Ol’ Yeller – Part 3



by Robert Shuford 
The ranch had about 125,000 acres between Laredo and Eagle Pass. There was roughly 20 miles of river frontage. Fever ticks had always been a problem in South Texas. They still are, but mostly confined to the areas up and down the Rio Grande. 

When the USDA river riders find ticks, you have to gather and dip the cattle in a long concrete vat. In the 1980’s we ticked up real bad and ended up dipping 12,000 to 13,000 head every 21 days for over a year. We were horseback about seven days a week trying to keep up. The ranch manager had to add hands and horses, which is why I had five or six green horses in my string at any given time. Ol’ Yeller was one of them. All of them would pitch every morning, but I usually stayed on and it was over with until the next time up. Not Ol’ Yeller. He would do it that morning- I might or might not ride him. Then later, when you weren’t paying attention for a split second, he’d blow up and buck again. I just never knew when and, boys and girls, I was watching him. 
I tried to figure out what I might be doing wrong. I checked my saddle and blankets to see if they were rubbing wrong, I checked my hackamore. And later, when I put a bit on him to try to get control of his head, I checked to make sure it all fit right, Nothing seem to make a difference. 
I asked the men, especially the older men, to watch me to see what I was doing wrong. Besides the usual smart aleck remarks. nobody could tell. Did I spur him too much or not enough? Quirt him too much or not enough? Ride him enough or not? Nobody could say. Actually, I was neglecting some of my other colts because I decide to right Ol’ Yeller out of it. Finally one of the old men said, “That horse just don’t like you.” Couldn’t argue with that.
All this was happening over a period of months. For a while he got real bad.  One morning he kicked me out of the stirrup when I was trying to get on. So we roped one hind leg and snubbed him for a while so I could get on him. Then the ride was on. I tell you that horse could buck. We’re talking PRCA quality bucking. But I wasn’t no PRCA bronc rider. One morning my regular snubber wan’t there so I had to get this one old fellow (who I didn’t particularly care for) to snub Ol’ Yeller for me. As I was going up I glanced over and that guy was just holding the rope in his hand. I thought, “Well, heck, this is going to be bad.” 
Well. I got my leg over but I never got that other stirrup. I stuck to him for a little while before he threw me about 6 miles high. I finally came in for a crash landing – one survivor.  But there was going to be a death involved if I could have got to that old man. He was smart enough to ride off before I got my wind back. Meanwhile, everyone was watching Ol’Yeller put on a show.
Both stirrups were flopping up and over my saddle. Finally, he quit and someone caught him. I shook off and walked around for a minute then went back to Ol’ Yeller. Remember how cowboys hoorah each other? Well, no one was giving me any guff at all about Yeller. That’s how bad that horse could buck.  Someone I could trust snubbed him, I got on and, of course, nothing happened.  I was glad because my eyes were still half-crossed from our last go-round. 
We set out and I took the outside circle to hopefully keep wearing at him.  Man, we went along at a nice smooth trot and he never even acted goosey at all. But I was still watching him, Finally everybody came together and we threw the cattle through a gate into a trap. I was setting back with a loop built in case something ran off. Sure enough, a pretty big yearling broke out and about three of us fell into him. I was just about to throw when we came to a bush. Remember his bush trick ?  I leaned and pulled right, Ol’ Yeller went sharp left and up, then made a complete circle- with my right foot stuck in the stirrup. Finally he had enough momentum that I came loose and flew out and landed flat on my back about 20 yards away. I don’t know how I got rid of my rope. 
I woke up in the backseat of a pickup. As I lay there trying to put things into place, Charley came over and asked if I was alive yet, I’d been out about an hour or so and they were still dipping cattle. By the time they finished and we were headed back to headquarters, I had decided, yeah , I was alive but ached about as bad as I ever had.  That evening, Charley was helping me across the yard to my bunk and he said, ” I don’t think you should ride Ol’Yeller anymore. He might hurt you next time.” I said, ” I wish you’d said that six months ago.” 
Charley, who was still getting over a horse fall that nearly killed him, took Ol’ Yeller on because no one else would ride him. Charley told me later Yeller made a pretty good horse.
I guess that old man was right- that horse just didn’t like me. 

 

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