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Standoff at the not so OK Corral

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Mountain Cowgirl

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Standoff at the not so OK Corral
by MC

I remember summer 1970 when old Joe decided to sell off all his cattle and just keep his 22-year-old horse. Joe had a small hogan that he lived in and his Trading Post was in another hogan by the two-lane highway. He made what little money he needed selling snacks, cold drinks, and ice cream to the tourist. The nearest towns were 30 miles in either direction. One set of my grandparents owned the neighboring ranch. Near his Hogan, he had an old pole corral with a ten-foot pole gate. No fencing to funnel the cattle into the corral, just open the gate and the cows always came in to eat hay. Never a problem in the fall pushing the cattle to these winter grounds where hay awaited.

Joe made the decision to sell off all his cattle and donate his rangeland to the Ute tribe since he was Ute and the Rez bordered his land. Joe was unable to ride so he insisted I ride his horse as it knew the drill. A couple of older ladies from the Rez came to help with their aged horses. They both wore leather split skirts and were so kind and entertaining. They never seemed to get hot or thirsty. It was mid-summer.

It never occurred to me that this wouldn’t be a quick and easy operation. Pushing the cattle down to the lower pasture wasn't the problem. The problem started as the cattle approached the open corral gate. They turned and faced us. Joe and my grandparents stood by the gate chatting like they hadn’t visited for ten years. They visited every day year-round. The two Ute ladies hearing of my recent tragedy were very supportive and had inspiring stories that helped pass the time.

I was staying with my grandparents for a month that summer since they needed help remodeling their house. Being around older folks was a good exercise in patience for me.

After over thirty minutes of facing off with the cows, finally, one old girl goes in to try some hay and get a drink of water from the trough. Over the next thirty minutes, all the others meandered in at their own pace. Still talking like long-lost friends with my grandparents, Joe shuts the gate. None too soon for me suffering a dry canteen and a painful bladder. I now understand why Joe insisted I ride his horse. Any other horse would have become antsy like its young rider.

It was the old mares' last trip working cattle. She died that fall and Joe died shortly after.
 
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