The Story of Chile
by Don Lane
As the autumn
afternoon sun began dipping behind the hilltops in the west and casting long
shadows across the canyons, the yellow
school bus bounced and weaved along the narrow county road through the amber
hills of Central California cattle country with a total payload of three little
school kids on board, filling only three of the 45 available seats. The next stop would be the pump station where
one of the three would get off, lightening the load down to two kids, Lisa 9
and Casey 5. From there it was about 20
miles back to the last stop at the Alley Ranch, then back to the bus barn in
Shandon, twelve miles down the canyon. When Jan and I were married, we vowed to
raise our family in the country and by God, this was as country as it
gets. We were leasing ranches and
running steers in those Cholame foothills, about 30 miles east of Paso Robles,
California. 1980 had been a good grass
year for us and on this windy October afternoon we were in hopes that the first
good storm of the upcoming season was blowing in. I was in the bathroom washing ranch dust out
of my eyes when the phone started ringing.
"Somebody pick the
damm thing up", I yelled but with Jan outside and the kids in route on the bus,
the yelling was all in vane. I made my
way down the hall and snatched the annoying, ringing phone off the receiver. "Hello"
I answered sharply.
"Don, I won, I actually
won". It was my baby sister Julie, 17 years
my junior, screeching excitedly on the other end of the line. "Calm down Julie, what did you win?" "I won the FFA essay contest and the prize is
a free colt. Actually there are three
winners and three colts to pick from".
And so it was that
I was summoned to help pass judgment on this latest addition to Julies growing
remuda. Having three to pick from was of
no advantage for Julie because she drew the short straw and got the last
pick. She ended up with the youngest,
smallest and scrawniest colt of the three, but in Julie's eyes he was as
beautiful as "Traveller" was to Robert E. Lee and the one she had really wanted
from the very beginning of the draw. With
this new colt added to the mare and foal she already had at home, she now owned
three horses, which was at least two too many.
The baby horse was
only four months old and probably had been weaned early so that the mare could
get back into condition and maybe have a chance to raise a good colt the next season. He was bred to be a paint horse but never
colored out so he was just plain bay in color.
Not a rich, deep blood bay like Northern Dancer, War Admiral or
Seabiscuit, but just a plain bay like one you may see pulling a wagon. He had very few markings including a small
white fuzzy star on the forehead, but nothing you would classify as flashy chrome. Both front legs appeared to come out of the
same hole. He did not have the refined, chiseled
face of a well bred quarter horse with flared nostrils and candle wick ears,
but just the common head of a cold blooded grade horse even though his breeding
was mostly quarter horse. On the other
end of his awkward little body was a non impressive butt with a little short
brush tail, about like a ground squirrel's tail. In my humble judgment, the outlook for this
little guy's potential was not great.
But if I had just looked a little deeper into his eyes, I may have seen
something different, something very special that only a few horses are ever
born with. Maybe I would have detected
the heart of a champion and the spirit of a true no fear competitor. But in the final analysis, both my Dad and I
agreed, he looked like just another horse to feed. Truthfully, he was kind of an ugly duckling.
By the spring of
'81, Julie was making plans to go off to college and wondering what she was
going to do with three horses. Jan and I
had several good ranches leased with more pasture than we had money to buy cattle. Of course as a student, Julie needed money
and did not need the expense of all these horses. So we agreed to buy the bay colt and pasture
the mare and foal. I think we gave her
$400 for this runt colt, which probably seemed like too much to us and to
little to her. My Dad didn't like horse
trading, car trading or any other kind of business dealings among the family so
he was very anxious about this 'in the family trade' from the early get-go. He definitely did not want anybody to be hurt
or disappointed. To him, family unity
was everything and he was always there to keep the peace. I assured him that everything would be just peachy,
while at the same time cautioning everyone
in the family including Julie, my Dad, my wife Jan and our kids, Lisa and Casey
that we were not going to keep him. 'The
plan' was that I would start this colt and when we got the chance, we would
sell him and buy a good one. In those
days an attractive, well started two-year old could fetch $1000 to $1200. Maybe I could get him broke and sell him for
$800 or $900 and replace him with a good one.
