Hung up and drug

by Carl Lane Johnson 
My guess is that of all the aspects of the cowboy-ranching business the one most feared by all horse backers is the thought of being hung up, foot in a stirrup, rope tied hard and fast with a half hitch around a leg, spur hung in a cinch or D-ring or some stupid cowboy that has a heavy duty front legging strap that gets hung over the saddle horn. All of the above and some variations thereof cross the minds, fleetingly, if all people who ride.

I think, maybe I’m wrong, that all who ride for any length of time will sooner or later get in a jam and get hung up, if only for a few seconds; but there will be a critical time of extreme danger. I shall tell of the times I have heard of, seen, or been involved.
Years ago in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, there was a young cowboy working for W.D. Hudson, who owned the Diamond and a Half Ranch located north of Pecos, between Jal and Carlsbad. He was living at the Diamond and a Half camp and trapping cattle as they came into the corrals for water, catching them to brand the calves. I don’t know if he was by himself or not, but something happened and he got hung to his saddle. His horse broke into or fell with him and he got a foot hung up in a stirrup. He was kicked and drug extensively, but eventually came loose. Either someone came by or he was working with another cowboy and was found severely injured, pulverized. Whoever was there hitched a team to a wagon, put this boy in the back on a bed, and headed south to Pecos, as that was the closest doctor in the county. Pecos is about 50-60 miles due south as the crow flies. They didn’t make it. The boy died. I have heard that buried him where he died?
In the fall of 1946 there was a young cowboy from the Dora/Portales area. He went by the name of “Buttons” and was working for Zack Taylor east of Tatum. (Now, in 2017, Rusty and Nikki Henard live there.) This was before trailers; so there were still cowboys who moved between ranches riding one horse and leading another that carried their bed and other stuff. 
Zack had sent Buttons over to help Byron Fort who was taking care of the Dickinson outfit northeast of Tatum.(Ron Glass owns it today in 2017.) Byron finished up his cattle work in the afternoon and turned everyone loose. Buttons packed up and headed home, back to Taylor’s. Next morning Zack called Byron and wondering when his cowboy was coming home. Byron told him Buttons had left the afternoon before, so everyone knew something bad had happened. 
Byron jumped in the pickup and headed towards Zack’s ranch. Just past what is now the Bledsoe highway he found two horses grazing, Buttons was propped up on one elbow, dead. 
Never will know for sure, but guesses were that Button’s lead rope was too long. It got under his horses tail and being a little “broncy” , his horse fell in to. Maybe on the top of a jump the packhorse hit the end of the lead rope that was either tied hard and fast or, once jerked, the wraps didn’t turn loose. Button’s horse fell on top of him crushing him, killing him. I wasn’t very old, but can vaguely remember Daddy talking about the boy and the accident. Buttons had worked around the country and everyone knew and liked him. As far as I am aware he was the last of many cowboys in this country who rode one and packed his bed on another horse, working from ranch to ranch.
When I was quite young, 5-6 years of age, Lighthorse, a cowboy who worked for us, and I rode into Outside to gather the mares and colts. I guess to wean the young ones.  We found them over next to Rupert Madera’s and were taking them to XX in a long, keen, high trot or brisk lope. I was having fun darting, dodging, jumping mesquites and generally leaning over. About half way between Slick and XX the horse I was riding, Polecat, decided at the last minute that he would go a different direction around a mesquite that I had set up for. The result was I fell off on the right side with my right foot hung in the stirrup. Polecat was dog gentle, wasn’t his fault, but when I fell off it buggered hell out of him and he pulled a runaway. As short as I was I didn’t touch the ground, but was bumping by his stifle joint and hocks. I was hung up about 30 yards before my foot came out of the stirrup. I wasn’t hurt, just scratched and bruised; but stirred up and cried a good bit. Lighthorse rode to the house and the folks came in a pickup and took me to the house, put me in Mama’s bed and I cried myself to sleep. Traumatic experience, but one soon in the past, but not forgotten. 
Several years later Daddy and I were prowling in North XX between Bell Well and Jog Tank. Bud, one of Daddy’s mounts, (that every now and then would and could buck) decided he had worked long enough for the day. Bud was a big stout roman nosed dun with a black streak down his back, black mane and tail and little black stripes around his legs. He started pitching. Daddy, who wasn’t any bronc rider, never claimed to be, fell off. When he did his foot hung up in the stirrup and Bud commenced to run and kick Daddy. After about 50 yards he kicked him hard enough to tear the sole part way off his boot and allowed his foot to be released. Daddy dropped loose of the stirrup to the ground.
