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Mad Jack Hanks: Tales from the O-NO Ranch

Mad Jack Hanks
Wellington, Colo.

Gentle readers, while reading through one of my recent western magazines, I came across a story about a western writer by the name of Max Evans. Mr. Evans wrote a number of fine western books and some were made into movies like my favorite of all times, “The Rounders.”

This movie was about two older bronc busters hired out to break a number of horses for a cantankerous old horse trader. There was one horse in the bunch they called Ole Fooler because he was so unpredictable. One of Mr. Evans’ favorite personal horses in real life was a horse he called Flax. When I moved my family to Terrell, Texas, to manage a large ranch there in 1975, I had a horse in my string the cowboys called Flax. Flax was a 6-year-old sorrel with a white mane and tail. He was a beautiful well built horse. He was also gentle and you could do just about anything a cowboy needed to do a’horseback on him. I had a couple of other horses in my string but Flax was my most reliable mount.

When Andy, my son, got a little older I let him start riding Flax when he helped on the ranch or when he wanted to go team roping. There never were any issues with Flax when I rode him. Andy told me in later years that Flax had bucked him off a couple of times. I had no idea. I have had over 100 and something horses under my saddle from my youth to present and I just turned 71 on the 16th of this month. I would have to place Flax among the top three or four horses that I have ever thrown a leg over. He was just a good honest “cowboyin” kind of a horse.

Twenty-six-years ago we made the decision as a family to move to the Western slope of Colorado to manage a large mountain ranch at Ridgway. The moving van was almost all packed, our personal items that would go in one pickup truck and a suburban were all but packed. We would be pullin’ a trailer with two ranch horses and a colt to Colorado. Late the next evening the door bell rang. I went to the door and met a somber faced cowboy trying to tell me that ole Flax was hurt in a bad way.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Aw … he stuck his foot in one of them old irrigation pipes in the pasture and broke his leg plum in two. Do you want to come over and put him down?” he offered as if he had a chicken bone stuck in his throat.

I stood there with a broken heart and finally said, “Naw, I’ll give you my pistol, I don’t think I have the heart for this one.”

I went and got the ole 45 and handed it out the door. I closed the door and turned up the fan so I couldn’t hear the pistol shot or the backhoe digging his grave. Andy kept his composure more than his old man and we had good things to say about that ole pony before we tried to move on to the subject of getting on our big move the next day.

You always remember the really good things and the sad things in life. Somehow we ignore those in between and maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll c. ya’ll, all ya’ll!


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