not a reality, but for a young woman who was
|Charley Bryant and me about 1958.|
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.
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!