We wrangled up the horses in the usual manner that morning. Art told me that since I had some miles under my seat that he figured that it was time that I got on a real ''cow horse''. A quarter horse of the first class that knew how to ''cut cattle'' and how to drive cattle without much help from the rider. We picked up a bridle and walked out into the coral and selected a long lean horse with a white blaze on his face. His name was Sonny and he was a real live ''quarter horse''
Now a ''quarter horse'' is not one forth of a horse. They are a special breed of horse that are extremely fast for short distances. They are nimble as a ballet dancer and as agile as a cat. They are super intelligent after they are trained concerning cattle and they literally love to work cows. He was my horse for the day as we would be moving cows most of the day. I lead him over to the ''tack room'' and saddled him up just like a ''real cowboy''.
Art and Jim picked their mounts and Jim questioned his dad concerning my mount. Art said he was sure I would do fine on Sonny and it was time that I kinda ''earned my spurs'' on a real cow horse.
We headed out north for about an hours ride to get to the herd of cattle scattered along side the road and up in the edge of the mountains. They were scattered over a large area and Art wanted us to get them together and move them down toward the cattle pens down toward Shermans store. We could not do all this in one day because of the distance but we could herd them up and get them moving as best we could. Art called me to one side and gave me strict instructions.
One. The horse is smarter than you are so let him do the work and you learn from him.
Two. Cows in sweet grass are reluctant to move and will often ''break back'' trying to get back to the pasture they were in when we try to move them. Sonny will be watching for this and when, not if, this happens he will herd them back in order very quickly. ''Watch him watching the cows''. ''If he turns his head , HANG ON,, because one of the cows is about to break and Sonny will head him off double quick.
Three. Do not be surprised if Sonny runs out from under you. Yep, these horses can turn in a ''tea cup'' and it is not unusual to leave a green horn sitting on air when this happens.
Four. Sonny can run like a bullet. He can go from a walk to wide open in about three steps and can stop just as fast. ''Try not go over his head or his rump if this happens.''
Five. Sonny is a trained ''roping horse'' meaning that he is trained to stop immediately if you should put all your weight on your left foot like you are going to get off to hog tie a calf.
Six. Become one with the horse. Learn his nature and watch his movements. Get to know him like you know yourself and you will do fine with him. He is a fine animal and he will teach you a lot before the day is over …..
Needless to say I was one frightened person when I mounted up. Horses have a way of looking at you and you can see that they know more than you and that the only reason they are carrying you along is because you will open the gate for them and give them oats at the end of the days work.
We headed up the road and in about an hour we found the main herd of cattle. Art told me to ''go wide'' around the end of the cows and start herding them down toward him. Jim went one way and I went the other in a very large circle around what we figured was the ''end of the herd''. To me this was kinda like ''gathering Guppies'' because there seemingly was no order to the thing. We finally got about two hundred head of cattle sort of in a bunch and most of them headed south toward Art. Jim and I both were behind the cows and kinda to the sides at the same time. All was going well and this had turned out to be ''not so tough after all'' ….... I was real ''proud of myself'' so I pushed my hat back and sorta relaxed and lit a ciggie as we plodded along. I had the rains wrapped around the saddle horn with one hand on my ''ciggie'' and the other hand ''adjusting my thingie'' when Sonny sorta moved his head to the right just a little. One of the cows was making a right turn and breaking back toward parts unknown.
Its amazing how things can happen in a great hurry and in slow motion all at the same time. Here is about the sequence of events as I remember them.
One. A heifer broke to the right and Sonny seen this as it happened....
Two. Sonny broke right in a hard turn and shot forward like a lightning bolt.
Three. I dropped my ''ciggie'' and my hat flew off as I reached for the rains around the saddle horn.
Four... In three steps Sonny went from a ''walk'' to ''rocket speed'' and I did two bounces on the saddle and the next thing I hit was his rump and then I hit the ground with a thump.
Five. Sonny wrangled the cow back in the herd, stopped and looked at me from about forty feet away while I walked over to get my hat and stomp out the ''ciggie'' that I had dropped.
''You ok boy''?
''Yep, I am fine I think. Everything still seems to work ok''
I walked over to Sonny and I swear that horse was grinning at me.
''One thing I forgot to tell you is that when you least expect it the horse will probably run out from under you.''
Sonny ran out from under me a once more that day and he ''spun me off'' twice also. I got my limps and bumps that day and I learned a lot about cattle and about Sonny the quarter horse. I started learning how to ''ride a horse'' not just sit on a horse. I started learning how to anticipate the horses movements and to become one with the horse. I learned how to get back on the horse after I fell off also. I learned that mostly all I had to do was ''hang on'' and Sonny would do the rest. I really think Sonny carried me along to have something to ''toss around and laugh at''......
After supper I hit the bed early and slept like a dead man.
Seajay the sailor man …..