Life on a San Diego County Ranch

 

I was born in California, in Placer County, July 8, 1867.

 

My father came to San Diego County the following year with his family, which consisted of a wife and seven children, of which I was at that time the youngest.

 

I have looked the matter up and find that we landed in San Diego from the steamer “Orizaba”, the third of November, 1868.

 

Being then only sixteen months old, I of course was not playing a very prominent part in the events that were taking place

 

My father rented some rooms in an old adobe house in “Old Town”, owned by Father Ubach, the priest in charge of the Catholic Church at that place, and left Mother and the children there while he was getting a house built out at the ranch.

 

Father’s brother, Robert Kelly, was in the cattle business in partnership with Francis Hinton at the Agua Hedionda Ranch, and Father had been down to this county the previous year visiting his brother. At that time he had decided to bring his family down here and take up a homestead. Uncle Robert had shown him a piece of government land adjoining the Agua Hedionda Ranch, where there was running water, and also another place farther back in the mountains which Father liked very much.

 

He came down here the following year with the idea of settling on the place back at Bear Valley, but found that it was already settled on when he arrived. So he proceeded to build on the place adjoining the ranch on which his brother lived.

 

At that time this county was considered utterly worthless for any purpose except stock raising. And land without running water was notconsidered worth anything. Pumping water for stock was considered an impossibility.

 

The small valley where Father decided to settle was known by the Spanish name of “Los Quiotes” which is Spanish for “the Yuccas” – a beautiful flowering plant well known in this county and which grew plentifully on the hills around there.

 

The house that Father erected was a very crude affair. It was sixteen by twenty feet and a story and a half in height made of rough redwood lumber with battens over the cracks. As shingles could not be had at that time in San Diego, they made a roof by nailing rough redwood boards up and down over the sheeting. These boards had first had a channel about one-half inch deep and one-half inch wide cut along both edges with a tool that carpenters call a “plow”. Then after they had been securely nailed up and down over the sheeting, and as closely joined as possible, one-half by three inch battens were nailed over the cracks, and these grooves or plowed channels were supposed to carry off the rainwater instead of allowing it to leak through into the house. Father had been advised by Mr. Hinton (Uncle Robert’s partner) that this sort of a roof would turn water as well as a shingle roof, but it proved an utter failure, and had to be covered over with split Redwood shakes, as it leaked like a basket.

 

The house was divided upstairs into two rooms, but downstairs it was one room, except for a sort of pantry that was built under the stairs. There was a door at the northeast corner, a window in both the east and west sides downstairs, and a half window in each of the east and west sides upstairs.

Father was a blacksmith by trade, and a very good one, but he was a very poor hand at carpenter work. The man he got to help him build was also a very poor workman, and as they had only the roughest kind of lumber to work with, the house when finished was a very crude affair. It was built upon a bench of high ground between two arms of the valley, and there was a spring just at the foot of the hill, and a little west of the house, where we got our drinking water.

 

Father had rented the rooms at Old Town for a month, and at the end of that time he came back to town on horseback and hired a man with a big wagon and four horses to take the family and their belongings out to the ranch.

 

I have often heard Mother tell of that experience. Of starting from Old Town early in the morning and arriving at the ranch after it was dark. In the hurry of packing-up that morning, all the matches they had with them had been put in some place where they could not be found. Imagine arriving at an utterly strange place in the night, with seven children, and all your belongings, and no light to unpack by. Of course, the children were tired and hungry, as well as sleepy and cross, and then to have to unroll bedding and try to find them something to eat under these circumstances, must have been a sore trial for a woman of Mother’s nature, for she was a woman of a shrinking, timid disposition, who was never intended for pioneer life. The door of the house was still unhung, and there was a carpenter’s workbench and many shavings and scraps of lumber in the lower room of the house. My eldest sister was about seventeen years of age, and my brother Matthew was twelve. All the other children were younger. Mother often said that the most terrifying part of it to her was the fact that the house had no door hung, and the coyotes were barking all about and so near that she was greatly alarmed for fear they would carry off some of the children before morning. (Of course coyotes were at that time something new to her, and she did not know how cowardly they were.) Mother used to say, “Well, we got through the night someway, and with daylight things looked a little less gloomy”.

