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Roller takes a swim
EXCERPT FROM 50 MILES FROM HOME. BY CAROLYN DUFURRENA
Merv snaked the bay colt down the rocky, brush-choked trail through what is called Bare Pass on USGS topo maps. Everybody around here calls it Bare-Ass Pass, because thats how it makes you feel. The grizzled Irish cowboy worked the colt down the headwall ridge, through the pine, mountain mahogany and aspens to the quiet lake. He stepped off in a grassy place under a black pine and carefully slipped the hobbles around the colts hocks, then stretched and walked a few steps to the shore.
The high lake was left by glaciers. Lightning-blackened trees rimmed the cirques headwall ridge, falling away to
The horse came to with a snort. Mervs eyes widened as the colt, still hobbled, took first one, then two sideways jumps toward the lake. He moved as carefully as he could toward the colts head, but the horse was panicked, and too quick. Next thing he knew, Roller had bucked himself, saddle, bridle and all, into the cold green water.
The glaciers have carved a steep profile into the basin, and the water was deep close to shore, the lakes margins boulder-strewn and irregular. The hobbles on the colt kept his front hocks close together: handcuffed. It would be easy enough for him to tip over and drown. The terrified horse lunged, struggling for his life. Waves surged from his shoulders as he heaved against the weight of the soaked saddle and blankets, the split reins tangling around his feet. Merv could only stand helplessly on the shore, watching.
The colts eyes showed white. He snorted and coughed, kicked and kicked at the hobbles that kept his feet chained together. Finally, somehow, he broke free. Power doubled, he clawed his way up through the big, smooth round boulders. One final desperate heave and the colt stood, dripping and quivering on the grassy patch by the lakes edge. Merv reached out slowly, took the reins, eased off the cinch and slid the sopping saddle to the ground.
He didnt say anything for a minute or two. Goddam, Roller, he said finally. Lets just take a little siesta while these blankets dry, and then ease on home.
He looked at the trail leading up the headwall ridge and sighed. Roller shook his massive shoulders like a dog and sighed too. He dropped his head to the grass and started to eat. He was hungry.
Merv shook his head when he told the story. That old Roller. I thought I was gonna lose him, by God. Colts got some heart to him, doesnt he?
Ranches raised cattle all around the Pine Forest Range until the 1980s. The place where this day passed in 1984 is now a Wilderness Study Area, and there are no cattle any more. Fishermen from all over flock here in the summer and fall. There will be no more opportunities for cowboys riding colts to meet fly fishermen at Blue Lake. It was a passing moment, two cultures just touching, before one passed into history. n
50 Miles from Home, written by Carolyn Dufurrena and photographed by Linda Dufurrena, is published by the University of Nevada Press.
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last page update: 04.03.05