Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around 3-21-11
Fort Collins, Colo.
Seemed as if the boss rolled me out just after daylight. I had been used to sleeping much later, but I had been around enough ranches to know that I had to get up. So I rolled out and got dressed as quick as I could, then went in to a whopping big breakfast of steak, eggs, hash brown potatoes and coffee.
But after breakfast it wasn’t saddling up and riding out on the range. It turned out to be my job of splitting fire wood, hauling water from the river, and repairing the roof. After a while I began to wish I had stayed home, at least I could be riding broncs and bulls in my spare time, because I did want to rodeo. But, soon things got better and worse.
The cook and her husband showed up and took over the spare bedroom. She fixed good meals of steak, vegetables and fried potatoes. Trouble was, her husband was a bully. I tried to wrestle him but he was too strong for me and whipped me every time. But with all that he did teach me how to take it and survive. Then it was time to move the cattle and we pushed them about 15 or 20 miles to summer pasture.
While doing this he rode by and pulled off the bridle of my horse which taught me how to control an unbridled horse. The one accident I had was when I went after a herd quitting cow and my horse stepped into a badger hole turning over and sending me about 10 feet in front. I was not hurt and immediately checked my horse for a broken leg. He was unhurt and all I had was a few scrapes.
Then it was time to irrigate the hay fields and Walt taught me how to do that. We watched the grass grow while taking care of other chores. I learned to dig post holes and set posts, how to stretch barbed wire and mend fences. Slowly I learned the work that has to be done on a ranch and I began to get along with the cook’s husband as long as I didn’t tempt him to pick on me.
Then about halfway into the summer, the younger boys and I caught the milk cow and I climbed on for a short ride. Everyone had a good laugh but at supper the boss looked at me and said: “I know you have been riding the milk cow.”
I thought I was going to get fired. “Yes sir,” I said.
“Well, I want to tell you one thing; I don’t want you riding that cow any more.” There was a long pause, “unless I am there to watch.”
Everyone at the table laughed and I rode the milk cow every evening after milking. Then Walt brought in the horse teams. There was only one Ford tractor on the ranch, everything else was worked with teams and I learned to drive a team to a Sulky rake. One day the boss came to me and told me to drive the stacker team. This was fine until I dropped a load of hay on top of him. He had just been to town and bought a new straw hat that he was proud of, but when he came up from the load of hay his hat was down around his ears and I went back to driving the sulky rake for the rest of the summer.
I learned a lot and was sad to leave at the end of summer. But I carried with me memories I will never forget.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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