) free on Google Books
The Whelps of the Wolf (1923) free on Google Books
The Valley of Voices (1924)
Men Marooned (1925)
Flash the Lead Dog (1927)
Under Frozen Stars (1928)
Sled Trails and White Waters (1929)
The heart of the king-dog (1929)
Vanished Men (1931)
The River of Skulls (1936)
White Silence (1938)

The following poem--penned by George Marsh--appeared in Outing magazine (1910).




Monday, November 21, 2011

Cowboy Chic -- Headboards make a good canvas



I've always considered my furniture to be a mix of folk art and decorative art.  

Folk art is defined as art produced by indigenous people or laboring tradesmen (such as cowboys), and is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.  Decorative art is the design and manufacture of functional objects, such as furniture, but is usually not considered fine art like paintings and sculpture.

I like to think of my "cowboy chic" furniture is both functional and aesthetic.  I approach my designs as if the furniture is a large blank surface to be decorated.

The 1994 photo above includes a headboard that depicts a "Trail Herd" scene, which I carved and painted.  Following Molesworth's example I used Western silhouettes, but I also textured the wood background with a gouge, and  I used contrasting stains to set the artwork apart from the furniture form.



Beds presented a bit of a shipping problem, so I designed mine so they could be broken down and shipped in pieces.  All of my beds were pegged mortise and tendon joints.  The headboard (above) is my "Buffalo Hunters" design.



The detail above is of my "Dude Riders" headboard.  The silhouette was inspired by a 1930s dude ranch brochure.



This "Teton Packers" headboard (above) is one of my favorites.  It  found a good home with a friend, who now lives in the High Sierras at Bridgeport, California.


The "Horse Wrangler Meadow" headboard (above) is on my own very tall California king size bed.


Another 1994 photo (above) of the "Trail Herd" headboard with my "Wrangler Joe" highboy (left).  The "Wrangler Joe" design was also the logo for Lure of the Dim Trails.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cowboy Culture -- First time in a pasture

Ready Cash in "Ground Tied," a painting by Jerry England © 2003

We bought my wife's horse--Ready Cash--from a family in nearby Aqua Dulce, California, where he had been living since he was a colt.  "Cash" has some fantastic lineage that can be traced all the way back to the great foundation stallion Poco Bueno. 

Between the ages or two and four, Cash had been trained as a "reining horse," a western riding competition during which the rider guides the horse through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops.

When we got Cash at age seven we brought him to a ranch in Chatsworth, California, owned by Dave Wendler.  Dave had a pasture that opened into a thousand acres of open space.  Dave kept a couple dozen horses in that pasture and supplemented their feed with hay.  Most of those horses stayed close to the gate, but occasionally we'd find a couple more than a mile away.

Before we got Cash I often turned out Sunup (my palomino) into that pasture.  Sunup was from Montana, so being in a pasture was nothing new to him.  I'll never forget the first time I turned him loose in the pasture.  As soon as I slipped the halter off, his tail went up, and he left a trail of dust as he galloped away and disappeared over a distant ridge.  "Holy smokes!" I thought to myself.  How in the h--- am I ever going to get him back? But within a couple of minutes he galloped back into view.

When it was time for Sunup to go to his stall, I lured him to me with either carrots or cookies.  In time, Sunup learned that if I whistled and reached for my pocket, a cookie would soon be his.

When Cash got his first turnout in the pasture, it was a different story.  Sunup was already turned out and was cavorting with a couple of draft horses about two hundred yards away.  I slipped the halter off Cash and expected him to dash away as Sunup had a year earlier, but he just stood there looking petrified.  If I tried to walk away he'd follow me along the fence whinnying.  It was a pathetic sight.

I soon realized he was terrified of the wide open space and strange horses  And he had no idea what to do.  Finally I haltered him and led him out toward his pal Sunup.  As soon as he recognized Sunup, I pulled the halter off and away he galloped--straight to his pard.  It didn't take long for him to learn he was a horse, and that the wide open spaces were where he belonged.

