Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Best Boys Ever

Wednesday August 30 2006

I just love my boys – we have the best forest service horses! Yesterday I took 3 dam forest service engineers (that would be engineers of dams) on horseback up to Green and East Lakes to look at the dams that need replacing. One man had ridden a bit before (in fact I took him in on this same mission 2 years ago); one man had ‘grown up on a farm” – but wasn’t sure how to bridle a horse - and the young man said to me, “I’ve never ridden a horse before.”

Ah, swell!

Well, I put him on trusty old Red Top, who’s old and slow, but who does nothing wrong – no spooking no bolting no nothing, because he’s old and it’s too much trouble to do anything like that. Red Top’s 22, and because he’s getting so slow, we don’t use him for anything hard, but he sure is a nice bomb-proof horse to put just about anybody on.

I rode my buddy Paiute – who tends to be a bit spooky in the lead, and he tends to want to be in the lead, since he’s the boss, which is why I don’t like to put inexperienced people on him. The other two men rode Zak and Tom. If Zak got ridden a lot, he’d make just as nice a riding horse as he is a pack horse. (If they’d pay me for my time, I’d do it.) He doesn’t steer that well with the foreign bit in his mouth, but, as long as he’s following along – just like he does in a pack string – he’s perfectly functional as a riding horse.

Tom is just a good horse. He’s big, if not 17 hands, then just under, so he might be a bit intimidating to some people, but the more he gets ridden, the better he gets. He’ll go out front or follow along, and he can go out by himself. He might get a bit nervous in a parade… but we only do that once in a lifetime. He’s got a great personality too, which adds to his charm.
I went out with the range gal a few weeks ago, looking at some of our grazing lands. She rode Paiute and I rode Tom; we clipped along some smooth roads. Paiute rolled along in his easy canter, and big Tom kept up easily with his huge pace (he’s a Missouri Fox-Trotter – they pace: instead of opposite front and back legs moving forward simultaneously in a trot, in a pace the same side front and back legs move forward at once). I was amazed at the ground he covered. Only briefly did he break into a canter, and that was nice and smooth also.

The dam engineers and I had a good day: cool (almost has that fall nip in the air already!) and breezy, and the lakes: beautiful views, in bowls surrounded by peaks, 1 with a long ribbon of a waterfall, and astonishingly dark crystal blue waters.

It was a good riding day and a good birding day.

As we rode up the trail, I had to stop and jump off once because I spied a feather. It was upside down, and when I picked it up and turned it over, my jaw dropped: a goshawk feather! We’d had no historical records of goshawks up this drainage! Further on, between to high country lakes I spied a female goshawk!

When we stopped for lunch at Green Lake, while we were sitting there, a bird flew up and checked us out. Bill and I first thought it was a Clark’s nutcracker, what with its gray body, and then it turned around on its perch so we could nicely see its long striped tail – a sharp shinned or Cooper’s hawk! And he sat there and watched us a good 30 seconds before he flew off! I’ve had red-tails fly over me and check me out, but I’ve never had a hawk fly in and sit in a tree and look at me – you’re always flushing hawks out of the trees away from you, not attracting them to you. Maybe he was entranced by the liverwurst sandwich I was eating?? (Liverwurst – um… I was hungry and it was given to me and I devoured it, but, maybe it would make better bird food…)

The ride out was just as pleasant; Paiute seemed to have a good time taking this fairly easy stroll up and down Green Creek, (of course, there were a few Horse-Eating Chipmunks that alarmed him) and ol’ Red Top kept up with us, and the non-rider completed his first ride on a horse. (Brenda the mule stayed home this time, which she did not complain about.)

I just can’t express how proud I was of my boys. Maybe about as proud of them as Nick Warhol is of his Forever Dawn", read any of his latest stories about his endurance horse), though he might argue that point with me.

And a quick postscript to the Raven Roost on the Hunewill ranch: the other day I went wading through the mucky cow pastures beneath the power line where the ravens gather and came back with a bouquet of raven feathers! Who needs flowers when you can get these!

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