Sow’s Ear: Horse chatter
by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.
They’re at it again. A group of a dozen or so horses are pastured for the winter on acreage bordering my south fence. They’re working saddlehorses who earn their keep carrying dude-ranch guests all summer. I am owned by four demanding bangtails.
The fencing separating the properties converges at a point which allows the animals to congregate for across-the-fence chit-chat. They gather there on a regular basis to exchange news, to gossip, to engage in general horse chatter, and to complain about their owners. It’s like a club meeting or perhaps an after-church social hour. South of the fence, there’s Whitey, Blaze, Graybear, Smokey, Dandy, Blackie, Big Bay and several others who hang back, too shy to be introduced. Big Bay seems to be the club’s president.
My two mares, Becky and Pretty Girl plus the colts, Lonesome and Cherokee stand in a row facing the crowd on the other side of the fence. Becky is group leader for her side. The conversation goes something like this:
Big Bay: “Well, here we are again, down from the hills for the winter.”
Becky: “I see that. So, how was your summer?”
Big Bay: “Oh, so-so. I went out every couple of days carrying a dude along mountain trails. Pretty boring, usually.”
Becky: “Boring? At least you got to see some different country. I’ve been stuck here on this measly pasture all summer. I only got out once when a wagon train rolled through. Traveled with it for a couple of miles carrying my owner. The woman needs to lose weight. She’s not as young as she used to be and neither am I. Take a look at my back. Notice how it sags?”
Big Bay: “Looks all right to me. At least you’re short. If you were as tall as I am, and a dude horse, you’d have to carry really heavy weights. Why, there was one guest who could have been a Sumo wrestler. I tried to get out of that job, I tell you. I tried to pretend I was lame, but my owner wouldn’t buy it. He just slapped an extra large saddle on me and drug over a stepstool so this sorry fat guy could climb aboard.”
Lonesome: “I’ve worn a saddle a couple of times. It’s not too bad.”
Cherokee: “I haven’t. What’s it like?”
Becky: “Shut up twerps. I’ll let you know when you can speak.”
Big Bay: “As I was saying, life as a dude horse has its drawbacks. Now, my owners have put us on this dryland pasture for the winter. I’ll probably be skin and bones by spring.”
Becky: “I know what you mean. Grass is tasteless this time of year.”
Big Bay: “I see your owner tosses out flakes of hay to you. And every day at that! Sure wish you’d share.”
Becky: “I can tell. You’ve about broke the fence down trying to reach over.”
Big Bay: “Well, that hay just looks delicious. And you and your group are all too tubby anyway.”
Becky: “Oh, is that right?!” Becky proceeded to bite Big Bay on the nose, then turned toward Lonesome, Cherokee and Pretty Girl and ordered, “Come on group, back to the corral. It’s time for our owner to show up to feed us. But she’ll probably be late. She usually is. She ought to be fired.”
Big Bay: (calling out) “See you tomorrow?”
Becky: (over her shoulder) “Maybe.”
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