A Good Horse I Called Blue



by Robert Shuford  
I’d like to tell you about a good horse I called Blue. Yeah, I know these horse’s names aren’t very original but when you’ve been dumped on your head as much as I have, you have to keep it simple. 

As Iwas saying before you interrupted me, Blue was a good horse….real good. Iwas on aranch in West Texas south of Sanderson. A group of owners from San Antonio had 38,000 acres they just used for hunting and needed someone to live there and mainly keep the water going. Go out of Sanderson toward Marathon on Highway 90 about 15 miles, take a left on a dirt road, go 37 miles down that dirt road for about two hours and, bingo, there you are. It was nice and quiet to say the least.

When I 
got there, the ranch had a couple of horses they’d acquired from a trader out of Comstock that I had dealt with before with good results. They were all Mexico horses, but mostly pretty good. 
One of the horses on that ranch was a paint, line-back dun. That was the ugliest horse I have ever seen. He was right at 14.2 hands at the shoulder, but had a 16 hand head, and he was Roman nosed besides. The rest of him was built like, well…picture in your mind a canoe. You know, wide in the middle and pointed at both ends. And then stick on that big head and you’ve got the dangdest horse you’ve ever seen. There’s nothing to do but saddle him up and see what I’ve got. I saddled him with no problem and tied him to a rope I had hung from a tree limb in front of my house, then I went inside to get a drink of water. When I came out, he was turning in circles , slowly winding his head straight up. I watched him for 20 or 30 more turns, till he got his head pretty high, then shooed him back in the other direction to unwind. When his head was level, I untied him, got on with no problems and rode off. Turned out he rode as ugly as he looked. 
When I got back from checking water, I went up to the main house and called that horse trader and asked him, “Who are you mad at down here?” Turned out it was a neighbor who had picked out this horse that was mad at my people. The horse trader said for me to bring the horse back and he’d trade me another. 
When got to the ranch at Comstock, he had a blue horse in the pens. When Iasked him about that one, Frank the Trader told me Blue was going to cost more money. Blue was born and raised in the rocks around Ozona. He was about 15.2 to 16 hands high and just well proportioned all through. When I asked what was wrong with him, Frank said he didn’t know, that he hadn’t found a hole yet. I  was pretty skeptical but jerked my saddle out of the pickup. 
Sure enough, he saddled easy, stood and let me get on, and eased on out. Turned out he had a good walk, loped along like a dream, and could really fly when turned loose. But what he had most valuable to me was the longest, smoothest trot you’ve ever felt. He could really cover the ground. See, that ranch I lived on had mountain ridge that split the place down the middle, more or less. It was about 9 miles down one side and over 13 miles down the other. (With that blue horse, it was actually quicker to check water horseback than in a pick-up. It was pretty rough in quite a few places.) 
So I told Frank the Trader I’d take the blue horse and if the owners wouldn’t pay the difference, I would. I hadn’t been back at the ranch with Blue but a couple of weeks when I got word that Little Roy Deaton wanted me to come over and work cattle. (Little Roy was about mid 40, but his daddy was Big Roy, and nothing he could do about it.) Roy’s country was north of Highway 90 from my turn-off some 10 or 12 miles back in there. It was pretty rocky with one especially big plateau with one trail off the front and one off the back. The whole thing was 2 or 3 miles long and half that wide.
 
We went up the backside to throw all the cattle off the front toward the pens. We got up there and Little Roy said he had 10 or 15 head of sheep he hadn’t been able to get for several go rounds and would sure like to push them off if we jumped them. I didn’t know a thing about sheep, and didn’t care to learn, but told Roy that so long as I didn’t have to touch one, I’d try. Lo and behold,  I ran across the sheep, they took off and so did I. I hollered and Roy and another guy came busting our way shouting what I thought was “Stay with them!” What I didn’t know was that we were right at the edge of that plateau and Roy was actually hollering, “Don’t stay with them!” Too late. 
Blue and I went over the edge after them dang sheep. What I thought was a trail wasn’t. It turned into a ledge about 4 feet high and 0′Blue and I just slid off it like a snake, but a lot faster. Roy told me later it was about 300 feet down to the bottom. That blue horse did it all. I was just trying to stay in the middle of him. Blue would slide down to another ledge and belly off it with my stirrups dragging and slide some more. All the way to the bottom. Of all things,  I was still with the sheep. I stayed with them to a cedar-filled draw, but when I came out the other side, there’s not a sheep insight. 
I looked back and Roy is still on top of that darn mountain. That’s when I started shaking.
Turns out, you weren’t supposed to be able to ride off that side of the mountain. If ignorance is bliss, I must’ve been the most blissful fellow around. Roy said we looked like that “Man from Snowy River.” All I know is , it was all Blue all the way and I was scared to death afterwards. That’s still the wildest ride I ever made and Blue was the most rock-eating horse I ever rode.
 

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