Unfortunately no one seemed to comprehend 'the plan', especially my
Dad. At every family gathering the
subject of the colt was sure to come up.
My Dad would start the interrogation. "How's the colt doing, do you think he'll work
out as a ranch horse for you?" I kept
reassuring him that everything was fine and that we were sticking to 'the plan'. Stop worrying, was my message, it was still going
to be a good deal for all parties. He
never said it out loud but I know that down deep in his heart, his hope was
that this rough colt would turn into a wonder horse, we would keep him forever
and all live happily ever after. At the
same time I had my family to deal with, especially Lisa who never saw an animal
she didn't love. So again, I warned
everyone that this colt was not a keeper.
We were going to stick to our original plan which is; raise him up,
break him, sell him and buy a better one. We rode the mare on the ranch and
kicked the two colts out on the pasture together.
Let's face it, the
Lane family is not good when it comes to naming horses i.e., Sorrelly, Bucky,
Bay, Bo, Junior and if we had ever bought a roan one he would be named
Roanie. I could go on and on but soon we
settled on the name of Chile, which is really a pretty good name for a Lane
horse. The name Chile seemed to fit this
bay colt because we all had detected a little hot streak boiling deep in his
We watched the two
colts grow and mature and as we got into the green grass season in the spring
of 1982, Julie's paint colt was starting to slick up into a handsome young
feller. Chile had grown some and filled out
a little too but in truth was still just another horse with not too much eye
appeal. That is to everyone except Lisa.
She thought he was beautiful and was
developing a bond with this colt that would be hard to break.
I was always going
to start Chile myself but my time on the ranch was very limited. I had a little Piper Tri-Pacer airplane to fly
to other leases and livestock operations we had scattered around Central California and I bought and sold a few cattle on
commission when I had the opportunity. When
I was home, I concentrated on working cattle or doing the necessary chores to
keep our little ranch business going. If
I saddled a horse it was to go get some work done, not to spend my time messing
with a green, ambitious young colt. With
that in mind, I asked my friend Mike to
get this colt started for me but 30 days of riding was about all I could afford. It needed to be a quickie start so I could
get the horse back on the ranch and put him to work. At the end of those 30 days, Mike handed the reins
back to me with several stern warnings; 1) "he is extremely willing but has a
mind of his own", 2) "he is so base narrow in front that he may cripple himself
before he is four years old, so you should probably try to sell him before that
happens" and 3) "oh yes,..... he will buck".
At this time in my life I could not ride a broke horse very well but I
could ride a buckin' horse, so I wasn't too worried. As it turns out, I should have been worried because
this colt could really buck. He bucked me off so hard in the corrals one time
that I still feel the pain to this very day. But you know, a funny thing happened, the
more I rode him, the more I liked him.
He was always willing to do or try anything I asked of him.
training consisted of time spent doing the heavy duty jobs on the ranch with
lots of wet saddle blankets and maybe that's the way it ought to be. He and I started out making the big circles
gathering cattle and checking fences and water. He never really saw an arena until he was
five years old. In spite of his lack of any
formal training, he was a very quick
learner. He couldn't lope perfect
circles and figure eight patterns or stop on his hocks, slide ten feet, and
spin a hole in the ground, but by the time he was three years old I could ride
up to a 30 foot barbed wire harvester gate laying on the ground, lean over from
the saddle, pick up the end stay, drag the gate closed and latch it shut
without ever getting off the horse. That
doesn't mean much to a refined horse trainer but it means a whole bunch out on
the ranch. After a few quick lessons he
became perfectly ground tied. I would
come to the house at noon, drop the reins on the ground in the driveway and
when I came back out from lunch, he was standing exactly where I had left
him. He was a natural at watching, handling
and sorting cattle and could 'cut a cat out of a woodpile'.
