By Chuck Carpenter
I had been horseback in the back country for about four days, working on a complaint. It was August and it was hot and dusty, almost miserable. I was riding one horse and had two packhorses loaded down with gear.
With the lack of rain and dry conditions the horses would kick up a cloud of dust with each step they took. The dust would rise up and I think most of it stuck to me. After a few days of these conditions I felt like someone threw me in the creek and then rolled me around in all that dust. I was feeling mighty grimy.
I come down a long ridge and after a while switch-backed down along the creek where the pack trail went. After several hours of traveling along the creek, I was a mile or so from the trail head. There was a meadow with lots of grass and a hot springs bubbling up out of the ground. I sat there on my horse a few minutes and looked around…not a soul anywhere.
It would sure feel good to get into that hot springs and clean off a little. I got off my horse and pulled off the saddle; I also pulled the packs off the pack horses and put hobbles on the three grass burners. They all started feeding on the lush grass in the meadow, paying no attention to me what-so-ever.
I looked around again and stripped down and started getting into the hot springs. All three horses jerked up their heads and stared right at me. All three of them snorted, bugged their eyes out, and headed down the trail. When a horse gets used to hobbles, they can travel right along and cover the country at a pretty good clip. They were making good time heading on down the trail. I looked around again and for the life of me tried to figure out what they had seen that made them want to leave when they had good feed clear up to their belly.
I quickly washed off, crawled out of my new found hot tub and put my clothes back on. I grabbed the halter ropes and headed down the trail a foot. The horses had made it about a half a mile and were still heading south! When they saw me coming they all stopped and nickered at me and I walked up, put the halter ropes on their halters, took off the hobbles, and started back up the trail leading them along.
When I got back to the meadow where the hot springs was, all three horses slammed on the brakes and peered long and hard over at the hot springs. It was then I figured out what spooked them. They had never seen anything with hide as white as mine. When I had taken off my clothes and they spotted that really white lookin’ critter wallowing around in the water, I guess they figured that some long lost abominable snowman had staggered out of the timber and fell in the creek.
I’m really not sure what they thought I was, but I do know they thought it was time to clear out of this country with bright white animals like that splashing around in the hot springs!
Chuck Carpenter, originally of Montana but now of Idaho, likes to hunt, fish and trap. He worked on a farm as a boy; then, as an adult, he took a job with the Department of Interior’s Animal Damage Control, now called USDA Wildlife Services. He ultimately became a district supervisor. He retired in 2011.