Edna’s Story 18 (FGK 135)

I remember Grandma telling the story of bringing the wild horses to the corral. I was always very firmly “team horse” and as I’ve gotten older and more things have changed I’m glad that we now have other ways that we can work with a horse to let us ride them rather than “breaking them”. However, given the time and the situation I’m not really sure what else there was to do. My little demon Shetland pony Tango, while he wasn’t a wild horse, also headed off to the fox farm after he finally attempted to kick Dad in the head – instead landing both evil little hooves on each shoulder. Apparently him trying to murder me on a daily basis while I rode him wasn’t quite enough – but the boot to the head was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

About the time I spoke of when I bought Sheila and Marshall sleds, we had what we call open? winters. In the fall it would rain, then freeze, and then rain again.

Those were the years when our range was infested with wild horses. We would haul blocks of salt up to Sibbald Park and other ideal areas to feed the cattle and the bands of wild horses would come down and drive the cattle away from the salt and also eat the cream of the crop of grass to be found there. Our men all rode bigger and stronger horses than in most districts because they needed a wonderfully strong and intelligent horse under them to be able to race across the muskeg, fallen timber, and badger holes without piling up. And they had to stand an all day ride.

The fall when the ice formed over the pasture was hard on the wild horses. Our men decided to put new shoes on their mounts and go after those slicks and clear the range of them. They were successful in rounding up several hundred and bringing them down to the big corral at the Star, then here. The fact that the saddle horses were shod and the wild ones weren’t was a great advantage. But no one could match the cunning tricks of escape those creatures knew. When they got them to the Star corral they had to rope the leaders of each band of horses. They had to put several ropes on it to hold it and get it down. Then they put a rope through its mouth and under its jaw with a tourniquet in it and twist hard enough to hurt enough to keep the pony’s mind on fighting that and only that. They turned them out and headed for home. What a ride that was! Fences meant nothing to that herd of horses. Only the solid log corrals would hold them. I’ll never know how they got them here but they did. I went out to the corral to see them and have regretted ever since that I didn’t take a picture. They were small and scrubby little horses, their hooves were long and turned up. Their mane dragged in long ratty masses to the ground and so did their tails. When anyone would dare step into the corral they would charge him with their mouthes open to bite and would wheel and kick so fast you could hardly see them. Just a long-haired shaggy bundle of dynamite.

After getting them here, then and only then did the men start to wonder what they would do with them. I can tell you that I was kept busy. for the next few days it was not unusual to have dozens of extra men for meals. The government men were here to see that everything was legal. There were scores of Indians and whites who tried to claim what their thought might be their horses now they were safely available. Nearly all were slicks (no brand) and just had to be turned over to the government to be sold as fox meat (fox farms were popular then). But getting them anywhere was a major problem for any but the most skilled horsemen. When all the dirt settled and they were gone, our men nearly sat down and cried when they saw the miles of broken fences to be repaired. The range was a better place for cattle for the next few years.

Clarence did manipulate another wild horse drive a few years later. His was a sheer case of having to outwit them. He built a trap back there somewhere and managed to bring down a fair number. A few were quite good looking horses and he was at the age when he rode broncs, so he had fun trying to ride some. His friend Chet Baldwin nearly got killed out in our corral trying to ride them too. So the fun cooled off.


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