By Chuck Carpenter
USDA – Wildlife Services (May 27, 1980 – July 15, 2011)
The program I worked for was responsible for stopping or reducing life stock losses caused by predators and a whole array of other things. A lot of the problems we were called in to help solve was in the back country, lots of two track roads, hours spent on horseback or ATV in some of the most remote and roughest country there is.
All the guys that work for the program occasionally will get in and out of their areas would have dangerous experiences. After the wreck was over and no one was injured or worse, it seem like they could always find humor in the situation. In the late summer of 2010 I received word that one of the sheep producers running sheep on a forest allotment had lost 30 sheep by blackbear attack. The owner of the sheep explained to me where the camp was and told me that they had horses that we could use to get to where the kills were located.
Another fellow supervisor who worked for the program, Todd, wanted to accompany me on the project. I met Todd early the following morning and we loaded up the equipment we needed and headed out. The allotment was in very steep country. Lots of evergreen trees and open sagebrush side hills. Upon arriving at the sheep camp we discovered the sheepherder and the cook were Peruvians. They were staying in a wall tent and would move camp every week or so with saddled horses and pack mules.
Out in front of the tent they had three saddle horses all saddled up and ready for us. We pulled up in a pick up truck, I had a pack board with all of the equipment I needed in it and a rifle with a saddle scabbard. The pack board had a bag attached and was rather large. Todd had a rifle only, no scabbard so he was going to use his sling and carry it on his back. Now, I don’t know if have you ever hung out with many Peruvians, but Todd and I were giants compared to them. They were short little fellas with legs about a foot and a half long. Todd and I were both about six foot three.
I walked up to the horses and noticed the stirrups were up as short that they would go. Todd was visiting with the herder, so I decided to pick out a horse to ride. I walked up to the first horse and he completely came unglued. He was snorting, bugging his eyes out, yanking on the rains, and tearing around as far as he could go tied up. He did not like my big pack board.
I walked over to the other horse and he just stood there. He turned his head towards me and nickered, I patted his neck. I put the stirrups up and let them out as far as they would go, still a hair short but a lot better. The sheep herder walked over and got on his horse so I climbed aboard mine as well. Poor ole Todd was a real savvy guy but he really hadn’t been around horses much. He walked over to the horse I had walked up to first and he came unglued all over again. He finally got him untied and they kind of danced over to the trail. The herder was already riding up the trail so I followed in behind him.
I was watching Todd over my shoulder and his horse and him were spinning in a big circle. I don’t know how, but Todd had one foot in the stirrup and was hopping on the other foot. His foot in the stirrup was about the same height as his chin. Todd finally got aboard his pony and things really got exciting. His horse had his head down, he was crow hopping, spinning and really wanting Todd to get off! I was trying real hard not to laugh. With his stirrups so short his knees were right up by his ears, he looked like a jockey.
The herder and I were going up the trail along a steep hillside. Todd finally got his horse headed our direction at full speed. He went tearing around us on the uphill side of the trail, knees up by his ears and his rifle pounding his back. His horse charged up the trail, over the hill and out of sight. In awhile we heard him coming back still at full steam on the lower side of the trail and out of sight. His next trip back up the trail his ole pony was pooping out and had slowed to a trot, and a rough trot at that. Todd‘s head was bobbing up and down and on his way by he said, “I I I’m I’m O O op op en en open to to an any su sug sugge suggestions.”
Up the trail about a quarter of a mile we crossed a creek and there was a little flat. We stopped, got off the horses and I adjusted Todd’s stirrups. When we started off again Todd looked over at me and said “ this is a whole lot better.” We made the next 5 miles to where the kills were without any further incidents. We confirmed the sheep were killed by predators, set some equipment and made it back without any additional mishaps. The next morning we returned to the sheep camp to find that they up and moved the camp, sheep, horses, mules and ole Todd‘s Bronc*. We had to hike the six step miles and pull the equipment all on foot. Myself, I really missed my ride. I think Todd was real happy just to walk.
*Bronc: an unbroken or imperfectly broken range horse of western North America. Used since the 1893, means bustin’ Broncos.