I’ve had some interesting run-ins with the larger ranch fauna (i.e. horses and cows) in my day, and when I say interesting I mean painful. And by run-ins I mean injuries. I carry a number of battle scars to this day, although battle scars would indicate that there was a battle and in battles both sides have some kind of a chance, but the reality is that I was always hopelessly outmatched and outweighed (aggravated by my perpetually small size).
This story involves a horse was named Dinah. She was Dad’s horse, red with a white blaze on her face. And she was tremendously fat (which I mentioned before). She wasn’t fat because she got to lie around all day and eat bonbons and watch soap operas while the other horses worked. Nobody and nothing got out of work on Date Creek Ranch unless you were unconscious or dead. Not while Dad was on watch.
She wasn’t fat because she got fed better than the other horses either. She got just what they got, which was nothing. Our horses didn’t live in the corral and eat hay like freeloaders. Hay was for the night before a roundup and that was only because we gathered the horses the day before riding so we didn’t waste any time searching for them in the predawn darkness the next day. The horses got what they could scrounge off our rock- and cactus-infested little paradise, which wasn’t much but it kept them alert because what little grass there was was good at hiding.
Dinah was fat because she ate just about everything there was and she never stopped. I’m not kidding here. I had lots of time to observe her and when we were out riding, every time we stopped, she’d latch onto whatever plant was nearby and start eating it. Heck, she’d grab bites off things while we were walking. It was unbelievable. If she could get it in her mouth, she was putting it down.
As a result of this unrestrained diet, she was often gassy. Strike that. She was always gassy. When Dad needed a burst of speed and spurred her she almost always responded by farting. Loudly. (I had to ride her once in a gymkhana, sort of like a rodeo for kids, and at the beginning of each event, when the gun went off and I spurred her to go, she farted. Loudly. Which made everyone in the stands laugh every time. Stupid horse.)
She also crapped more than any horse alive. One day as a young lad, while riding somewhere with Dad, I counted. Twelve poops by noon, I kid you not. (I know, who counts horse poop? Well, I was young and I was bored. So there.)
Anyway, I digress. Back to the story. We never had horse trailers when I was a kid. No, horse trailers were for rich folk. We hauled our horses in the back of a pickup or, if we needed to haul several at once, we used the big truck, a monstrous beast of a vehicle that I’ll go into later.
So our main pickup had metal racks in the back, which made it possible to haul a horse without the animal falling or jumping out. The racks were metal pipes welded together, forming a cage on the sides of the truck bed and the front, toward the cab. Then, other metal pipes were inserted across the back after the horse was in.
One day when I was about seven or so, Dad pulled up to the house in the pickup with Dinah in the back. He parked and yelled at Kim (my older sister and about eleven at the time) and me to unload the horse and take care of her. (Dad’s primary method of communication was yelling. It didn’t matter how near or far we were, he yelled.)
We, of course, hopped to it. Dad had a powerful temper and any kind of dawdling brought more yelling. I scurried up the side of the racks to Dinah’s head to untie her halter, while Kim ran to the back to slide out the metal pipes so she could back out.
Now, Dinah was fat and gassy and generally irritating, but she knew all about riding in the pickup. She’d done it a hundred times and she was a pro. She knew when she heard those pipes slide out that it was time to disembark. So, when Kim pulled the last pipe out, Dinah started back.
There was only one problem.
I hadn’t finished untying her yet. The lead rope on the halter was tied a little too tight for me and I had to wrestle with the knot. As a result, when Dinah started back, I had only partially untied her. I opened a decent sized loop in the rope, but I hadn’t pulled it through. When Dinah backed up, the loop pulled closed—
Right on my little finger. Hard.
I did what anyone would do. I screamed. Right in Dinah’s ear.
Dinah was a pretty mellow horse, but no horse is that mellow. Once I screamed in her ear she freaked and threw herself back and all hell broke loose.
The racks ripped completely off the truck. Dinah fell out of the truck onto her back, accompanied by the racks.
I was flung from the truck and smacked my head on a rock.
Fortunately, Kim got out of the way and Dinah didn’t land on her. Fortunately, Dinah was somehow uninjured by the fall and then, miraculously, didn’t injure herself while thrashing on the ground all tangled up in the racks.
Also fortunately, I didn’t dash my brains out on the rock. Not so fortunately, most of the last joint of my little finger was torn off. (Twelve hundred pounds of panicking horse, meet little finger. Bye-bye, little finger.)
Once the horse was taken care of, back on her feet and eating, I got another trip to the emergency room. There wasn’t anything to sew back on, just some bloody pulp, but I got a nice bandage and once again had something for show-and-tell the next morning at school.
I ruled show-and-tell in elementary school. No one else even came close.