Vagneur: We talkin’ entirely about horses here?

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore
Tony Vagneur

It’s a curious thing, catching a horse, or trying to at the very least. Especially out of a large pasture or area. Some can be counted on to sniff out the oat bucket or something in your hand, another might zig or zag and take off, either a cautious few feet or into the distance, leaving a flying trail of grass and dirt, tail and head up in the air as if to say, “Gotcha sucker.” Some of ’em love doing that!

Unless you’re Marty Robbins — headed to El Paso and running from the law in the dark of night on your horse, lung shot and desperately trying to get to the back door of Rosa’s Cantina before you die to see wicked Feleena, the girl you love, one last time — you’re likely riding your horses in the daylight, although there’s no guarantee you’ll get your work done before dark.

“From out of nowhere, Feleena has found me

Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side

Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for

One little kiss, and Feleena, goodbye.”

We could take a deep dive here, as my mind wishes, and talk a bit more about the Mexican ladies who either watched their cowboy paramours die or were the center of a cowhand’s fantasies somewhere up near timberline, as was reminisced by Ian Tyson in “Fifty Years Ago,” How as a young man he held onto Juanita in the shadows behind Mona’s, stealing the love that was his heart’s desire.  

“And the sighing of the pines

Up here near the timberline

Makes me wish I’d done things different

Oh, but wishing don’t make it so

Oh the time has passed so quick

The years all run together now

Did I hold Juanita yesterday

Or was it fifty years ago?”

There’s good piano taking that song out and to be honest, this ol’ cowboy many times has been riding the high country pondering things that were and might have been different if only I’d have …. Oh, hell, you know the story. I always keep my horses tied up when daydreaming things like that. Don’t want to have to run and catch them, my back against a tried-and-true, sighing pine.

My grandfather first taught me about catching horses when I was very young. We’d head up the mountain behind our place on horseback, and ride up and up, the sight of our horses finally catching the attention of the wild horses that lived up there. They’d come to investigate, and we’d run them down the mountainside, over the sagebrush flat past Grandpa’s homestead cabin, down across the county road, and right into the waiting corral.

Their consternation at realizing they were caught caused some general excitement in the herd, along with some unhappiness, which they displayed. Gramps ran some into the barn, walked in behind them and closed the barn door, telling me to keep them from breaking out. “OK, Gramps, I’ll do that.”

The next thing I knew, one was trying to climb out one of the barn windows after having knocked the wooden shutters open with his front feet. Scared the hell out of me at 9 or 10, and all I could think to do was stand in front of the window, waving my arms and hollering at the horse like it was a cow or something.

In spite of my vociferous pronouncements, it’s reasonable to assume the horse realized the futility of trying to get himself entirely through the window and backed off. Whew. The one great fear I had in life at that age was letting Gramps down.  

In that melee of stomping, snorting, and kicking, Gramps managed to lasso a couple of young horses, tying them up to stall stanchions, and we ran the rest back up the mountain, leaving them there until we decided it would be a good idea to round them up again, maybe not until the next year.

That winter, the young horses Gramps had caught could be seen coupled with seasoned steeds pulling Gramps and his bobsleigh up and down the Woody Creek Road and around our ranch, where we’d been feeding the cattle.

Unlike rounding up wild horses, catching saddle horses in a large corral or pasture, it’s the cat-and-mouse between person and horse that makes the day interesting and seriously tests the skill and patience of the human.

And let’s not forget the attraction a lively woman has for a cowpoke, easily distracted from the world of horses and cattle by the sway of her hips or the energy in her eyes. It’s unforgettable.   

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at


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