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February 20, 2017 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Slim pickin’

Tall, dark and handsome. Fit his name: Slim. Your mother would have approved.

A swagger worthy of John Wayne’s Hollywood. Him saying’ stuff like “Shucks, Ma’am” only sounded normal.

One so with such unquestionable trustworthiness, Mom would say,” Honey, rope that one!”

Never a problem when we asked the grownups on the porch if it was OK to go find him.

“If you can catch him, you can ride him. Sure, go ahead”

And they would laugh to themselves knowing we’d be busy for quite a while.

Cowboy talking to his horse, Tarzan, between bars. Universal film movie poster (USPD: pub.date, artist life/Commons.wikimedia.org)

“It ain’t right, I tell you. You out there and us tied up with chores.Lassie would know what to do.”(USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Slim was the boss cattle horse at the farm. He knew what he was about.

He always pretended not to see the pack of kids headed his way with the halter.

We always had a plan of attack cornering him – stealthy like Indians circling the wagon train.

We knew he’d never run us down, but he knew just when to gather himself up and slide between waving arms.

Then you’ve never has been seen a more beautiful high-stepping trot: flowing tail held high with head proudly up topped by alert sculptured ears. Few fine gaited show horses could match his elegance. All natural without gait training boots or lines. Unusual for a horse greatly skilled in cattle work.

With a twinkle in his eye he gave us the horse laugh. Dodging this way and that.

Eventually Dad or an uncle would appear with a bucket of feed and a wordless call at which point Slim would give in, walk calmly to the barn to be saddled up…with only a little puffing up so you had to tighten up the girth a second time. Like he was smirking at us, “You don’t expect me to give up my leisure time too easily do you?”

Cowgirl on rearing horse. Vintage movie poster. (USPD: pub.date, artist life/Commons.wikimedia.org)

“No we are not going across the way to pick dew berries. That bucket of feed only buys you so much riding time.” (USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Everyone around knew how intelligent Slim was. Smarter than kids and plenty of men.

He knew what he was about – easily measuring who was in the saddle.

There are pictures of me as a toddler in front of my dad in the saddle with hands gleefully woven into Slim’s mane. Another photo has four grubby barefooted kids of assorted heights draped over him as he stately stood.

Put a cowboy on him and he’d shift into cutting horse gear. Cows just gave up when Slim showed up.

Apparently he and the men had discussed the perimeter the kids were permitted to ride.

Inside the fences pastures he was pretty amenable to wandering anywhere, but outside the property’s fence, he was always calculating distances.

It was like there was an invisible line in the sand: just this far and no more. Slim would just halt a certain point, look around for some tasty greens to eat while totally ignoring the mad windmilling on his back until he was bored at which point he’d turn around going back the way he came. No matter the protests.

Once Older Brother and I were trotting down the sandy road – approaching the shut down zone at the edge of the property – when Older Brother whispered, “Hang on. I’m gonna make him go on to the store so we can get a coke.”

We gathered speed – past a trot. Actually past a trot! It was happening. We’d break the jinx. Older Brother seeing the corner fence post, gave Slim a mighty kick and a whoop.

At which point we would have flown over the horse’s head if he had lowered it. Slim didn’t even bother to pause, but simply spun around and speedily, cheerfully delivered us back at the front porch.

As I was shoved off, I was given that 5 fingered warning that the incident was never to be mentioned.

I swear the horse was chuckling to himself.

Cowboy leaning over horse's neck. Movie Lobby Crd. (USPD: pub.date, artist life/Commons.wikimedia.org)

“Yes just down there. Not far. The little stores and ice-cold cokes!”  But we weren’t flyin’.(USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

When Slim was over 30 yrs, he was retired from the heavy cattle work.

He didn’t mind retirement. Slim knew what he was about.

Enjoyed leisure time unlike that gorgeous paint horse which had to be sold because he was such a workaholic that he was cutting calves from the herd during off hours in the pasture. Skinny cattle don’t bring much at auction which is a problem if cattle paid the bills.

Slim settled in with a few grey hairs on his muzzle and a delighted spring in his step.

It was odd late one dreary, miserable winter afternoon when all the other animals showed up to the barn for dinner, but Slim wasn’t there. 

Watching the fading light, uncle pulled on all the warm clothes available and started walking the pasture.

Startled a few deer in the brush before he spotted Slim: standing perfectly still in the grey drizzle.