 

[In Lizzie’s account, she tells of her Father stopping to help the driver of the cart which was stuck in the mud. Matthew had the matches as well as knowledge of the lay-out of the house but was not present to help.]

 

There were, of course, no fences or anything else to keep away the hundreds of wild cattle that had been accustomed to watering at the spring, and they were another source of danger in Mother’s eyes as she greatly feared they would attack the children. However, there was little danger of that, as wild cattle are very much alarmed at the sight of people on foot, where they have only been in the habit of seeing men on horseback, and will run away almost as readily as deer or other wild game animals from the sight of anyone who is unmounted.

 

When I look back and think how wild and uncivilized the country was in those days I cannot help but wonder how anyone could bring women and children to such a place. But Father had lived for the previous fifteen years in the mines of Northern California, and had become thoroughly disgusted with mining, so I suppose it was a case of man’s natural desire to own a ranch; and the fact that his brother, who was a bachelor, was in a position in this county to help him to get a start. Of course, my people’s experience was no harder, and perhaps not so hard, as hundreds of other families who helped to settle the “great West,” but for the women of the household it was certainly hard enough.

 

At that time there was no school nearer than Old Town, which was thirty-five miles away. The nearest neighbors were about three miles away, and they were Spanish people and could speak but little English. However, the following summer a couple of other families settled within four or five miles of us and after that it must have been a little better.

 

As for churches, I suppose there were Catholic services occasionally at the San Luis Rey Mission, which was twelve miles from us, but our people were Protestants and never attended the services at the Mission.

 

In those days this was what was known as a stockman’s country. If anyone tried to do any farming he must protect his crops by means of fences, from the hundreds of head of wild cattle and horses that roamed at will over the land. During the first two years on the ranch, Father with the aid of my oldest brother, (who as I have said was twelve years of age when we came here) and some Indians that he hired, cut posts and rails and built at least a mile and a half of rail fence. It is hard now to realize what an amount of hard work that must have been. Let me explain how that fence was made – and when you think of how little timber of any kind grew in this county, I am sure you will agree with me when I say that I cannot imagine now how any man could have had the courage to go at such a job.

 

In the first place they laid out the line of the fence. Then a post hole was dug every three feet along that line. Each hole was about eight by twelve inches in size and two feet deep. Then two posts were placed in each hole with a space of about five or six inches between them. The earth must be thoroughly tamped as it was being filled in around the posts. Then rails were laid in between the two rows of posts until the fence was about thirty inches high. Then the two posts must be tied together with one-fourth inch tarred rope called “marlin”. Then more rails were laid in between the posts until the fence was about four and a half or five feet high. Sometimes the posts were tied together again at the tops after the last rail was in place, but this was not done unless they were making an unusually good fence, such as a corral or something of that kind. You will see that this fence calls for over three thousand five hundred posts to the mile and a vastly larger number of rails. And all these were cut from the scrub growth of every kind that grew in the neighborhood, and hauled to the job on a cart with oxen. What a job it must have been!

 

I was too young to remember the building of this fence in the first place, but I have a very vivid recollection of helping rebuild a section of it where it blew down after the posts rotted off. There were some kinds of trees growing in this part of the country that would make posts that would stand a long time in the ground without rotting, and there were other kinds that would rot off in a couple of years. Father had to learn most of this by experience, as he, of course, was not familiar with the lasting qualities of the various woods until he had tried them out. In later years we knew from bitter experience that certain varieties of posts would last but a short time in the ground, while others lasted very well indeed. Such woods as live oak, Sycamore, Willow and Sumac would rot off in the ground so soon that posts of those were not worth the trouble it took to set them; while posts of Elder or Mountain Mahogany (Rhus Integrefolia) would last a long time. In fact, we considered the Mountain Mahogany almost an everlasting post. There was such an amount of work connected with all this fencing that Father had little time for anything else, for the first two years that we were here. If Uncle Robert had not helped him by furnishing us with beef, I am sure I cannot imagine how we could have lived.

