According to statistics we all here a lot, over 60% of Americas deaths by firearms are suicidal. Something none of us like and struggle with how to deal with it. We all know that more gun control is not going to solve this issue. Is Walk The Talk America part of the solution? Can more things like their Free Mental Health Screening be trusted to ensure confidentiality? Watch the video, share and make your comments and suggestions below.
The life of the true cowboy was anything but that of the exciting, flamboyant movie cowboy. It was riding and repairing miles of fence-line summer and winter, routine maintenance of tack, hardware, corrals and outbuildings, all of the everyday dawn to dusk tasks. Assisting cows with birthing, pulling calves, treating scours, inoculations, branding and feeding no matter what the weather. To a small degree it was the same for Lyn and me but without the cattle. Helping the neighboring ranches with their cows kept things in perspective for me and within a very short time-span the romantic thoughts of owning any cattle whatsoever other than milk cows was quickly doused with the reality of it all. With no more than 40 acres and even with the adjoining land being some 7,000 acres of lease land, there was no temptation in the imagined romanticism of day to day working of cattle. If I wanted to truly frustrate myself I had only to go next door to the Louden ranch and get a good dose of cow-reality. It takes both special talents and solid dedication to run a cattle ranch, but here we were with an oasis in the middle of it all. Fence to maintain, horses of our own, milk cows, chickens and plenty of cattle all around us should we feel the need to be cowboys/girls. (Lyn hated working cattle)
There was a definite upside for us. Our lives changed, priorities rearranged themselves, a new appreciation of things as simple as dawn and dusk, a new respect for the land and a realization that the wellbeing of an eventual number of animals depended on our close attention….. and so the “attention” began.
Shonkin. I remember well the first time I saw him. He was green and unbroke……. pretty much like me, come to think of it. Lyn and I went to the Loney ranch to talk about horses. We sat at the kitchen table in that very large room and discussed what we thought we wanted. We were both pretty much set on Morgans, and that worked well since that’s what the Loneys bred. We walked out to the barn and Lyn immediately went up to a young Morgan mare. A beautiful Chestnut, she was and Lyn had made up her mind already. I can’t remember her papered name, but Mischief was a part of it so…… Mischief she was, and the ensuing years would prove her name both fitting and prophetic.
As Mischief was barely a two year old, we’d have to leave her unbroke till next spring. That suited me anyway since I had a lot to learn about the gentle breaking of a horse, and she was a perfect candidate. Gentle but inquisitive to a fault, Mischief was more like a large dog, following Lyn around, nudgeing her from behind, pushing her very soft muzzle into her chest and face and pretty much being a gentle pest. More about Mischief later.
That same day while Lyn was getting acquainted with her chosen Morgan, I asked Laurie, that considering my height if he thought a 15 hand horse was going to work for me. I wasn’t sure, but I definitely wanted a Morgan. He said not a word but motioned me to follow him outside around the back of the barn. There in an enclosure was a tall, well muscled palamino-appaloosa looking horse with a bald face. One look at him moving around that corral was enough to quench whatever desire I’d had for a Morgan. My God he was a beauty. Even with the amazing height he was well put-up and carried himself with a grace that bespoke pure power.
Looking at Laurie, I was at a loss for words. “He’s out of an Appaloosa and a Palomino American Saddler, born of the Shonkin River over east of the Divide. He’s a full sixteen three, pretty tall for a saddlehorse but I reckon you’ll fit him.” My mouth was dry thinking there was no way for me to afford a horse like this. I was afraid to ask, so Laurie volunteered… “He’s still a stallion, unbroke and just come three. If you want him he’ll be $500.00.” Oh man! That was within reach for me. Lyn’s Morgan was going to be $1,000.00 and she certainly wasn’t going to balk at $500. But wait! Unbroke? Not broke. Nobody had yet mounted him. Suddenly that $500 wasn’t meaning much. I’d only been on a few gentle trail horses in my younger years, so how was I going to mount this very tall, intimidating stallion? “We’ll need to break him, right Laurie?” Yep. You’ll need to break him”. He didn’t say “we”. He said “You’ll”. I was quiet, contemplating how many bones this horse was going to cost me, and I don’t mean dollars. Oh man.
