Growing up on Date Creek Ranch

Both sides of my family have lived in Arizona for many years, my mother’s side since the 1870′s.  Many of them have engaged in ranching and/or farming over the years.  Here is one of the stories from our family cattle ranch written from my brother’s point of view.

Stories from the Ranch:  A Disappearing Way of Life
by Eric Knight

“…Scott’s introduction to riding horses was perhaps a bit rougher than mine.  While I  got the pleasure of bouncing along obliviously behind Dad, wondering when the next branch would swoop out of nowhere and whack me across the face, Scott got to go along when I tried out a new horse.

…One fine spring morning there was this nice looking roan gelding waiting for me when I went to saddle up.  But when I got ready I found out that Scott would be riding with me that day, something which no doubt thrilled me only slightly less than it did him.

Amid much silent grumbling… I mounted up and maneuvered this strange horse next to the fence so Scott could jump on.  And off we went down the creek with the rest of the crew.

In due course we were sent off on our respective circle and it was just the two of us alone.  By then I had discovered one of this horse’s less desirable traits:  he walked slow.  I believe the proper term here would be “plod.”  As in, the horse plodded.  Nothing I did would make the horse walk faster.  And I knew that at the rate we were going, we were going to fall far behind the rest of the riders and that was something you just didn’t do.  Besides the fact that it made it easier for cattle to slip through the gaps, it gave Dad something to holler about…  Best not to provoke him.

Giving up on the plodding, I finally kicked the horse into a trot.  I never much liked trotting, all that bouncing and jangling along, but it beat hollering…

Well, Scott was only a bitty thing, just four or five, and his short little legs didn’t do much beyond stick almost straight out from where he sat behind my saddle.  But they hung down enough, just enough, that when we started trotting, his legs started flapping and his heels landed squarely in the horse’s flanks. Horses don’t much like being kicked in the flanks – that kind of hollow between the rear of the ribcage and the hips – and this one was no different.  He tolerated a couple of those little bounce/kicks and then he gave a little hop and kicked his heels in the air and Scott just sailed right off into open space.

Fortunately… Scott was a tough kid.  He shed a few tears and screwed his chubby face up but he was all right.  When I was done laughing and he was done crying we found a boulder he could scramble up onto and I maneuvered the horse in close so he could jump on again.  But now we were really running behind.  Time was passing and Dad would be steaming.

“Don’t kick the horse this time, Scott.  Hold your legs up.”

Well, Scott tried his best.  I just know he did.  But we started trotting and his legs went to bouncing and that horse tossed his head and tossed Scott right off onto the ground again. More tears and laughing and a little more lost time but we got him back up and going again.  Course then I had to run and you just know what happened. By then Scott’s tears were mostly rage.  Scott’s temper was a lot slower than mine – he tended to smolder – but when it finally flared up it was pretty impressive.  Mine was of the throwing, screaming type, where his tended towards the rock-chewing variety.  About the third time he got up off that ground he was swearing eternal pain on that horse and twitching like he wished he had a weapon to hand to end this foolishness.  It didn’t help to have his brother up there safe and sound laughing at him either.

We loaded Scott up again and sure enough the whole play repeated itself but you know, by then I think that horse was purely enjoying himself.  It might have been a response to something irritating in the beginning but by then he’d seen it didn’t hurt any and from the way he swiveled his ears and craned his neck to look back after Scott went down I think that horse was having fun…

We never did get a single cow in that morning and we were way behind the others when they met at the dirt tank that was our gathering spot.  But when I explained what had happened Dad was too busy laughing to be really angry and things worked out okay.

Needless to say I didn’t buy that horse and Scott never did ride behind me again.”