Some of my earliest memories are of Mother’s shouting to us children to come into the house from where we were playing, as, “Uncle Robert and some of his vaqueros were coming with a big steer,” The vaqueros would have the steer lassoed – usually with two riatas on him, and he would be fairly frothing at the mouth with anger. He would charge first one horseman and then the other in a mad endeavor to gore the horse, but by having two riatas on him, one man would hold him as he charged the other, and they would try to have every mad lunge he made bring him a little nearer the house.

 

 Sometimes Uncle Robert would put his horse right in front of the steer, and have the vaqueros ride well apart and a little to the rear of him. The steer would charge Uncle’s horse, and by his allowing him to keep almost near enough to comb the horse’s tail with his horns and the two riatas as tight as fiddle strings, they would come into the yard on the run. Of course, there was considerable danger connected with this kind of work, for if one of the horses should stumble, or one of the riatas break, an angry steer would make short work of either man or horse. But cattlemen were used to handling stock in that way, and while they fully realized the danger, they had the most utter confidence both in their horses, their riatas, and in each other.

 

They always butchered the steer as near the house as possible – not over fifty or sixty feet from the door, so it would be convenient to hang the beef on the line – for it would all be made into “jerky,” except what could be eaten fresh.

 

We children were, of course, ordered to stay in the house until the steer was dead, and we usually got upstairs and watched things through the upstairs windows.

 

When they got the steer as near the house as they thought necessary, they would throw him and one of the men would dismount and “stick” him. In those days there was no such thing as hanging a beef up while skinning him. They skinned him just as he lay – as you would a buffalo that had been shot down on the plains. The skin was spread out and the meat was cut into strips about an inch in diameter and from one to three feet long. These strips were then dipped into brine and then hung over a rope line. Every ranch, in those days, had these lines strung across the yard just as clothes-lines are in this day and age. After the “jerky” had hung over the rope for about twenty-four hours in dry weather, it was turned over so that the side that had been next to the rope or line was turned up to the sun so that it would dry thoroughly. After hanging in the sun for four or five days, it would be taken down and placed in sacks and kept in a cool, dry place until it was used. If the nights are foggy and damp, the “jerky” must be taken in in the evening and hung out again in the morning after the fog clears away. Good beef cured in this way is, in my opinion, perfectly delicious. And I would rather have a good string of it right now than a Porterhouse Steak.

 

It was always the rule to allow the vaqueros to eat as much meat as they wished while doing the butchering, so the first thing they did after killing the steer was to start a fire on the ground near where they were skinning the beef. As soon as they had enough of the skin removed to do so, they would have some strips of meat roasting over the fire. Uncle would tell Mother to “give the boys some salt,” and if there were one, two, or half a dozen on the job, bread and salt was all that Mother had to furnish them when meal time came. We children soon learned to join the men in roasting meat over the fire, and there is no better way of cooking it, in my opinion. Simply stick the meat on the point of a green stick, (a dry stick will burn) and hold it over the fire, after salting it, and turn it over and over until it is done. Take some steak with you the next time you go for a picnic and try this way, and if you don’t think it is good you can say that I am no judge of what is good!

