Forty years. I learned my way around animals while I was in high school in Tucson Arizona. Had I been living in Southern California then, I probably would have been a car guy and surfer. But I was in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. The Western movie genre prospered at the Old Tucson studio twenty miles from where I lived. So, if I was going to wear a cowboy hat, boots and perhaps a bolo tie, I figured I should know the northern from southern end of a horse. To earn riding lessons, I worked before school on a dude ranch – the Old Adobe Riding School. This was a stable that boarded eighty horses and provided riding lessons, and a foundation in responsibility. Arabs, Appaloosas, Quarter, Paints, and other breeds; goats, and chickens were all cared for starting at 5 A.M. Of all the chores that required precision, the horses expected punctuality at feeding.
In a manner of speaking, working on a ranch, puts a lot of spit in ones character. Reading horses was a good skill when it came to sizing up people. When you were mucking out a horse’s stall, it was helpful to read whether that thousand-pound beast was going to kick you or jump over you and your wheelbarrow — both of which I experienced. I learned precision with machinery – partly due to early lessons driving farm machinery. There is certain practicals you learn when you pop a clutch and throw your co-worker off a moving hay wagon into mud at 6 AM.
And while I didn’t continue riding and caring for horses after I graduated and joined the Navy, I still respected lessons learned then. Frances Woolfert owned Before my Navy career, my mentors were old cowboys, Tex, Jim, and Pops, a ninety-year old roping and riding legend who still could get the orneriest stallion to back down with cuss words and a piercing look. And as I today approach the age of those men, I have to say a lot of my character comes from a shared history.