Peering more closely at me he said “You don’t want him?” With a dry mouth I admiitted that not having mounted a horse of this caliber, I was definitely intimidated. I knew that at some point I’d be dealing with an un-broke Morgan, but the distance from the saddle to the ground on a Morgan was a lot shorter than that same distance with this horse. Just the word “stallion” brought forth visages of dark stormy nights with a rearing black horse snorting fire. I shook my head. What was wrong with me? He was a horse, not a visage. With his muzzle pushing against my shoulder over the fence he seemed less of a threat. Laurie broke my mental arguement with “It ain’t gonna kill ya. I’ll be there watching if you get in trouble.” He’ll be there watching? I’ll be on the horse, he’ll be on the fence. Somehow there wasn’t a lot of assurance in that picture.
Enough of this. I wanted him. I asked Laurie if he’d guide me through the process and he agreed. It was to be tomorrow morning and Lyn and I left for home, each with a different vison of what tomorrow would bring. Being just down the county road, Mischief would be walked from the Loney’s to our place, and in theory, I’d be riding Shonkin back. That was my hope. That was my prayer. Geez! What had I let myself in for?
Surprisingly enough, I did sleep well that night. I awoke early, cleared my head and remembered what this morning would bring. After breakfast, Lyn and I jumped in the truck and headed for the Loney’s. Emerging from the trees and heading down the drive I saw Shonkin was already saddled and standing quietly, tied to a fencepost. Being under saddle and standing quietly he somehow looked less intimidating, but still damned big! Wilma was at the back door and waved Lyn inside. I wasn’t up to drinking any more coffee anyway and, considering the state of my stomach was beginning to wonder why I’d even eaten breakfast.
I got out of the truck and walked up to Shonkin. I approached him from the front in full view so as not to surprise him. Laurie had come out of the barn and asked “if I was ready for this”. As ready as I’ll ever be. He told me to begin running my hands all over Shonk beginning at the withers. “Let him smell ya. All over him. Yes, legs too, but be careful around his hindquarters.” I spent a full ten minutes rubbing over every square inch of his well muscled body. Oddly enough he particularly seemed to like having his belly rubbed. Without having had my head taken off by a flying hoof, I began feeling more secure about him. “Ok. Untie him and lead him around for a while. I’m going in for coffee”. Untieing him I noted that his bridle wasn’t rigged with a bit. In it’s place was a teardrop shaped affair that was of braided leather, stiff and with a monkey’s fist at the bottom to which the reins were attatched. Having made fifty or more of them, I knew exactly what a monkey’s fist was. At sea they’re made with a chunk of lead in the center, nylon line woven around the lead core in a specific manner and served as a weight at the end of a throwing line, that being attatched to the end of a hawser drawn from the deck to the dock to secure the ship. At that point I didn’t quite grasp the intent of what I came to know was a Bosal, but I was soon to find out.
(This is a Bosal. Latigo)
Forty five minutes later Laurie came out of the house and I approached him with Shonkin. “Not the wild stallion you thought he was at all, is he.” No, he wasn’t… and it dawned on me that having led him around with me in mental meyanderings, he hadn’t started, pulled or done anything other than walk quietly alongside me. I asked Laurie about the rig on his bridle and he responded that the Bosal would allow me to control him without risk of damaging his mouth if “things got exciting”. When handled properly the Bosal could be snapped left, right or straight back with the stiff rawhide loop hitting the “bars”, or bones that ran under his head from jaw to the bottom of his mouth. These were relatively sensitive bones and the snapping action got his attention taking his mind of whatever untoward move he was contemplating.
