Taking Care of Yeller
- March 14, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
One fall and winter I was processing cattle at a feedlot until spring when my summer cattle would arrive. The processing crew and cowboy crew all ate together in the cowboy shack, a room built in the corner of the horse barn, therefore I saw the goings on there. One guy who was riding pens never quit griping about a company horse that he used. It seems that this horse was pretty touchy on the ground, bad to kick, would bite, and tried to buck him off for the first half day every day he rode him. He referred to horses as slaves and that never set well with me at any time. The horse was a palomino gelding, not bad looking, and solid made. He hated his job, obviously, and made that abundantly clear. His name was Yeller of course. The pens were belly deep on the cattle and the horse pen was nearly as bad as the spring thaw was on in full force. There was no good, dry place for a horse to lay down, so Yeller and the other horses in the outside pen were a mess.
I was at the cowboy shack early one morning when the crew was saddling up. Yeller cow kicked at the guy as he was brushing him off. As I watched, he curried off the horse’s back but didn’t do his sides and belly at all. The long winter hair was absolutely caked with feedlot crud and mud. He cinched him up with all that under the cinch and latigo and led him out to the alley. Yeller had a hump in his back and was mad at the whole world. I could sure see why. The other pen riders cleaned their horses up after a day of work, so they didn’t have that problem.
That late afternoon I was again at the shack when they unsaddled. I was closer this time and saw that once the crud was sweated loose, Yeller had cinch sores behind his elbows and under the cinch rings that were raw. I was horrified. I said something to the guy and he laughed it off and said that he wasn’t his horse and he didn’t care. Needless to say, any liking, which was little enough, I had for this guy was gone.
They were putting hay in the bale feeders for the horses, so the cowboy crew was waiting to turn out so they wouldn’t duck out the gate. Yeller’s rider was complaining about needing to get home so I volunteered to turn Yeller out when the time came. He left in a hurry as he was going to be gone for a week or so and wanted to get on the road. I hung a feeder on the fence and put a little grain in it for Yeller and started trying to clean him up. He was sure owly about it, which was understandable. I just kept working, rubbing his neck and currying. I got a bucket of warm water out of the shack and a soft brush and spent most of an hour cleaning the girth area on Yeller. He must have liked that warm water as he quit swatting at me with his hind foot. Being as gentle as I could, I worked the wads out of his hair and by the time I was done, it was all clean and smooth, except for the hideous cinch sores. Using a set of electric clippers, I clipped Yeller’s belly and girth to about a half inch long so nothing could hang up in it again. He was goosey about it, but by this time, I think he was actually enjoying the attention. When I had him all clipped up I put salve on the cinch sores. He sucked his belly up a little but didn’t kick.
Knowing the guy was going to be gone, I decided to make use of one of the big stalls in the barn. I put some shavings down, filled the manger with hay and a tub with water and tucked Yeller in for the night. I doctored him twice a day, cleaned his stall and pampered him the whole time the guy was gone. Yeller was actually a nice horse when he got over being hurt and mad. He didn’t kick, let me doctor him without any problems, and after a week of that treatment, was well on the way to being healed up. I even
washed the guy’s cinch out as I knew he wouldn’t ever do it.
By the time the guy came back, Yeller was back out in the horse pen where they’d cleaned and put down some bedding. I never got any thanks from the man, which didn’t even surprise me, but was thanked by Yeller in his own way. Ever after, he would reach out to me for a pet when I was close. That was sufficient. Thankfully, that guy soon quit and went away which made all our lives better, but especially Yeller’s.
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....