This story originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Texas Coop Power Magazine.
In 1998, I moved from north to south Texas, which was somewhat like moving out of the country. I didn’t know many people, and I tried to avoid most of the ones I knew. When I wasn’t at work or busy with chores, I was spending time with Wrangler.
I bought the little gelding from Paul Granberg when the pony was three. He had been given to Paul as a colt. Martin Carrillo and Paul broke him to ride as a two-year-old. Day after day, Wrangler and I traveled the right-of-way along the irrigation canals.
Medina County had black, flood-irrigated farmland. Small canals that ran across the back of each field were fed from the main canal, which went for miles to the Medina Lake north of Castroville. The canal right-of-ways made an open path to roam and explore.
Wrangler and I passed through miles of corn, grain sorghum, and warm-season vegetables in the summer. During the winter, there were cabbage, carrots, and wheat. Along the canals, there was always something new to see. Wrangler had a long, smooth running walk, so we could cover a lot of ground.
When I was at work, I kept Wrangler turned out with the Barbados. He liked to pin his ears and try to herd them. Sometimes, the lambs followed Wrangler when they couldn’t find their mother. Mr. Salinas, my landlord, didn’t mind the horse being with his sheep—he made a fine guard dog.
Being the young horse that he was, Wrangler had a mischievous side. When we left his pasture to start out on a ride, I dropped the reins while I opened the gate. The horse followed me with his nose right at my shoulder. Where I turned, he turned. Once through, Wrangler stood facing me until I latched the gate, took the reins, and swung onto his back. I thought that I was a regular horse whisperer.
One day, we went through our normal gate routine. The horse stood facing me with a sleepy and innocent look as I turned to latch the gate. This time, though, as soon as I took my eyes off him, he bolted out of the yard and down the road—saddle, reins, and all. When he had a half mile or so between us he stopped, turned, and waited proudly until I got to him, as if he was showing me that he could get away when he wanted to.
Another time, it had been a long day at work when I drove down the lane to home. Wrangler wasn’t in his normal place. I looked in the back pasture and then in the barn, but no horse. The fences were up, and the gates were closed. He must have been stolen, I thought.
The Medina County Deputy asked me to describe my horse.
“He’s a little sorrel gelding with a freeze brand of a rising sun on his left hip.”
“Your horse is here in Hondo,” said the Deputy. “You can pick him up at the stockyards along with his citation.”
Trailer in tow, I made the 30-mile trip to the stockyards where my horse was in custody. It seems that he had jumped the fence, travelled a mile down the road, and run my neighbor’s yearlings through the hot wire fence that was holding them in.
When the Medina County Sheriff’s office found him, he was herding the calves down the highway toward LaCoste. The Deputy wasn’t pleased with either of us.
I accepted my scolding and headed for home with a ticket and a trouble-making horse. I’m not the type to appeal a ticket, but this one said that my offense was “Allowing livestock to roam on (the) highway.” There wasn’t any doubt that the horse was on the highway—I wasn’t contesting that, but he certainly wasn’t allowed to be there.
My court date arrived. I appeared in Hondo before the proper authorities and pled my case as they listened patiently. It was my luck that the District Attorney had horses of his own. He said he knew that when “a horse had a mind to go somewhere, he would go.” Wrangler got off with 90 days probation, but the fee would be doubled if he should be found roaming the highway again during that time. I assured him that the horse would stay put.
The days of testing passed, and my little friend kept out of trouble.
After that, the only time that he ran off was when I decided that he didn’t need a bridle and tried to ride him with just a halter and lead rope, or when someone else rode him and ignored my warning to keep him at a walk.