After about 60
days of riding outside, Chile got his first chance to work cattle in the
corrals. We had gathered the cow herd
into the corrals and there was one big, nasty Brahma bull that was always a
trouble maker. Today this nasty old bull
was in a very disagreeable mood, blowing snot all over and running everyone out
of the pen. He was built like Arnold
Schwarzenegger and had the sour disposition of Poncho Villa. I had about enough of this guy and decided
that we should ship him to the sale before he hurt somebody. We backed the stock trailer up to the gate
and tried to get this angry character to load up, but no deal. He stood sullen in the center of the crowding
pen, pawing dirt and shaking his head.
You could almost hear his brains rattling. The challenge was on and the look on his face
was saying, "You just try to get me loaded".
I was riding young Chile so I rode outside the corrals and up alongside
the front of the trailer, where I passed my rope through an open slat. Somebody threw the loop over this big
Brahma's horns and we were hooked up.
One of my friends, who had come to help that day, discreetly chuckled
under his breath but the rest of the free help laughed out loud. The match-up was two year old Chile, weighing
in at 850 or 900 lbs against this big grey, six year old, fire breathing
bovine, tipping the scales at about 1600 lbs.
I dallied the rope to the horn of my saddle, turned Chile around to the
pulling position and gave him a little, "please do it" nudge with my
spurs. Chile put his head down like a
draft horse and lunged forward pulling that big bull into the trailer without
hesitation. The boys slammed the trailer
gates shut and the beast was on board with a one way ticket to the sale
barn. I undallied and turned around to
face the trailer, trying to hide the smile on my face. That was the day, in fact the exact moment
that I changed my mind about this horse and started thinking, "maybe we'll keep
him just a little longer, you know, just to see how he turns out".
A few months passed by and I had been
riding Chile quite a bit. I sorted cows,
loaded trucks and had even roped a few calves in the corral. One brisk fall morning in 1982, Jan and I
decided to take a ride out and look over our new calf crop. The cow–calf business was a new and fun
adventure to us because up to this point in time we had always just been running
yearling cattle. We took a medicine bag
along just in case we saw a sick calf but really had no plans of doctoring
anybody. Jan was riding Sorrelly, our
biggest, strongest and fastest horse, but he was also the safest for an
inexperienced gal like Jan to ride. I
was riding Chile
who was really starting to grow and feel good under me. Sure enough, we came across a calf that was
looking just a little under the weather and I was itching to test Chile's roping
skills in the open pasture. You must
understand that at this time I was young and dumb and had a bad case of the
'cocky stupids'. So what the heck, I
built a loop and started swinging. Chile ran to
the calf like he thought he knew what I was doing. Low and behold, I accidently caught the calf
on the first throw and the colt seemed okay with the whole situation. I dallied up, stopped my horse and looked
over at Jan. She looked back at me with
a less than happy and even reprimanding expression on her face. Even though she had the medicine in her
candle bag, I could tell by that look in her eyes that she wasn't going to get
off to doctor this calf. She enjoyed
riding, gathering cattle, or even hazing for a roper now and then but she
really was going to draw the line at wrestling calves on the ground, especially
out in an open field. I looked back at
the calf, which was lying on his side with a milky gaze in his eyes as if to
say, "I'll be good, I promise". Chile
was quiet and calmly leaning back on the tight rope like he had just caught a
fast one to win the short go at the Pendleton Roundup. I thought to myself, "I can do this", so I
made my decision, even though it was not a good one. I threw a half hitch over my dallies and
started to step off. About the time my
right spur was clearing over the top of the candle board, the calf jumped to
his feet and took off running. He ran
around behind Chile, firmly wedging the rope underneath Chile's little brush
tail. Half on and half off of my horse,
I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to be killed but I knew that I was
dead. Chile farted, bucked and took off
at a full gallop. I was clothes lined by
my own rope, stretched tight between the horse's tail and the calf's neck, both
critters running at full speed. Jan
helped by screaming. I picked my face
out of the dirt to see a scene I will never forget. Chile tearing across the field, full speed
with the calf flying behind him on the end of the rope, only hitting the ground
every twenty or thirty feet. The mother
cow was close behind, bawling to save her baby.
