A Cowboy Story

Glen was always 80 years old when I knew him, with skin at least twice that old. He had no teeth and a beard like the fourth member of ZZ Top. He had a ranch somewhere out east, in Idaho or Montana or somewhere, that he was working on until the day he died. I can’t imagine him not working – however he died, in my mind he dropped in his traces, lofty heart pumping one last mighty beat farewell to the big sky.

Anyway, this is a story I heard whenever we went to a family reunion, not told by Glen, or even in front of him, but by my father or one of my many, many uncles as we played horseshoes, in between the solid landings of so many pieces of rusted, archaic metal.

Glen was breaking a horse, and he’d taken it out on a shakedown ride, ten, twenty miles or so out from the ranch before it threw him. He cracked three ribs and snapped one of his legs like a piece of kindling. He didn’t trust the horse by this point, but there was no way else back home again, so he picked himself up out of the dust and dragged himself to where the horse was standing, fifty feet or so down the road. He limped his way to where he could almost grab the reins, and the horse spun around and kicked him to the ground and ran another fifty feet down the road. Glen picked himself up and went after the horse, who kicked him again and ran that much farther down the road.

The whole way back to the house it went like that, Glen getting up a little bit more slowly and the horse looking more and more pleased with itself as it danced just out of his reach. When they finally made it back, Glen called the hospital to come get him – he was pretty well done in by that point – but before he let himself pass out on the porch he went and got his shotgun and shot the horse in the head.

Now, everyone I’ve told this story to is horrified, and maybe rightly so, but I’ve always liked it. I don’t think my uncle Glen hated the horse, or was even that angry at it, but on a ranch even the expensive pests have to be kept down.