 

There were lots of splendid vaqueros in this part of the country in those days. In my opinion, the native Spanish Californian was the best in that line that the world has ever produced. I have seen and worked with lots of different men, from different parts of the world, but for work with cattle and horses in their wild state, I have never seen any other men who could equal some of the old time “Spanish Californians.” They seemed to know by instinct just what either wild cattle or wild horses were going to do before they did it. I have seen “Americans” that were considered very hard to beat, and they were good; but I have never seen one that I thought was the equal of some of the native Spanish Californians that I have known. As far as riding wild horses or mules, I have seen Americans that were as good at it as anyone could be, it seemed to me. But when it comes to both rough riding and being experts in the use of the riata, too, I have never seen the equal of some of the old Californians. (Of course, I am not saying there never were any Americans who were the equal of any of these old-timers that I have in mind, but I am saying that in forty years in the cattle business, I never had the luck to meet one of them.) Among Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona “cowboys” it is a common practice when roping on horseback, to have the rope or riata fast to the saddle. They simply use a rather short rope or riata, and have the end fastened to the horn of the saddle. Then, when they rope an animal, they let him take the whole length of it. There is no letting the riata run on the horn of the saddle in “setting a horse or steer up,” as we say – that is, in bringing him to a stop when he is running. When the riata is made fast to the saddle, the animal that is roped hits the end of it with an awful jerk, which is very hard on the back of the rider’s horse.

 

I never saw an old-time Californian use a riata fast to his saddle. When he lassoed an animal he took three or four turns of the riata around the horn of the saddle as close to the fleeing animal as possible. Then, when he wanted to stop him, or set him up, he threw his weight in the stirrup on the opposite side from which the animal was running and as the weight came he let the turns run a few feet on the horn of his saddle and the horse he was riding got no such a jerk as he would have if the riata had been fast. And besides being easier on the ridden horse, it is much easier on the animal that is lassoed. I have seen many horses, and also some cattle, hurt badly by being set up with a jerk. And I have always said that I would not allow any man working for me to lasso with his rope fast to the saddle. In fact, I think if a man cannot handle his horse and rope without fastening it to the saddle, he had better start in and learn the business.

 

I have described the bringing in of a beef steer by two or more men, but a good vaquero was expected to be able to do it alone whenever it was necessary. I remember quite well, once when I was a small boy, Uncle Robert coming over to our place and Father telling him that we were nearly out of beef. Uncle said, “My vaqueros are all busy, so you had better get Juan Ortega to bring in a beef steer for you.” Juan Ortega was a Spanish Californian who was foreman on the Encinitas Rancho, which ranch was about four miles south of where we lived. The next morning Father saddled his horse and started, telling the family that he was going to get Juan to bring in a steer. There were no wire fences in those days, and a man on horseback could ride across the country in any direction. The road to the Encinitas Ranch that was usually traveled led off east for a mile or so and then turned south. Father started away from the house by that road, and we children naturally supposed they would come back that way with the steer, for there were a great many of Uncle’s cattle running at large all over the country, and we supposed they would bring one from over near the Encinitas Ranch.

 

We small folks were in the habit of rambling around the hills in any direction we chose, provided we kept inside the fenced field. Mother was always afraid the wild cattle would chase us if we ventured far outside the field, but we frequently went outside the fenced land just the same. This morning my two sisters and two brothers and myself went down on a small rocky point which we called the “Green Hill,” and which was about a half-mile west of the house. We were inside the fenced land, but there was a wagon road that came up the valley from the west and entered the field by a gate, right near where we were playing. Suddenly we saw Father coming up the valley at a fast gallop, and when he saw us he shouted to us to run for home and to keep in the house as Juan Ortega was bringing a big, wild steer up that road. I remember very distinctly looking off down the valley and seeing a vaquero with a lassoed steer. I also remember our starting for home on the run. The other children were all older than I was, and everyone in the gang was trying to make the fastest time he could. We were all frightened, and were trying to run so fast, and also trying to look back every few steps to see if the steer was gaining on us, that we did not pay much attention to the rough ground we were running over. First one and then another would stumble and fall, and sometimes in looking back we ran into the one ahead of us and both fell. But you may be sure we were soon up and going strong. We got to the house almost as soon as Father did on horseback, and he loped all the way. Mother was out in the yard as we approached the house, and she was fairly screaming to us to hurry and get in out of danger. Well, we all got in and rushed upstairs where we could watch the rest of the proceedings through the windows.