“Take both reins in your left hand, pull that nearside rein up short and pull his head around so he’s looking right at you. When you swing up into the saddle he’ll only be able to turn into you and not away from you. Ya don’t want him to run out from under you while you’re mounting him.” What happens when I get up there? “Don’t just sit there. Lay those reins against the right side of his neck and squeeze your calves together. That’ll get him moving, and for God’s sake don’t use your heels. If he starts to get away from you don’t pull on those reins. Give ’em a quick snap to the rear and then let them go again. That Bosal will hit his bars and he’ll stop. If ya have to do it twice, then do it, but don’t just pull! He’s a helluva lot stronger than you are and you won’t win the arguement. If he won’t turn use the Bosal with a snap either left or right, but not too hard. Try not to line out for more than a few steps. Keep him turning and stopping. I’ll tell ya when, but you’re going to get on and off of him a few times mounting him just like I told ya. Don’t let him just stand there, but keep him moving. If you’re going to lose him make sure you kick both of your boots free of the stirrups. I don’t want to be chasing him down with you dragging by one foot.”
Oh man! That was an image I hadn’t considered, but there it was. Suddenly all of the confidence I’d acquired walking him around faded. All of these instructions were running through my head as I placed my left foot in the stirrup, then removed it. With a mental image of a wild TV rodeo in my mind I asked…. What if he bucks? “Maybe he will, maybe he wont’. If ya let him think about it he probably will, so keep him moving just like I told ya, and he won’t buck as long as ya don’t let him get his head down. He can’t buck with his head up. If he makes a move to put his head down, don’t wait. Snap that Bosal, get his attention and turn him left.” Ok. I couldn’t justify waiting any longer with more questions. I was proably going to forget most of it anyway once I was up there.
I pulled the nearside rein up short, put my foot in the stirrup, swung up into the saddle and paused. I felt him tremble under me, and I felt the sheer power under the saddle. Shonk began to dip his head and I snapped the Bosal back and then to the left. Up came his head and I immediately went into a turn. “Ok. Ya done made three full circles. Are ya gonna keep going in circles or are ya gonna move that horse?” I eased up on the reins, squeezed him with my calves and he jumped forward about six feet. I snapped the Bosal to the rear and turned him to the right. “Not so damned hard with that Bosal! You’re gonna make him head-shy before ya even get started!” For a good fifteen minutes I turned him left, right, short distances forward and then right into another turn. With a start I realized he hadn’t bucked! He was responding more and more to the pressure of the reins on the sides of his neck. I was using the Bosal less and less.
“Ok. Dismount, and keep that nearside rein a little shorter than the off side.” I dismounted, remounted, moved him all directions with more foward travel each time. Soon I was moving him along the fenceline. turning and returning to Laurie. “Keep working with him for another half hour but try not to use the Bosal unless you have to.” He turned and walked into the house. I was alone. Shonkin snorted and shook his head. No, I wasn’t alone, and the trepidation began fading away. For nearly another hour I worked with Shonkin, and each passing minute strengthend the bond forming between us. This was a horse! Big, powerful and increasingly more responsive. I’d lost track of the time and suddenly Laurie was there again. “Looks like ya got a mount.” Yep. I had a mount, and I was ready to ride him home. “Nope. Leave him here. Come back for the next three days and put some time on him. Once you get him lined out and trotting a good ways ya can take him home, and remember ya haven’t saddled him yet.”
Thus began a very close long-term relationship with what became a very close friend of mine. Shonkin.
What if I’m shopping for groceries or diapers for my kid? How do I check to see if that store or merchant is anti-gun?
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All very valid questions! What do you do when you can only find the item you need from an anti-gun source? Do you go without or do you buy it but make your opinion known?
Where can I find this information so that I can make a better decision about where I can shop online or off without worrying whether I am helping to fund an anti-gun and anti-American company?
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When you keep horses, milk cows and chickens, does that make you a cowboy? Wellll………… No. It doesn’t, but a simile of that lifestyle can be a real life pleasure. My early years were a mixture of being at sea, traveling the world and Graphics school mixed in to keep it all in perspective. The former and the latter are stories for another time, and both had their influences on my eventual sojourn to Lost Prairie.
