The wind isn’t any warmer on the ranch, but the other day the sun cut through the chill enough I figured it was time to bring in the horses. The snow is melting on the hayfield where I wintered them. Soon, they’ll start cutting into the spring-warmed muddy ground. When I opened the gate, they all calmly walked through—except Buzz. There was no way he’d get that close to me. He snorted, stuck his tail in the air and headed over the ridge. Finally, I gave up and left him to come through on his own.
Buzz was a birthday present—from my wife. The horse is a big, soggy roan gelding with a short roman nose and about half enough hip. He looks like one of those Quarter Horse pictures you see from the late 1940’s. Right from the first day he was snorty and spooky, and we’ve eyed each other with a healthy distrust for the last year. Most times when I walk up to him with a saddle, he’ll snort and stand splay-footed and trembling, pretty much like it was the first time he’d ever seen a human being.
I’d ridden Buzz once on a family outing. He belonged to my son-in-law, so I made a point to say whatever nice things I could think about the horse. It was true that he was an excellent traveler. Willing and keen, there wasn’t another horse that day that could come close to his rapid, smooth walk, but it never occurred to me that my wife would think I wanted to own him. Most of that day, I kept a firm hold on the cheater strap I’d threaded through the swells of my saddle. I was convinced that before we got back to the barn, this goofy bronc would cut loose. And that’s pretty much what I’ve thought every time I’ve ridden him in the last year, which has been plenty. So far, Buzz has proved me wrong, except once when a wasp stung him. That was a little western, but you can’t blame him for that.
Today, I took the grain bucket and hand fed the other horses. Buzz jostled right into the middle of them and hung his head over the gate right in front of me. He wasn’t hard to read. “Hey, I’m your buddy—aren’t I? Feed me first. I’m not really wild. I was only kidding.
Hmm. I scratched his ears and rubbed his itchy spots, but I’m still not going to get rid of that cheater strap on my saddle.