I yelled to Jan, "Give me your horse" but, too late. She and Sorrelly had already entered the race
to save that baby calf. She was riding
at a speed I had never seen her ride before (and never have since). She soon caught up with the cow then rode
past the calf and finally rode up alongside Chile. She reached out and grabbed Chile's loose
rein and pulled him to a stop. I
eventually caught up by footback, shirt torn half off, hat scrunched down over
my ears with pasture dirt and clover burrs jammed up my nose, panting like I
had just finished the Boston Marathon.
Jan was grinning proudly after having just saved the day. But she was no prouder than I was because
that was the day that my cute little blonde, city raised wife passed the final
exam to become a full fledged, seasoned, rancher's wife. By the way, the calf was unharmed. We brushed him off and gave him a shot, even
though he probably never needed it in the first place. When we turned him loose, his mother soothed
his nerves with a low pitched groan, licked him a few licks and they wandered
off over the hill to find the rest of the herd.
When I thought he'd never buck again, I
took Chile on the Paso Robles Trail Ride.
The Trail Ride is an annual gathering of men from a variety of
backgrounds including ranchers, cowboys, doctors, politicians, merchants from
town and an occasional celebrity. They
are there to ride, gamble, drink and exchange old tales from past Trail Rides
all the way back to 1947. Chile was
probably four years old. The first
morning my friend Dave and I saddled up and rode down to the assembly area at
the flag pole in the center of camp. Isolated
out on the ranch, Chile
had never seen this many horses in his entire lifetime. He took one look around at all the trucks,
campers, trailers, people, horses and general commotion and decided to
buck. He bucked high and hard, right
through the middle of a quiet congregation of trail riders that were sitting on
their horses, trying to enjoy their morning coffee. By the time I got a hold on him and pulled his
head up, all of the other 150 horses and riders out there were badly scattered,
horses were humped up, tails were swishing and coffee was everywhere. After I gained some control we loped in a few
close training circles and trotted back over toward Dave, pretending like not
much out of the ordinary had just happened.
Dave was calmly leaning forward in the saddle, his forearm resting on
the saddle horn with that familiar sly, subtle grin on his face. He just shook his head and muttered, "holy crap
Lane" and never said another word. He
stayed quiet because, on the ride, the year before, Dave had his own little duel
with a young colt so he really couldn't say too much or laugh too loud.
We had about 250 cows and calves on the
Saulcito Ranch out on the Carrissa Plains which was about sixty miles from our
headquarters. At branding time, we would
usually go out there and camp for a few days.
With some help from our friends, gathering, branding and joking around
the campfire, it always made for great and memorable times. One day, probably in the early spring of
1984, we were gathering the cows and calves for our spring branding. One big old, high headed brindle cow was
convinced she wasn't going to be captured and the closer we got to the corrals,
the more she kept hunting for a hole to make her get away. Once the herd was in the corrals she made a quick
trip around the inside perimeter with her head held high, looking for a weak place
in the fence. She chose her escape spot
and made an Olympic effort lunge at the fence, taking out the two top boards
and departing the scene of the crime at a high lope with her tail straight in
the air. Bert and I were just closing
the gate, so we took out after her in hot pursuit. She was running hard and it seemed like
forever before we caught up with her. Chile was
feeling good and up to the challenge but getting past her to turn her back just
wasn't going to happen. I got out my
rope and started to build a loop. Bert
was not far behind yelling, "Don, don't do it" he yelled, "DON'T DO IT". I could hear
him screaming, and what he was saying made sense, but I wasn't going to let her
get away now. I threw my loop and caught
her around the neck, pulled my slack and started to dally. I kind of felt like the dog that had been
chasing cars all his life, finally caught one and now, didn't know what to do
with it. Chile could feel the rope coming
tight and started to slow down. We made
a gradual move to the left to get her head around and when she started to bend,
I stopped Chile
straight away. When the cow hit the end
of the rope, she spun around to a complete stop facing Chile who was standing
firm and holding tight just like another day at the office. Bert soon caught up sweating and cussing,
"you crazy som'bitch, that big cow could have turned you and that little horse ass
over tea kettle". But she didn't. The cow finally settled down and Chile taught
her to lead in the long tow back to the corrals.
