A little wire leads to a large problem
Aspen, CO Colorado
“Help, Tony, I’m dying!” Yeah, sure you are, I thought, but the look on my buddy’s face directly behind me burned urgency into my being and in a flash, my horse and I galloped the hundred yards down the trail to the source of the distress call.
Art Jarboe, Steve Kellogg and I had rounded up about 40 recalcitrant range cows along the Woody Creek road and were moving them up the Casady Creek trail, to higher points on our Lenado grazing permit. Someone had started building a barbed wire fence along a property line at the mouth of Casady Creek, and for unknown reasons, had strung only the bottom wire of the fence. As is usually the case, cattle trails and property lines don’t exactly follow the same logic, and the single strand of wire crisscrossed the trail in several places.
I quickly explained the dangers of mixing barbed wire and horses, and had emphasized that caution was paramount if there was a need to cross the wire. In the ensuing staccato beat of events, Steve and I had gotten ahead of Art and were pushing the wild bunch up the trail, thinking the worst was over. Art, being very conscientious about my instructions, and in an effort to cross the tightly strung wire, had dismounted and was holding the wire down with one foot while trying to coax his horse over the dangerous barbs. Naturally, I had missed him further up the trail, but surmised he had stopped to take a leak, or otherwise attend to his personal comfort.
Anyway, as Art’s horse stepped across the wire, she somehow, unbelievably, got the wire wrapped around not only her leg, but Art’s, as well. There was a struggle as the horse fought to get free, and then the recognition on her part that it was impossible. That’s about the time we heard Art’s blood curdling call for help.
As I came upon the scene, all I could see was the big, buckskin mare sitting on Art’s legs, just as a dog sits for a treat, and the solution seemed obvious. As I pulled on the reins to get the horse up, there was the sickening realization on both our parts that horse and rider were inextricably bound together with barbed wire. At the time (and we were kids of only 14 or 15), no one had the foresight to carry fencing pliers with them, and all I could find at the neighboring homestead cabin was an ice pick, poor tool for cutting wire. Only a teenager would even try, and as I chiseled away at the wire, Steve further assessed the situation, pointing out that the wire was figure-eighted around both Art and the horse, and that it was going to be incredibly difficult to untangle. This because the wire was implausibly high above the horse’s hock, rubbing against her crotch. Fortunately, the horse was being quiet, or she’d have sawed Art’s leg off in no time.
As I bent to the task of disentangling the freshly cut wire, Steve, in one of those heroic efforts one only reads about, lifted the haunches of the mare off the ground high enough for me to unwrap the detested wire and free both horse and injured cowboy. Art was beginning to look a little pale and shaky, his boot full of blood, and as I led his horse down the trail, Steve walked alongside, steadying Art and keeping him in the saddle.
Our odyssey into town for emergency help could fill another column, but suffice it to say, we arrived at the “middle” Aspen Valley Hospital in the Elkhorn Ranch, 1948 Diamond T stock truck, in a scene reminiscent of any number of old westerns.
In those days, there was no Mountain Rescue, no one to call, and as Art will readily attest, there wasn’t time to wait around, anyway. His leg was saved.
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