Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday's Memoir: A Cowboy Girl's Big Mentor

Even in the late 1950s, the Old West was a memory,
not a reality, but for a young woman who was
Charley Bryant and me about 1958.
determined to immerse herself in the western life, there were still mentors who had lived the real deal. One of my most significant among these was an old gentleman who had never learned to drive and still rode a horse or a mule wherever he went.  He was really not a cowboy but a horse trainer by trade, among the best as far as training the traditional cow pony and the range raised horses who had not been 'socialized' since the first day they stood on wobbly stilt legs!

When I first came to know him, Charley Bryant was probably in his mid sixties. He was a big man, about 6'2" and at  least 200#. I doubt that he had ever been handsome but he had a face full of character and that inner strength was revealed in everything he did. He was not a person of many words and often gave rather oblique or minimal advice, even if you asked him a direct question. He also had a repertoire of  "malapropisms" that probably came from mishearing words and not being very literate. A favorite of mine was when he described a dubious character as "traveling under a consumed name." While I realize the correct word is assumed,  his version worked very well! If you took an alias, in time you used it up!!

One of his claims to fame was the ability to teach almost every animal he trained how to do a gait commonly called a "running walk." While it resembles the natural gait of Tennessee Walkers and some American Standardbreds, it lacks the high knee action and tendency to lower the rear end that such horses exhibit in shows. It is midway between a walk and a trot but once a steed masters the gait, it is both faster than a walk and much easier to ride than a trot.  As such it is a sought-after gait for a cowpony or a horse/mule for trail riding.When asked how he did this, Charley usually said, "You do it with the bit and the spur."

As I rode many miles with him and observed, I discovered that was indeed true although a very simplified version. By a deft combination of gently urging the animal on with a tap of the spur, you then checked it, with a light tug on the reins, from going into a trot. Some picked it up very fast while others required lengthy patient repetitions but somehow, I never saw a steed that Charley failed to teach this gait. And if future riders enforced it with an occasional bit and spur reminder, the animal kept the skill for a long time.

The photo at left is crossing the Verde River. Charley is on Stormy, a fine cowpony he owned for some time that I was occasionally privileged to ride. He was leading a mule being gentled prior to riding and I was on my little Indian pony Tonalea that Charley and my Dad had bought up on the Navajo reservation. Charley helped me a lot in training my fine mare Tina, my all time favorite horse that I got as a yearling and raised and trained with help from Charley and my dad. Charley said she was one of the finest he'd ever seen, and that was high praise indeed! He definitely knew horses.

That was just one example of Mr Bryant's expertise. He had a huge bag of tricks, compiled over half a century and more as he followed this trade. He occasionally would share stories of the old west as he had lived it, before and after the turn of the last century. One concerned crawling out of a hall where a dance was being held--I think a school house--where outlaws had shot the lights out and the bullets had left the floor slippery with blood! Now that sounds like something out of a dime dreadful by the likes of Ned Buntline, but knowing Charley, who read and wrote very minimally, I doubt that it was.

His wife, who was his second spouse, was kin to a family who lived near us. The youngest girl of that family was and still is a dear friend of mine.  Elvie Bryant drove and they always had an old car of some kind that she drove to get them to town for supplies or feed and such. I never saw her in anything but an old cotton house dress, usually with an apron. She was a good cook in a simple ranch and farm way and usually had a few chickens and maybe rabbits, a goat or even a calf being fed up. Although not a cowboy girl herself, she  had all the skills of a frontier country woman. She was a very admirable person in her own quiet way.

Charley himself often wore not Levis but bib overalls, long johns at all seasons and  lace up "packer boots," instead of typical cowboy boots. They had enough heel to be safe in a stirrup but perhaps were easier on and off or otherwise more practical to him. He could rope ad brand and do all the regular cowboy tasks and did take care of the small cattle herds of several residents in the Verde Valley who had a "day job" that kept them from this daily work.

I count myself blessed to have been able to tag along with this wonderful old fellow for the better part of ten years. He slowly grew a bit more stiff and somewhat more cautious about getting on a rank horse or mule but he was still riding and working when I had to leave that life and move into a new phase of mine. An aspiring cowboy girl could not have asked for a better teacher!

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