As the next few years went by Chile was
turning into a pretty damm good ranch horse.
He grew to about 15 hands high and filled out to a moderate size of 1050
to 1100 pounds. Actually, he was really
starting to look pretty decent, with a few structural exceptions. He was not a big horse on the outside but on
the inside, his heart was giganic. By
this time everyone in the family knew that Chile was here to stay. Even my Dad was finally starting to feel
comfortable with the trade, but that still didn't stop him from asking now and
then, just to make sure, "So, Chile's
okay for you, you're going to keep him?
Are you sure now?"
It was 1985 and the Paso Robles Trail Ride
was held on the Antelope Ranch. Somebody
brought a few roping steers and we built a sort of make shift arena out of
panels. That was the first arena Chile had ever
seen in his entire life. Chile and I
chased around and caught a few steers over the next few days but what I really
caught and came home with was the 'roping bug'.
It seemed like Casey was born with the roping bug and Lisa just loved
the horses and wanted to keep doing more things with the horses all the time. So we all learned the basics of arena team
roping together. We got together with
some friends and formed a little so called roping club. Bill and Coleen had an arena at their ranch near
Paso Robles, so with them and Glen and Lloyd, we bought some roping steers and
started practicing regularly. I was most
interested in roping the head end so naturally, Chile became a head horse. He probably couldn't stop fast enough to ever
become a good heeling horse anyway. Jan
was our designated cheerleader from the sidelines. One weekend we even got a local pro to come
and give us a short private roping school.
Meanwhile, Lisa had also started running barrels and poles on Chile at
High School Rodeos and Gymkhanas and was doing pretty well. If he got nervous anticipating his barrel
run, like most barrel horses do, Lisa would take him into the headers roping box
where he would calm right down. That
seemed to be his comfort zone.
It was around this time that we moved to the
Deer Valley Ranch where Chile and all of our other horses got plenty of exercise
doing the ranch work, with lots of practice roping calves at branding time and team
roping over at Bill and Coleen's arena. Shortly
after we moved to Deer
Valley, I built a big
feedlot style weaning pen that could double as a roping arena when we weren't
working cattle. Chile soon
became our star performer both out on the ranch and in the arena. I rode Chile throughout the week but when the
kids were home from school we switched around.
Lisa liked to ride Chile,
Casey rode Sorrelly and I would pick from a variety of other horses we had on
the ranch. Eventually we all wanted to
and when we went to a roping, we shared him between two or three headers
throughout the day. During the summer we
roped in the ranch arena nearly every evening and might rope twenty or more
steers on Chile in one practice session.
Casey usually roped on Sorrelly but was learning that Chile might be a better fit. The only problem was that we couldn't all
ride him at the same time.
Chile had a few odd quirks about him. For example, he did not like brightly colored
horses, especially paints, Appaloosas or greys.