Father told us later that he had met Juan out riding on the range. Juan had immediately consented to bring the steer in and butcher it, but said that the riata he had with him was not heavy enough to handle a big steer. He was afraid it might break when he got the steer up near the house, where he would be a very dangerous customer. Father told him that he had a heavy riata at home, and that when they had driven the steer into the lower end of the valley (which would be over a mile from the house) Juan could keep him there while he would hurry up to the house and get the heavy riata. That was what brought Father up the valley in such a rush.

 

One of the women folk, either Mother or my oldest sister, I am not sure which, was bringing out the riata to Father as we children came puffing and crying into the yard. He took it shouting to everybody to keep in out of sight when they came up with the steer and then he rode back down the valley at a rapid gait. However, before he had gone far, we, at the upstairs window, could see Juan coming with the steer. I remember as if it were yesterday just how that animal looked. He was a big, brownish-black fellow with a white stripe along his back. Juan was giving him almost the full length of the riata and the big angry beast was going around and around the horse and rider in one big circle after another, but every turn bringing him a little nearer the house. Every few minutes he would charge on the horse, bellowing with rage, but the little brown horse and his rider were always too quick for him, and every charge only brought him a little nearer the goal. The little riata looked almost as small as a wire clothesline, and it seemed impossible that it could hold such a powerful animal, especially when he was in such a rage, and trying so hard to get away. When they got near enough to the house we could see the steer’s nose was bleeding, and then we saw that instead of having him lassoed by the horns or neck, as vaqueros usually did, he had the riata in his nostrils. Juan had lassoed and thrown him, while Father was coming after the heavier riata. He had made his horse hold the steer down while he dismounted and with his knife cut a hole through the cartilage between the nostrils. He had then knotted the point of the riata through this hole, and remounting his horse had allowed the steer to get up. The noose, which was on the steer’s two hind feet, would drop off as soon as it was slackened and he attempted to run. Then he had him by the nose, and of course an animal is easily held by that hold.

 

Juan brought him up to within twenty yards of the house, where he drew him up against a big gate-post, and stuck him behind the horns with his knife which ended his life very quickly. We children then came out of the house and watched the butchering, as usual roasting steaks over a fire, while the men worked.

 

Juan Ortega was a thorough vaquero, and is still living up in Orange County.

 

Riding wild horses was another part of the business that we saw a great deal of in those days. Horses were raised by the hundred, and they were never handled in any manner except to brand them (which was usually done when they were yearlings) until they were old enough to break. They were usually considered to have reached that stage when they were four years old. But on big ranches where a great many horses were raised, many of them were not ridden until they were six or seven years old.

Very few people, unless they have had actual experience at such work, have any conception of how wild and vicious a five or six-year-old horse is, that has been raised out with a wild herd as these horses were.

 

Horses or colts raised up among older horses that are gentle, seem to inherit some gentle and civilized ways from their mothers, and the other gentle stock with which they run. But even to a greater extent, horses that are raised from wild, unbroken mares, inherit the wild and vicious ways of the herd with which they have run.

 

In the old days of which I am writing, the mares were never broken to the saddle. Only the geldings were ever used for saddle purposes, and for anyone who considered himself a vaquero to be seen riding a mare was to invite the jokes and jibes of every band of vaqueros he might meet. It was considered allowable for an old man, who did not pretend to be a rough rider, or a boy just learning to ride, to be seen mounted on a gentle mare.

 

The result of this was, the mares grew up wild and vicious, and their offspring were taught every bit of the wildness, viciousness and cussedness with which those mothers were familiar. So, by the time they were old enough to be branded and separated from their mothers, they had imbibed about as much deviltry as their hides could hold.

 

Before I go farther I will explain how the various bands of horses were separated in those days.

The brood mares with the foals up to yearlings ran in bands called “manadas,” each manada headed by a stallion. The stallion would not allow any gelding or other stallion to come near his manada. One old mare in the band usually wore a bell, merely to make it easier to find them.

