Thursday, January 04, 2007

Horse Whisperer

No, I’m not gonna talk about a Robert Redford movie.
Dad was a horse whisperer. Not in some magical sense, but a guy who was good from horses from birth. It’s a bit of old folklore that a horse whisperer is weaned on the milk of a morgan mare, and dad was.
I know he hated it.I know he was called on to deal with horses with problems- people would call dad before they called a vet- and as often as not he could help them. Sometimes I helped him clean up a bad hoof- he kept a hoof knife in his truck his whole life- and sometimes we’d lance a boil or an infection. Most of the time, he’d get a horse that would shy at the sight of a fence, or something strange like that. Sometimes he’d hook up a horse owner with a goat, or a dog. Some horses wold be calm if there was a goat around, some would chill out around the right kind of a dog.It was a pretty common thing for people to have problems getting a saddle cinched up, or getting on the horse once saddled, because they were afraid, the horse sensed it, and would shy, or sometimes kick out. So dad would put his big arm over the horse’s neck, lay his palm on the head with his fingers down the forehead, and bite the horses left ear. Not hard, mind you, but firm., the horses ear tight between dad’s canines. Enough pressure and dad could easily draw blood, and the horse knew it. Now the owner could get in the saddle, or get the belly band cinched properly, and after a couple of times the owner got over his/her apprehension. I always figured they called guys like dad horse whisperers because of the ear thing. I guess it did look like dad was whispering to the horse- he was always careful never to let the owner see him bite. Maybe that’s a trade secret I’ve given away, I don’t know.
I sometimes went with dad to take out sick or old horses, long in the teeth. The horses most often knew it was coming, and didn’t need much in the way of explanation. We’d get them to a spot in the yard away from view where the truck could come with it’s hoist. Dad would give them some grain soaked in sorghum,or whatever their personal favorite thing was. He’d hold their head and give it to them with a Kerner humane cattle killer, get out of the way as they fell to the ground. He always wanted to use morphine or something similar, but the kerner was fast and efficient. Some of the local shops wouldn’t take meat that had drugs in it either. He never charged for this, the vets woulc charge a lot for the morphine, but dad figured the family had enough to deal with.
Dad saw people that didn’t take care of their horses, out of malice or ignorance, saw people who had no more business having horses than the man in the moon. He didn’t really like horses either, having had more than his share of injuries riding them in rodeos. He did something that was distasteful to him, something he was programmed to do by his parents, because it was a tough dirty job that needed doing. If I’m ever 1/100th the man Dad was, I’ll be a giant, I think. I think that every time I think of him.