In fact, he hated them. He would
tolerate a buckskin or even a palomino but if someone rode up along side of us
out on the Trail Ride, proudly mounted on the most speckled, Indian styled pony
that money could buy, Chile pinned his ears and ran 'em off. One early morning out at Deer Valley
we were saddling up to gather cattle. Chile was
standing quietly ground tied just outside the tack room door. I had always cautioned Walt about Chile's
prejudices against odd colored horses, but I don't think that Walt was really,
totally believing me. Walt, who was 65
years old and kind of set in his ways had been on the ranch for 35 years and
rode a spotted Appaloosa horse. Without
thinking much about it, he led his horse up to the door right next to where
Chile was standing. Chile caught the
sight of the colorful equine out of the corner of his eye and instantly lunged
at him like a cat at a mouse. He grabbed
a big chunk of his spotted hide that covered his ribs. The old Appy horse scrambled sideways and fell
over backwards right on top of Walt, who you couldn't hurt if you threw an
anvil at him. It was a little tense
there for a minute or two, but I helped Walt back to his feet and dusted him
off. He straightened up his crooked
baseball cap and with a smile said, "well, I guess you warned me".
Sometime during Lisa's senior year in high
school, Chile started going lame on his left front foot. The vet came out and examined him with a full
set of X-rays. He couldn't find much but
did detect some slight pitting in the navicular bone so we had to assume that this
was the source of his problem, a problem that is more often than not, incurable. Lisa, however, was not going to take this news
lying down. As a last hope and under the
doctor's recommendation, she fed him crushed isoxoprene, mixed in grain with
molasses, twice a day for five or six months but that really didn't seem to
help much. Even though he was crippled,
when Lisa graduated from high school she declared that all she wanted for a
graduation gift was Chile. Great, a lame horse for my daughter's graduation
gift, but this was an emotional issue with her and there was no changing her
mind. So Chile officially became Lisa's
horse. When she moved to San Luis Obispo
to start college, we discontinued the medication effort but he was still
lame. I turned him out in the arena
where the ground was soft and he could be comfortable. We could have medicated him with bute and
gotten a little more use out of him but he was still young and we didn't want
to take a chance on worsening his condition.
I drove by that arena ten or more times a day and he would often knicker
and come limping up to the fence. When
we rode out to gather or work cattle, he would run up and down the fence line,
still with that 'hitch in his get-a-long', calling out with a whinny, begging to
go with us until we were out of sight.
One day I drove past the arena and Chile came running hard up to the
fence showing no signs of lameness. I
watched him for about a week and everyday he ran and bucked without limping. So I pulled him out, saddled him up and rode
him around a little just to check him out.
Everything seemed okay so we started using him for some light duty. Eventually he was back in the regular batting
order on a full work schedule and soon regained his status as number one. When Lisa was home from school, she rode him and
I mean, she rode him a lot. At the
brandings, she always roped on Chile.
We have always had a full family share
policy on the use of the horses so when Casey started having his best results
roping on Chile, he began using him more and more for High School Rodeo and
jackpot team ropings. By this time Lisa
was off to college and not home or riding much during the school year. Casey and Chile developed a pretty good
roping partnership and by the end of his junior year in high school, they were
going to a lot of jackpot ropings and consistently winning. Casey won enough money that summer to buy two
horses of his own, one for heeling and calf roping, "Leon" and another "Junior"to
start relieving Chile as a head horse. Later,
when he went off to college and was competing in college rodeos, he would
switch between Junior and Chile for his head horse, leaving the other horse at
home for R&R and for me to ride. Casey
qualified for the College National Finals in team roping in 1996 and Chile was the horse who got the nod to make the
trip toBozeman,Montana for the big event.
One day, after we had moved off of the
ranch, Chile was at home with Jan and I.
Junior and Leon were down at Cal Poly doing their tour with Casey on the
college rodeo circuit. Chile hated
rest and rehab and was ready to go do something anytime he saw me come out of
the house. Unfortunately I usually had
something else to do and as I drove off to work, he would be left standing at
the gate, knickering for me to come back.
If, however, I came out and hooked up the horse trailer, he knew it was
a sure thing, we were going roping. On
this particular day he was making such a fuss at the gate while I was hooking
up the trailer that I decided to try an experiment. I pulled the trailer to the center of the big
open driveway and opened the tailgate. I
went over to Chile's
corral and let him out. He ran straight
to the trailer and jumped in, no halter, nothing. I closed the tailgate and we went roping.