Cowboy Culture -- My 777 plan


I had just completed a beginner's Cowboy Mounted Shooting clinic, and I was hooked.  It was about as much fun as I ever had had on a horse.  See http://a-drifting-cowboy.blogspot.com/2011/10/cowboy-mounted-shooting-only-has-two.html to learn about Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

I already owned a "bombproof," bulldog quarterhorse named Ready Cash.  He could turn on a dime and give you a nickels change, but when I tried shooting a gun off him, it was strictly no dice.  

I went on a quest to find a trained "shooting horse"  

I spent a couple of weeks searching the internet for horse traders or mounted shooters with trained shooting horses for sale.  I made a list of all the possibilities and got maps for California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, and plotted a route.

First I drove to Cave Creek, Arizona, to rendezvous with a horse trader.  I tried a big blocky sorrel he had for sale, but nothing clicked with me, so I passed him by.

Next I headed to Gila, New Mexico, where I meet a horse dealer who told me he was short on trained horses just then, and shows me two scrawny bays.  I tried them both, but they rode worse than they looked. 

"Adios," I said, and threw my saddle in the truck, consulted my Auto Club map, and pressed on for Texas.  

When you see the Texas Hill Country for the first time, you'd swear you died and went to cowboy heaven, but as soon as you step out of the truck and feel the humidity.  you quickly take back your opinion of the place.  

In Westhoff, Texas (70 miles east of San Antonio), I met a gal who had said she had a bunch of shooting horses for sale.  A bunch of horses turned out to be three. I tried a paint and sorrel, and passed on a palomino.  None were to my liking.

I was disappointed.  I had already traveled more than 1600 miles.  I had tried only five horses, but but none were worthy as a performance horse.  

Checking the maps, I plotted a course to Galena, Missouri, 700 miles away and my last chance (unless I was willing to go all the way to Minnesota).

I made my way through Austin, Waco, and Dallas, and finally crossed into Oklahoma late in the afternoon.  Have you ever heard of a "pop-up thunder storm?"  Well I hadn't, but soon learned they are a nightmare to drive through.  Believe it or not when I finally pulled into Fort Smith, Arkansas to get gas, I actually found a dead frog on the running board of my trailer.  You'd have thought I was driving a submarine Instead of a Ford truck.

The morning of my fifth day of travel, I arrived at a pretty little ranch in Galena, Missouri owned by Roy and Teresa Cox.  They actually had several decent looking horses, so I tried two--a red dun and a gray roan.  I swore I'd never buy another mare, but after weighing all the pros and cons of the two horses, on the last day of July 2007, I bought a four-year-old, gray roan mare named Kasidy May.  

I arranged to meet Roy at five in the morning to pick her up.  We pulled out of Galena before daylight.  I'd been told New Mexico has corrals at some of its highway rest stops.  My plan was to get through the Texas Panhandle before day's end.  However, when I got to New Mexico every rest stop had been closed for construction.   Just before Albuquerque it was pretty late at night when I led Kasidy to a pipe stall, gave her some hay and a bucket of water.  I bedded down in the back of my pickup.

After driving over 1800 miles in two days,  I finally got home to Chatsworth late on the seventh day of the trip.  It sorta sounds like a Republican tax scheme: 7-7-7 or seven days, seven states, and seven horses--not to mention over 4000 miles of driving.  Not bad for an old guy.

After a month Kasidy May put on some weight, and we participated in our first shooting match

Many months later we went to two big shooting events in Arizona.  We won a 1st and a 2nd in our division.

Western Shooting Horse Magazine's "Grand American," Cave Creek, Arizona (2008)


Festival of the West, Phoenix, Arizona (2008)

California's State Shoot at Tejon Ranch (2008)

Kasidy May is now eight years old and is the alpha horse of our outfit.  Mares tend to be pushy, so we've had a few ups and downs, but she's finally bonded with me.  In time she just might replace ol' Sandy as my best horse ever.