THE TRUE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE
To my great grandmother Mary Ida who gave me horse fever.
One Finding Danny
Three The Bear
Eight A Baby Boy
Nine Separation & Reunion
Ten The Last Goodbye
Hunters in our area had tracked animals through the land long before we owned it. Now that we lived there, most but not all were slowly becoming aware that people had built a cabin and were living on the land. After the first year once they knew we were there the hunters stayed away from our home. Except for one. Hunters were as dangerous to us as bears, mountain lions or coyotes. On a couple of occasions, we found bullet holes through our cabin walls. Some hunters had the idea that the wildlife they were chasing had no boundaries – wherever the animals went, they felt they had a right to follow them. Sometimes that meant onto our big piece of land, which we had clearly posted with “no hunting” signs on the borders and more signs near the cabin. When those signs were torn down I rode Dan up to the trees and stood on his back to nail “no hunting” signs high up on the trees, then those got shot down with shot guns. I don’t blame people who hunt for food, we just didn’t want shooting near our home or where we were working. They could mistake Danny for a bear or a dear. And then there were the stray bullets. So every year Danny got a fall hairdo: orange day-glo ribbons braided into his mane and tail.
And a bell around his neck.
The hunter leaping over the snow bank.
Once, when I was riding Danny through the woods back from Edie’s house, we traveled a ways up a power line. The snow was so deep that winter that there were high walls of snow on either side of the power line road. I had Dan’s bridle and harness on, so he had a bit in his mouth, but when he saw a hunter walk out of the woods and into the road we were on, Dan just put his head down and charged right at that hunter. Bit or no bit, there was nothing I could do to stop him. The poor man had to scramble on all fours up the snow bank and jump to the other side, rifle and all. Dan was sweaty, snorting, ears back and stomping at the snow where the hunter had been.
From behind the snow bank the hunter yelled, “Get that crazy horse out of here! I didn’t do anything to him! What’s the matter with him?” I had never seen Dan act like that. He was really mad. It took all my strength to turn him up the power line trail and towards home. Something must have happened in his past that I didn’t know about to make him hate hunters or maybe he felt my tension and reacted.
He had hidden his rifle behind a tree.
The next fall I was down by our makeshift sawmill, stacking wood. I had Dan tied to a tree with his halter and a rope while he ate hay. I heard a gun shot and two seconds later a huge buck came galloping and leaping as fast as he could right at us. The deer almost knocked me over, he could have stuck me with his antlers. I jumped on Dan and rode towards the sound of the shot on top of the hill. When we got there, I spied a man dressed in blaze orange with a gun belt across his shoulder. He said he wasn’t hunting, but he had hidden his rifle behind a tree. Dan was barely controllable. He started sweating and prancing around, ears pinned to his head. I had even less control this time as there was no bridle, just a halter with the lead rope tied for reins. Dan charged at the hunter and chased him behind the tree, where his gun happened to be. He threatened to shoot Dan if I didn’t call him off. I warned that hunter, “You are on my posted land! You have no right to hunt here or to threaten me or my horse! There are thousands of acres to hunt on in these hills, go somewhere else.”
He tried to run and Dan chased him a little through the woods until I was able to turn Dan around and we went back down the mountain to home.
I was so upset, I was shaking. I found Bob cutting wood on the plateau and told him what happened. He comforted me and he decided to call it a day and we went back to the cabin for dinner.
A week later we were out seeing friends in town and when we came home we found a bullet hole in one of our windows. It could have been a bullet that lost its mark, but that was too close for comfort. I was glad to see that Dan was alright
The second year we were living in the cabin, I made pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. I made two extra for our neighbor Bill and his family. They lived about two miles through the woods. Thanksgiving morning I started walking through the woods with a pie in each hand. As I came up the steep trail that came from the cabin to the plateau, I walked straight into three hunters with rifles pointed right at me. They were drinking whiskey and I was scared.
Walking into the hunters on Thanksgiving with pumpkin pies.
I told them to get off my land. They began to argue with me that they had hunted here for thirty years and I had no right to keep them off. I said, “You almost shot me. I live here and have livestock. I can’t take a chance on getting shot! There are many miles of forest here that you can hunt in, but not here.” Luckily they lowered their guns and I walked by. They stood there and watched me go. I don’t know what I would have done if they had argued with me, maybe throw pies in their faces? I should have rode my horse, he would have chased them away. But I couldn’t carry the pumpkin pies on Dan. It all turned out O.K. and we had a great Thanks Giving with Bill and Sherry and their two kids. I brought home a piece of pumpkin pie for Dan, that was his favorite.
Living in the woods meant sharing our land with not only birds and wildlife, but we eventually learned, hunters too.
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