Fox and the Monster Sighting
- February 11, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
My horses were getting leg weary after a hot summer of riding on cattle, so I was riding a horse of my Dad’s to make my circles. This horse’s name was Fox. He was a nice sized horse, nicely put together, moved pretty easy and wasn’t broncy. But, Fox woke up in a new world every single day. I had ridden him through his colt stage in years past,and had him as broke as he’d ever be, but I didn’t enjoy riding him at all. He wasn’t dumb, he just wasn’t “home” most of the time. He would go blind when the grass cured off due to a vitamin A problem, so perhaps he didn’t see too shiney the rest of the time. I really don’t know. But, letting my other horses rest made it worth taking him and using him periodically. He frustrated me steadily, but I would get my job done whether his brain was functioning or not. No one else was clamoring to ride him either, so the competition wasn’t a problem.
On one particular day, I had made a big circle on him checking about 1800 head of yearlings, some mother cows, and all that went with it. I was about done, just needed to check the west fence line and look for any cattle that might have been on that side of the pasture away from water. A ranch road ran through this pasture, parallel to the west fence. I was trotting Fox down the ditch between the road bed and the fence, replacing a few staples as I went along. In the pasture across the fence were a few cows, some sheep and a little bunch of idle horses. The horses spotted Fox and I from about a half mile off and had to investigate. They came at a high lope and one or two of them whinnied at Fox. So, Fox had seen them and knew they were horses I assume. He was
interested in them but I kept him trotting. The horses loped up to the fence and stopped by it, craning their necks across trying to sniff Fox. He was handling that okay as they couldn’t reach him though he was edgy about it.
Suddenly, unbeknownst to him, the last horse arrived in the back of the bunch. Fox hadn’t been able to see it coming because it was a little bitty Shetland pony that didn’t show up from his level. The pony plowed his way through the horses and burst out by the fence, whinnying in it’s high pitched voice. Fox exploded, jumped straight sideways and landed in the far ditch of the road. There he whirled toward the pony, legs spraddled, ready to run for his very life if he deemed it necessary. He was blowing rollers and his eyes were bugged out at that pony. The other horses were standing still, trying to figure out what had surprised this strange horse I suppose. The pony paced down the fence a bit so Fox got an eyeful. That didn’t reassure him. He whirled and tried to leave the country but I wouldn’t let him.
The pony was a pretty wild looking little critter with thick mane going every which way, full of witch knots and a weed. His tail was the same. He was about three feet tall and nearly that wide as he was rather rotund. As noisy as he was, he might have been a stud for all I could tell. Fox wasn’t going in for a closer look, I can promise you that. I needed to keep going, so I finally got Fox to trot in the far ditch, though he was doing it in a crablike manner, never turning away from that pony. The horses and pony stayed apace with us to the corner, which fortunately was less than a half mile away. Fox never did let his full weight down for the rest of our circle and was still snorting at everything when we were done.
Fox had never seen a pony. We didn’t have any and he’d never been anywhere else to see one. But, I think, until his dying day, he would have taken an oath that that scary creature was not a horse at all, No way, now how. It was clearly a monster! I know for a fact that I never rode within a hundred yards of that fence that he wasn’t watching for that monster to appear again. Proof positive that he could remember something!
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....