The Wasatch Behind: Just horsing around again
Cowboys have always been my heroes. When I was just a little kid I would go to the Saturday matinee movies in the old Wellington show hall and watch Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy beat up the bad guys and save the pretty girls. I was charmed. I always wore my Red Ryder cowboy hat and my official Gene Autry neckerchief.
Roy and Trigger made a good team. Roy would whistle and Trigger would come to the rescue. Roy would whistle and Trigger would dash off over the hill to find the posse and lead them back to Roy. Roy would whistle and Trigger would buck the bad guy off or bite him on the butt. Trigger was the smartest horse in the whole world and he knew just what each whistle meant.
So, when I was a kid, I couldn't wait to have a horse as smart as Trigger. To prepare for the big day, I taught myself to whistle like Roy Rogers. I practiced at home on dad's big thoroughbred mare, but she didn't respond to whistles at all. She would come when I whistled if I had a flake of hay or a bucket of oats, but without the food she was deaf and unresponsive.
Finally, when I was 12, dad bought me a fine little chestnut filly. Unfortunately, she had already been named. Her name was Sasparilla, not a name a rough and tough cowboy would give a horse, and so I called her Sass. "Old Sass" sounded meaner and tougher than Sasparilla, and people might think it had something to do with her attitude, not her gender or disposition.
Old Sass taught me a lot about horses. I learned to ride and ride well. I also learned that horses are not very smart and they are never our friends. Let your guard down for only a moment and they'll hurt you every time. And I never did get Sass trained to respond to whistles. I'd get off, drop the reins, walk a few steps away and whistle, and she'd make a beeline for the barn, leaving me afoot every time. Unlike Trigger, old Sass responded better to cuss words than whistles.
Later in life I bought my own horse. She was a beautiful horse but just a little snaky, so I named her Medusa, you know, the Greek goddess with snakes for hair. I put a lot of miles on old Medusa, but after I got to know her better, I started calling her Bullwinkle. It better fit her disposition. She was as dumb as a box of rocks and only snaky when she knew I was goofing off and not paying attention. As soon as I turned in the saddle to talk to someone, or picked up a pair of binoculars, she would spook at a shadow and run into a tree. I had some close calls on old Medusa. We had some heart to heart talks around the old bridle bit, but I never tried to get her to come when I whistled. I knew horses better by then.
And then, when I went middle-aged crazy. I bought a big, powerful gelding. Old Bob had muscles that wouldn't quit and he was a horse fit for the king of the cowboys.
Unfortunately, I was never the king of the cowboys. Old Bob could go for miles and miles and pack deer and elk like a champ, but I could never shoot anywhere close to him. As soon as I pulled the rifle from the scabbard he would get scared and go goofy. It's hard to shoot while holding a big horse on the end of a rope that's trying to run off down the canyon. And I never did try to shoot from the saddle, thank goodness. Old Bob was an athlete, but he was very unpredictable.
I have a green horse now. His name is Yamaha. Yamaha is a Navajo word that means, "ATV with power steering, automatic transmission and push-button 4-wheel drive." I don't have to tie Yamaha up or feed him all winter, and I can shoot right from the saddle without getting my stupid head kicked off. Yamaha can't get to all the places Bob could take me, but he's easier to get along with.
After owning horses for 40 years, I understand why Roy Rogers had Trigger stuffed when he died. It was revenge, pure and simple.