The geldings were in another band with a bell mare to lead them. This band was called the “caponero.” (Caponero is the Spanish word for a band of geldings.)

 

It seems almost uncanny how these horses would become attached to the sound of that bell. If a saddle horse should get loose in the night forty or fifty miles from home, he would immediately strike out to find his bell mare. No matter how tired he was when he got loose, he would scarcely stop to eat a mouthful until he had gotten back and joined his old band.

 

I well-remember a gray horse that my brother sold to a man down at El Cajon. The man kept him for several years, but if he ever managed to get loose at night, he was always back with the bell mare at our ranch in the morning. They finally got tired coming after him, and sold him to a man who took him to Arizona.

 

Another incident I will relate to show how horses remember their old bell. We had an old bell that the various bell mares had carried for a number of years. Finally the strap wore out and broke, and the bell was lost. A couple of years afterwards I rode under some large live oak trees over on the ranch, and saw the old bell lying on the ground, where it had been lost when the strap broke. I dismounted and picked it up. Of course, I knew it was the old horse bell, and the first thing I did was to ring it to see if it was still in working order. Within a minute after I had given it the first jingle I was surprised to hear horses neighing and, looking up, saw a herd of horses coming down from a ridge about a half-mile south of me. They were coming at the top of their speed and all seemed to be neighing and greatly excited. They gathered around the tree where I stood ringing the bell, and looked as if they could not understand where that old familiar sound could be coming from.

 

The men riding for a cattleman were usually put to riding or breaking horses in the spring when other work got slack. The horses would be driven into the corral and a certain number of unbroken horses selected for breaking. The boss would usually select certain of his men that he knew were capable of doing that kind of work, for the rough breaking, or manza duro, as the Spanish call it.

 

Each vaquero selected for the work would then lasso the horse he intended to break; or, if there were a number of vaqueros, several of them would ride into the corral. One would lasso the horse’s neck and hold him out in the middle of the corral. Another vaquero would ride up and as the horse made a run past him he would deftly throw the loop of his riata in front of him (and if you were not in the habit of seeing it done) you would be surprised how that horse would seemingly put his two front feet right through that loop. It would then be only a couple of minutes until he was lying flat on his side and the man who was going to ride him would be putting a ‘tapajo’ over his head and fastening it with a strong string or thong around his neck, so that it could be pulled down over his eyes.

 

The tapajo is simply a wide strap of leather, usually about two and one-half inches wide and about eighteen inches long. It usually has loops riveted on to the ends of it for the thong. This is dropped down over his head so that the wide tapajo covers the horse’s eyes and the thong goes over the head just back of the ears and the ends fastened under the throat.

 

The blind or tapajo can then be pushed up above the eyes, or pulled down to cover them.

The “hackamore” will probably be put on him also while he is down. This is used rather than a bridle for breaking horses that are to be used when broke for vaquero horses. It is simply a strong loop of braided rawhide that goes around the horse’s nose. It has a headstall and throatlatch like a bridle, and the reins are usually made of a strong horsehair rope. The reason for using the hackamore instead of a bridle is that in breaking a horse it is often necessary to pull very hard on him, especially if he bucks, and in so doing his mouth will get very sore after a few days. Then, as he keeps fighting, his mouth will gradually get well, but will become very tough or hardened, and he will have what they call a tough mouth and will always be hard to rein. If he is ridden with a hackamore until he is gentle, and then gradually broken to the bridle while still wearing the hackamore, he will have a good mouth – or in other words, will be a horse with a “good govern.” No one but those who have lassoed wild horses and cattle on horseback knows how important this is. What we call a well-reined horse will turn to the right or left by merely the pressure of the rein against his neck, and will stop with a pull of little more than the weight of the rein.