Having returned to the US after Graphics School, I made one more trip to sea, and for me this trip had a specific purpose. Was I going to stay ashore or join the thousands of seamen that eventually came to call whatever ship of the moment,”home”? That final trip sounded the death knell of my wandering the globe without purpose. Ashore it was, and as I left that ship I do remember not looking back. I promptly bought a motorcycle and began a tour of the US to clear my head and find a direction. You might wonder that completion of Graphics School should have been my direction, but art always came easy to me and the only import I placed on that interlude was that of a logical diversion, so……. At that point I truly did not have a clear goal.
Beginning on the west coast, I traveled south through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and up into Tennessee for a 10 month dalliance that is yet another story. From Nashville I made my way through West Virginia, Ohio, through Michigan to the Upper Peninsula, across Wisconsin and Minnesota, through North Dakota and into Montana. Biking around the Flathead Lake and into Kalispell, I was struck by the beauty of the mountains to the east, those being the Glacier National Park area. I spent 5 days in Kalispell and the surrounding area making a prophetic mental note that should I ever marry, this is where I’d come. And as fate would have it, I met your Mother the following month and so began the sequence of events that ended in Lost Prairie sometime in the early 70’s.
I met Wilma and Laurie Loney in town while waiting for our car to be serviced, and since we all had a wait ahead of us we began talking. Eventually the conversation moved around to where they lived and as luck would have it, they had land for sale near their ranch in Lost Prairie. Ma and I were interested and within a very few days we had visited them at their ranch, looked at the property and immediately bought 40 partially cleared acres. Other stories have told you about the first and second homes on the place so I’ll not bother to repeat what you already know, so…. Back to the purpose of this Chronicle.
Was I a rank greenhorn at the outset all those many years ago? Pretty much. I reverted to the approach I had for every new event that came my way……. I bought books and read. A lot. By the time I was ready for our first horses I knew enough about rigging a saddle, rigging a 4-up harness, the basics on trimming hooves, worming, diet requirements, recognizing a problem and gentle breaking a horse. So with all that book-larnin’, I was ready for the real McCoy, and I was perceptive and straightforward enough to confide in Laurie Loney and ask his help.
Laurie was an honest to gosh cowboy, albeit an older one of some 68 years at the time. He and Wilma came from Great Falls east of the divide. They had run a cattle ranch most of their lives and came to Lost Prairie to wind down a bit. They kept and raised a lot of horses and, despite keeping a small herd, had quit the cattle business as being too demanding for their years. I was maybe 33 at the time and Laurie and Wilma pretty much adopted Ma and me. Your Ma was no more than 18 and looked a lot younger than that. Wilma considered her a baby that should still be at home with your Grandma, but here she was in Lost Prairie facing who knows what for a future. I spent most of my available waking hours with Laurie learning the horses, learning the tack and rigging, learning the basics of everyday equine maintenance and the basics of herding, branding and inoculating cattle, a number of which he still kept on the place. I absorbed as much as I could as quickly as I could, and Laurie threw me right into the middle of rather rough and tumble practical application!
Within a few months I was feeling pretty “salty” about horses and cattle, right up to and including cutting a stud horse! I won’t go into any real detail, but after directly assisting in the throwing, tying and emasculating a stud horse I was about as salty as a former greenhorn could be. The real test came when I cut Shonkin with Laurie “assisting” this time. Using that knife without hesitation was the final test for me, and I did Laurie proud. I don’t think I mentioned that Shonk was a stallion when I broke him, and that big beauty was the first horse I ever broke. He was a two year old and within two months he was beginning to behave like a real stud-horse, so emasculation was a necessity. I was so concerned that Shonk would associate me with that procedure that Laurie ( laughingly) blindfolded him before I came out of the barn with the surcingle, rope and fetters.
No more than 4 months later I was a seasoned enough rider that nothing either we or the Loney’s had could unseat me. By now I was comfortable enough in the saddle to help the neighboring ranches with cattle drives, roundups and branding……….. and that’s for next time.