The end of August always makes me think of a time when we had horses here on the ranch and he and I would come almost every night. Usually, after dinner, we tricked out tall palomino Dan de El and my King quarter horse with some Purina Horse Crunch rattling around in a bucket. They loved molasses-coated sweet oatmeal and stuff. Of course, there might be a dog or two sitting around keeping an eye out in case any of the sweet things fell your way. We would slip halters around their necks and eventually over his soft noses. That would lead to the ritual of claw-pinching, grooming, spraying fly repellant, throwing a saddle blanket and saddle over their backs and cinching them down. We stuffed sugar-sweetened bits between their lips and teeth and slipped the bridle over their sensitive ears.
We had several routes we would take, up the coulee road to go through the fields next to the Clements’ farm, around the fields north of the farm buildings along Proksch Farm, or through the coulee road along from the original Proksch Coulee road. cut maybe a century before along the bottom of the forest, but most of the time we went up the ridge path behind our place to the fields at the top. Sometimes we cut poles from the overhanging branches to protect ourselves from the cursed deer flies that lurked in the cool tunnel of overhanging birch, elm, ash, poplar, and oak trees. They plagued Dan and King even though they were sprayed and us. Near the top, we’d slow down and check out the wildlife in the fields before heading through the gate.
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I remember one night we had a Benji-like dog named Butch who ran ahead of us in a hay field one night. He had seen something. He was suddenly running back, tail between his legs, to hide behind us as the flock of about 40 Canada Geese he surprised rose from a tall alfalfa field. Another night we were riding leisurely to Grouse Hollow to watch the sunset. At that moment, a decent deer came out into the field. We were surprised at how aggressive our two mounts got with the whitetail, tails up, snorting, prancing and stamping. Anyway, we backed off until the deer gave way, going back the way it had come. Western artist Albert Bjstadt could have painted that orange-streaked sunset over the Stoddard Valley and the glittering Mississippi disappearing into the Minnesota cliffs beyond. In addition to memorable deer, geese and sunsets, we encountered coyotes, foxes, turkeys, bald eagles, quail, pheasants, wild cats and feral dogs, Guernsey heifers and Black Angus cows and even a crabby badger once on our walks. .
When they came, we carried our kids first in a front carrier and then in a bright yellow backpack. They grew up unafraid to be around horses or cows. I know I wrote about this before, but when they were 7 and 5 years old, we saw the movie “The Cowboys” with John Wayne. The next morning, El and I awoke to the sound of galloping horses. The boys were up and dressed in their cowboy boots, hats, and neckerchiefs and had a lasso and were trying to tie up a couple of reluctant saddles, all before breakfast. Nobody, neither child nor Cayuse, was injured, fortunately, and we got an excellent image of them.
We don’t have horses anymore anyway, but I do miss those late night rides which are not quite the same on the loud and screeching Ranger.
Until next time, get out there: Fall hunting seasons are just around the corner and next week there will already be some migratory bird seasons. I know I need to brush up on my .22 skills and put some fuzzy tails in the freezer for the Squirrel Picnic in October. Enjoy.