I had more fun roping on Chile than any
other horse I have ever roped on. I'm
sure he taught me more than I taught him.
When he was in the box he stood quiet and alert, staring at the back of
the steers head, waiting for the gate to spring open. You could push him into breaking the barrier
but if you just let him read the barrier himself, everything would be
okay. He got into position for you to
rope quick and stayed there. If you
missed it was your fault. It was almost
like he was a team roper in a former life and was reincarnated as a horse. When he heard the zing of the rope leave your
hands, he stayed in the hole and never made a move to the left until you cued
him. If you asked him to stop straight
away he would do it. When you cued him
to go left he did not turn tail and go hard.
He made a smooth side pass move to the left giving the heeler a good
shot and you, the header, a full view of your rope, the steer and the
heeler. If your heeler was quick, Chile only had
to make a 1/4 turn to the right to face for the flag. I really got spoiled thinking all head horses
should run to the cattle and handle steers the way he did. If you had been practicing on the dummy a
made it pretty hard for you to miss. Even
I could win a little money on him once in a while.
Riding Chile out on the ranch was a great
cowboy experience. If you pointed him
uphill, he went uphill no matter how steep or brushy. He would jump rocks or fallen trees, slide
down banks, swim across a pond, plow through the brush, rope cattle outside and
load them in a trailer. He just never
seemed to get tired doing a days work. When
we got back to the ranch headquarters, we would put the horses away and go have
dinner. After dinner we would catch the
horses and rope until dark. Chile was never
too tired to rope. He was also handy in
the corrals sorting and working cattle, always aggressive and eager to do what
ever you asked. When you were loading
trucks, he pushed the cattle hard and might follow them right onto the truck if
you let him. In the branding pen he read
the calves well and always put you in a good position to rope. If you needed to roll a calf, just give him a
slight cue with your spur and he would side pass in either direction.
So, in general, was he a pleasure to ride? No! He
was by no means a pleasure horse. He was
rough in all gates, except when you were chasing a steer down the arena or
trying to get around a renegade calf out in the pasture. If you were just trying to ride along the
trail it seemed like he was always looking for something better to do. He never had a good stop unless there was a
steer on the end of the rope. Out on the
Trail Ride he usually jigged and jogged the whole time, trying to get to the
front of the line or fussing about the kind and color of horses he was being
forced to associate with. But when you
got back to camp he gave you a better than fair shot at winning some money in
the roping and team sorting events. Jan
on the Cow Belle's ride several times, but over the years we decided that we had
better trail ride horses for her to take.
People who just got on Chile
to ride him around might ask, "what in the hell do you see in this horse"? It happened more than once.
Mark was born and raised on a farm and all
of his riding experience was on a tractor and never on a horse. So when he married Lisa, she was determined
that he was going to learn to ride and that he should do it on Chile, because Chile
was their horse. This was pretty rough
treatment for a newbie but Mark accepted the challenge with good humor. That first Paso Robles Trail Ride for Mark
was a tough one. Chile was pretty sure
he knew what he wanted to do but it wasn't necessarily what Mark wanted to do. Things did go a little better after the first
day but it was by no means easy for Mark.
He hung right in there and made it to the last day all in one piece. When we got home from the ride Mark had made
up his mind that he was really going to learn to ride this beast and it wasn't
too long until Mark and Chile
were the best of friends. So now Chile became
Mark's first choice, just like the rest of us. Mark learned to appreciate him for what he was
and look past his downfalls. From that
point on it was almost like Chile
was Mark's horse.
The last competition in which Chile was
ever entered was a country rodeo held during the Famoso Bull Sale, about a
hundred miles east of Paso Robles. I was
busy with the bull sale but wanted to enter at least one event, so I entered
the Head On Steer Stopping. By this time old Chile was about 23 years old
and was really starting to show his age.
