The Old Cowboy and a Horse

Dad grew up around cattle and worked as a ranch cowboy during high school back in the ’30s. If it weren’t for World War 2 taking him from the cattle country of central Washington to the U.S. airfields of central China, he might have stayed a cowboy. But instead of keeping cattle he learned to keep aircraft flying and made a career of it in northern California at SFO.

Frederic Remington, The Lookout (1887)

Dad’s old now. At 93 he stands shorter than the 5 feet 3 inches he once boasted as his tallest height. He still loves horses, though, and when he moved to a place near us and found out the local university has an equestrian center he wanted to take a visit. Every time we’d get together for coffee or errands he’d bring it up.

So I called the equestrian center and asked about visitors. They said to just come on by, check in at the office, and they’d get one of the student staff to take us around.

I picked dad up at his assisted living apartment house and drove onto campus, past the dormitories and football stadium, past the medical school and veterinary hospital, onto a gravel and dirt road that wound around a bit, and finally pulled into the lane stretching between a couple of fenced pastures and up to the barn housing the tack rooms, some horse stalls and a small office.

One of the students, a graduating senior, pulled by on a quad with a couple hay bales on the back. She stopped by a shed, unloaded the hay, then walked back toward us.

“We were hoping to look around,” I said. “I was told someone might be able to help us out.”

Kate took us through the barn and by the covered arena, describing the different activities. There was a dressage ring, a green pasture with low fences for hunters and jumpers, a farrier’s shed. Only students are permitted to board horses there. No faculty or public horse owners allowed, in an effort to keep costs down to something affordable for the students bringing their horses from home.

The last stop was to see Kate’s horse, Magic. He’s old, like my dad. And tall, unlike my dad. Dad asked Kate if he could go in the stall.

“Sure. He’s very gentle.”

Dad stepped in. The top of his head came well below Magic’s shoulder. Dad spoke softly to him and reached his hand up to stroke Magic’s neck. Magic lowered his head, nuzzled dad for a moment, then tucked his nose right into dad’s shoulder and left it there.

Magic stood like that for about five minutes, almost cuddling into dad as dad stroked his neck and continued to murmur soft words to him. Eventually dad dropped his hand and stepped out of the stall.

“He’s a good old horse.”

We said thank you to Kate and drove away, back down the lane, onto the gravel road, past the medical school and football stadium, and into town.

With memories of an old cowboy and an old horse sharing a moment together.


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13 Responses to The Old Cowboy and a Horse

  1. Juanita Kay Myers Nichols says:

    Tim, that was lovely!

  2. Pingback: The Old Cowboy and a Horse – Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another Honoring God, Encouraging People | Talmidimblogging

  3. Rick says:

    My favorite photo of my dad is one taken with his older brother just after WWII; they were working on a ranch in Colorado, on horseback in full working cowboy regalia. He never spoke about it but I think in some ways he always wished he could have stayed a cowboy. My uncle bought a small ranch a few years after that photo was taken; one of my memories of him is that while we would have to chase the horses down and put a bridle on them so we could ride, when my uncle went into the pasture area, the horses would come to him. Animals recognize special people. So happy that your dad got to experience that again.

    I appreciate more than ever, as I cross 60, my dad’s sacrifice for his family.

  4. Just beautiful, Tim. What a lovely experience to share.

  5. What a sweet post. Truly heartfelt. God bless your dad, Tim.

  6. Opa Bear says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. Something so beautiful. Many thanks, Tim

  7. Adriana says:

    Tim, I’m so glad you gave your dad the opportunity to experience that moment. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  8. joepote01 says:

    This is beautiful, Tim!

    Last year, when I was going thru cancer treatment, I found our horses to be very comforting. On days when I felt almost too weak to stand, I still walked out at least once a day to greet them.

    One horse in particular, a 4-year-old gelding we had bought just a few months prior, was particularly comforting to me. We had sent him to a professional trainer, and it had not turned out well. We brought him back home during my second week of cancer treatment. When we got him home, we discovered our once friendly affectionate horse was frightened of men…and he had a badly injured tongue from misuse of a very aggressive bit.

    With my twice daily radiation treatments on my neck and throat, my mouth was extremely sore. So our young gelding’s healing tongue struck a chord with me, and I made it my mission to regain his trust as I helped him heal.

    Since then, we’ve both come a long ways. Health is restored for both of us, and we’ve developed a pretty good partnership. He is becoming a pretty solid horse, and I have learned a lot about horsemanship.

    It’s done us both a world of good.

    Thank you, Tim, for taking your Dad to see the horse. It probably meant more to him than you know. Horses can be very comforting.

    • Tim says:

      Joe, I am grateful for your healing story, for you and the horse.

      • joepote01 says:

        I shared this post on a horsemanship website. I think they’ll really relate to the story.

        I added a NSFW notice…because crying at work is sort of embarrassing… 😉

  9. Mike Ski says:

    Dang it Tim… I’m crying at my desk. First for your dad then for you being a good son. Thank you.

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