Slim saw him and did that flip the head up “Hey, over here” thing, but didn’t move a muscle.

Fearing the horse had injured an ankle or leg, uncle hurried over as Slim nodded a couple of times, “I knew if I waited, you’d come.”

Once beside Slim, it was obvious who the problem was: the horse had stumbled into a tangle of barbed wire thoughtlessly left behind by someone.

Now most horses would have torn themselves up fighting to get free, but Slim was not most horses. He just stood perfectly still and waited. Hardly a scratch on him once released. Even Trigger or Fury couldn’t have been smarter.

That old horse lived a long time even after that – seems like another 10 + years or so.

He picked a nice grassy spot on a slope to finally lay down. And he was left right there.

Uncles said “It’s where he wanted to be. Wouldn’t have felt right dumping dirt on him. Slim always liked to be out in the open where he could see the stars.”

Slim was a horse who knew what he was about.

A difficult cow pony to follow.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Hollywood cowgirl holding her horse. Still from the series "Pistols and Petticoats" (USPD. Pub.date, artist life/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Ever notice that no matter how animated the Hollywood star is, the horse looks totally bored. It’s like “Ok, job done. Check, please.” (USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

 

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17 Comments

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  1. easyweimaraner / Feb 20 2017 5:45 am

    Slim was a wonderful horse… and super smart I agree … I bow my head for horses like Slim who are unforgettable for their people. We mostly had horses with a quirk, because my grampy had just a small wallet… one was Max aka mad Max… he hated men like the plague… and we will never forget how my grampy wore grannys apron and a kerchief to outsmart the horse… it didn’t work :O)

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 20 2017 6:09 am

      An apron and kerchief – that was clever. But once a horse gets a notion in it’s head, it’s over. I alway wanted one of those fancy groomed jumpers in the horse shows – but sometimes you get what you need. Thanks for trotting by with a comment

      Liked by 1 person

      • easyweimaraner / Feb 20 2017 6:36 am

        oh the dreams I had… about akhal tekes and winning competitions decorated with 178 ribbons…. then I’ve got a saw buck like horse, never won (biased judges, of course) but me and the grampy and the saw buck named Leo had a wonderful time anyway :o)

        Like

  2. Robin / Feb 20 2017 7:07 am

    Slim sounds like a wonderful horse, and I enjoyed your tale. So glad he was able to go his own way.

    Like

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 20 2017 2:47 pm

      He still runs with the wind…even if the new owners of the pasture don’t see. Thanks for galloping over to comment

      Like

  3. shoreacres / Feb 20 2017 8:09 am

    What a wonderful tale. How much trouble would we have avoided in life if we’d just stood still in the barbed wire for a while, until help arrived?

    Like

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 20 2017 2:54 pm

      Everyone knew he was smart, but no one had ever heard of a horse doing that before. Of course he had a strong bond and knew someone would come looking and he’d have help. A 2 way bond stronger than raw instinct. How different the world would be if everyone had a Slim of some sort in their lives at one point of another. Thanks for riding along. (and this is the kind of weather one of our rural neighbors would be down in his holler bringing up his mules so they wouldn’t get stuck in the mud and break a leg…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • shoreacres / Feb 20 2017 2:56 pm

        BWAAAHAAAA!!!! Speaking of stuck in the mud, I’m going to have to add a tow strap with hooks to my photography gear. More details coming. Let’s just say that dudes in pickups who do have tow straps totally rock!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Anne Mehrling / Feb 20 2017 9:11 am

    What a beautiful story!

    Like

  5. Kate Crimmins / Feb 20 2017 10:09 am

    I love when humans are respectful to an animal’s wishes. Your Dad and uncle were smart men.

    Like

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 20 2017 3:22 pm

      Those that work outdoors and kindly care for animals tend to have a finely tuned ear to what is to be done. And sometimes mentors have 4 legs. Thanks for stabling a comment here

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jane Dougherty / Feb 21 2017 1:12 am

    You are lucky to have this kind of memory. Not only of animal wisdom but of human kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amy / Feb 21 2017 11:35 am

    I have fallen in love with Slim, wish I had known him. Lots of folks don’t know that horses have their individual personalities just like dogs and cats. My Stormy was a 17 hand American Saddle Bred retired from the show ring. He was like a puppy dog with me, but would slowly walk under a tree limb when one of my teenage friends tried to ride him. I also took him to a 4H show down the road and gave him his head, where he proceeded to come in second (he didn’t like the jump). Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Like

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