His lower lip protruded and he
was getting a little sway backed. He
also had some scars and abrasions collected over the years. He kind of looked like a hold over from the
Civil War. The San Joaquin Valley
locals were wondering what I was up to, trying to enter a rodeo on this old
horse. In this particular event you
entered the arena from the stripping chute end, rode straight down the arena
toward the roping chute. When you
crossed an imaginary line in mid arena, they let the steer out of the
chute. Everybody's strategy was
different but Chile and I decided to ride straight at the chute at full speed,
they opened the chute gate and when the steer saw us coming he made a hard duck
to his left. Chile picked up on the move and
swerved right in behind the steer. The
next thing you know we were there, how could I miss? I threw my rope, Chile slammed on the brakes, and the
flagger dropped the flag. We won second
place and $190 in a field of about 75 good ropers and I was the guy lucky
enough to be sitting on top of Chile that day. The flagger was Mike who had won his share of
money heeling behind Casey and Chile
over the years, so he was not surprised. Most of the cowboys from the coast also knew Chile but the cowboys
from the Valley are still scratching their heads. First place went to a great competitor who
would be roping at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in a couple of
months, so for an old man on an old horse I didn't feel too bad about second
place and Chile, as always, was just proud to be there.
Chile started having back trouble about 5
years ago so Mark quit riding him and he went into full retirement at about 25
years of age. He could always be a
handful for anybody to ride and was never considered to be a kid's horse. Mark and Lisa's boys, Calvin and Ryan, had
real good horses to ride and learn on when they were young and Chile would have
been just too much horse for them. Ryan
had always considered Chile to be a challenge that he was looking forward to
take on some day but when Ryan got old enough to give him a try, Chile was too
sore for anybody to ride. He constantly
begged his mother to let him ride the old horse. In the fall of 2009, Chile was feeling real
good, running and bucking around his pen so the boys suggested we take him down
to the arena so he could run around and get some exercise. When they got him down there they decided
that today was the day and Calvin, now 12 years old, jumped on and rode him
around bareback, with only a halter.
When, Ryan age 9, finally got his turn we decided we had better put a
bridal on Chile. As Ryan and Chile reached
the backside of the arena, Ryan decided to speed it up a little so he put the
spurs to the old horse. Chile humped up
a little and bucked once, just to show this kid that maybe his bucking days
were not over. By the time they got back
to our end of the arena, Ryan had a huge smile on his face and you know,.........I
think Chile did too. And so it was,
three generations rode and enjoyed this family friend that had entered our
lives nearly 30 years ago.
A few weeks ago at about nine o'clock in
the evening Lisa called. The boys were
down feeding the horses and Chile
was fussing around, anxious to be fed as usual.
Somehow he had kicked the barn and sadly broke his leg. This was the end of his long trail and of
course we all knew it. We buried him
late that night, near the arena. When we
finished our sad detail, about 1:30 in the morning, the four of us, Mark, Lisa,
Casey and I just stood there quietly in the dark staring at the ground. I guess we were all thinking about some of
the stories that were just told and pondering if this old horse with the heart
of a champion was truly a real champion.
Casey had won lots of money and awards in the rodeo arena on him, but
there were no trophies or ribbons to display in Chiles name. He had never been awarded any championship
distinctions by any group or association, so was he really a champion? When we finally broke the silence and started
to talk, we all agreed unanimously that the best times any of us ever had on a
horse, were spent on Chile. By our standards, he was a champion to us all, a
great ranch horse and a best friend.
And to my Dad, who has been gone about
eight years now, "Yes Dad, we've decided we're going to keep him". He is an important part of the cement that
continues to bind our family together and his champion spirit will live in all of
our hearts forever.
And to Chile, I
will think of you often, every time I pull my cinch tight or build a loop to
catch a steer.
We are at 3500, #7 Dry Creek Road next to the Paso Robles Airport but be sure to call before you come.
Phone: 805 459-0399
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