It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to react, don’t think anyone could have done anything to save him if his foot hadn’t been released. Bud sold out to the house about 6 miles away. Daddy was pretty knocked out, stunned, bruised and his leg was hurting. I couldn’t catch Bud so he told me to ride to the house and tell Mama, so that she could come in her car and get him. I rode as fast as possible to the house. When I told Mama she panicked as to Daddy’s condition. We jumped in the car and took off.
We found Daddy, loaded him in the car and hauled him to the house. He said he wasn’t hurt, just needed a little time to get gathered up and for the soreness to go away. Wasn’t anyone’s fault, nor Bud’s, that is just the way it was and is. Took Daddy a day or two to get back on his feet.
Several years later when I was about 15-16 years old, bullet proof and way smarter than anyone else that I knew, I started doing a stupid stunt. The gate going in one side of the corral in which we caught horse and saddled up had a quadruple smooth double guy wire across the top of the gate post, one to the other, so they wouldn’t lean or sag. Upon entering the corral to unsaddle I had figured out it was a whole lot cooler and “punchier” to reach up and grab this guy wire and let my horse go on out from under me just like I had seen in the movies. Then I would drop to the ground, grab the reins and unsaddle. Lot more fun than swinging off on the left side, which you’re supposed to do. Worked out real good for a long time until the time it didn’t.
My folks had a friend who would come with her young daughter, Judy, to spend a few days with us. The little girl love to ride, so we kept an old, foolproof, pensioner of a dog gentle horse saddled and ready for her so that she could ride any time she wanted. One afternoon we were laying around in the yard. It was hot as hell and no air conditioning, so we had a lot of yard time. Judy had decided she was though riding for the day. With the reins tied around his neck, she turned Pardner, her horse, loose in a little trap so that he could graze the Bermuda grass growing on the tank dam. I walked down to catch Pardner, bring him up to the saddle house, unsaddle and turn him loose. After catching him, rather than walk and lead him back, I jumped on the little kid saddle and rode him back, couple of hundred yards. I put the toes of my boots in the little stirrups and pretended I was a racehorse jockey, looked just like one. Got Pardner into a slow lope and headed to the barn. As we went into the corral I grabbed the guy wire to do my spectacular trick, but one foot didn’t come out of the stirrup. Pardner jerked me loose from the guy wire which caused me to fall under and behind him, which to say the least, startled him somewhat. He became “Three Bars” the second, in an instant, wide awake! We circled the small corral and went back out the gate into the “run around” in record time. Pardner didn’t have any idea what was dragging under and behind him, but he was doing his best to get rid of it. Wasn’t anything I could have done, nothing, to get loose. There was too much jarring, kicking, dirt, sticks, and the weight of my body. We made it about half way back to the tank dam and my foot came free. Thanks goodness. Due to my age, the shortness of the stirrup and dumb luck I wasn’t hurt. Best thing that happened is everyone present had left the yard and gone back into the house and no one saw the stupid stunt!!
I was visiting with Curtis Fort about the young cowboy, Buttons, and asked him if he thought of or had been hung up, this is what he said: “Always thought of hanging up, not good thoughts, but that was just part of the profession.”  He said one time on the Bell Ranch he and a compadre were driving the remuda  from one camp to another and all who have done so know there’s not much to this job, one man can easily do it. We came by a dirt tank, lots of cattle around drinking and lying down. Being of no mind and young, we decided to let the remuda go on and we would each rope a cow and bust her for a break in the boredom. 
Curtis said he didn’t think to cinch up, just jerked his rope down, built a loop, and charged a cow, catching her. When he threw his trip and rode off, his saddle slipped. At which time his horse fell into and since he wasn’t much of a bronc rider, bucked him off. As he was wanting to look, and be, real “punchy” he was riding with great big Chihuahua rowel spurs (he said they were 2 in. rowels) and since the spurs were heavy he had thick, heavy spur leathers on them. As he fell off, one spur rowel hung up in a D ring or cinch ring, and wouldn’t come loose. Said he hung there for a good while in a storm until his partner roped the cow, stretched everything out and Curtis finally came loose. 
Course all of this wreck was his horse’s and the cow’s fault, so Curtis decided to rope another and train on his horse, which he did after cinching up. After schooling the livestock he said he tried to roll a cigarette, Bull Durham, but was shaking so bad he couldn’t. That evening after getting in, he took his Chihuahua spurs to the shop and with a hacksaw and file cut the rowels down somewhat to a more manageable size. 
Lots of hang ups, cut ropes, crippled and dead men throughout ranch history, part of the risks. Anyone who has cowboyed for any time has events and stories to tell.


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