 

But to get back to the horse-breaking. When both the tapojo and the hackamore are on, and the tapojo is well down and covering his eyes, the vaqueros will slack the riatas and let him get on his feet again. While his eyes are covered he will not move around much and it is an easy matter to saddle him. You would be surprised how tightly they will cinch the saddle. But tight lacing is not only the style, but also the necessity in this business, for he will probably do everything in his power to get that man and saddle off, and if the saddle goes, of course the man does.

 

As soon as the saddle is cinched and made secure as possible, and the reins of the hackamore adjusted to the proper length, the vaquero who is to ride him will raise the tapojo and let himself be seen. Then, as soon as the blind is raised, he will probably give a shiver and a squeal, down will go his head right between his front legs, and he will do all that he can to buck the saddle off. However they will probably drive him outside the gate where they will gradually get up to him again and pull the blind down over his eyes. The man will then slap the seat of the saddle a time or two, then deftly slip his toe into the stirrup and swing into the saddle. He will probably adjust the string of his hat under his chin securely, get the coil of his horsehair rope, and the right hand rein in his right hand, then with his left hand will reach forward and raise the tapojo. As soon as the blind is raised the horse may do one of several things. The most probable thing is at the first sight of the man on his back he will throw his spine into a hump, and his head down between his knees, and buck and squeal at every jump—perhaps keeping it up until the rider’s nose bleeds from the terrible shaking, and the horse is dripping with sweat. Under these conditions the rider will probably ply the quirt and spurs not as “tenderfeet” usually think, just to punish the horse, but to get him to quit bucking and go to running. If he can get him on the run, he can soon tire him and get him so out of breath that he will not have much buck in him. After a few hours of this sort of business, and with much hard yanking around by the rider, first to the right and then to the left to teach him to guide, he will probably take the saddle off and let him go until the next day.

But if a horse bucks hard the first time he is ridden, he will probably buck harder the second time, so there will probably be lots of fun in the morning.

 

I have said that when the blind is first raised the horse may do one of several things, and that the probable thing he would do was to buck. But he may do what is vastly worse. He may sulk and refuse to move, and as soon as the rider urges him may rear and go straight over backwards, and this so quickly that a man who is not as quick as a cat would surely be caught under him and terribly crushed. The kind of rider that I am writing of, though, is not the kind that is easily caught. As soon as he sees the horse is straight up on his hind legs and is still coming back, he puts one hand against the horn of the saddle, gives a quick push, and jumps back, landing nimbly on his feet with his rope in his hands ready to hold his horse from running away with the saddle, as soon as the vicious brute regains his feet. To let a horse run off with the saddle was an unforgivable thing for a vaquero to do (for a horse loose with a saddle on will stampede all the loose horses on the ranch).

 

Sometimes, however, a real wild horse will start off without bucking, falling, or doing anything mean, but this is very exceptional. However, when a horse can be gotten gentle without ever letting him learn any of these bad habits, he is ever afterwards a much better horse. For these bad habits learned, they are never afterwards forgotten, and he may try them some cold morning, even after you think he is perfectly gentle.

 

I remember when I was a small boy, my Father used to ride a little horse that Uncle Robert had loaned him. He was apparently as gentle as a horse could be, and Father used to saddle him every morning and ride out to see the stock. One night we had quite a hard shower, and in the morning Father brought his horse out, while he was wet and cold, and saddled him. As he considered him perfectly gentle, he mounted without leading him from where he stood while being saddled. The result was Father was thrown, and had his collar-bone broken. The horse simply remembered some of his old tricks, and tried them that morning because he was wet and cold.

 

Now the average man, or even woman, you meet, who has ridden gentle horses, or perhaps ridden a colt that had been raised in a gentle manner about the barn, firmly believes that he or she could ride any horse. Although they may have seen a few horses do a little bucking in a show, or some such thing, they think it would be an easy matter to stay on them. But I want to say to the average man or woman, that if a horse really bucks with you, you will be doing well if you are still on his back at the end of the second jump. Being able to ride a bucking horse is something that is acquired only by long practice, and hard experiences.