_Big Pal Passes On Secnds

Serves: 5



Anyone who spends much time dealing with horses and mules encounters a critter or two who fits this definition to a 'T'! Though, as all of us can testify, stubbornness is not a trait peculiar to just four-legged critters. I've crossed trails with numerous folks who fit the definition as well, a couple of them former supervisors. But, those are different stories and I'm getting ahead of myself.

After college graduation I spent the summer of 1974 working on a dude ranch about forty miles north of Challis, Idaho. Our cook that summer was Karen, a fellow wildlife student, who graduated a couple of years behind me. (Karen went on, like I did, to become a game warden, but in another western state.) If you've read my first cookbook I mention her, though not by name in the story, "Don't Criticize the Cook"! Anyway...back to the summer of 1974 and when Karen broke Big Pal of being stubborn!

Big Pal came by his name because he was the larger of two palomino geldings we had in our string of twenty-eight horses and mules. Of uncertain ancestry and age, Big Pal was your typical 'dude horse'! When under saddle you could put anyone, regardless of experience, aboard him and barring an Act of God the dude would still be aboard when you arrived at the day's destination. Without again consulting the dictionary it should be noted that an obvious wide gulf separates 'typical' from 'perfect' whether discussing horses or anything else for that matter. Equine bad habits include, but are not limited to: balking, biting, bucking, etc., on through the alphabet. However, in the overall scheme of things Big Pal's imperfections did not really set him apart from any other critter in the string. For instance, Slim liked to buck the first thing of a morning Joe, the mule exemplified stubborn when I tried to catch him or load him in the stock truck Wally couldn't find the trail even if you wrote his name on it unless you picketed Shorty the mule along side our old bell mare, Annie, she would paw the ground and bray all night and, the list goes on...! Big Pal's date with destiny and Karen one hot August afternoon was a direct result of his behavior that fit the above definition of, "3: Done or continued in a willful, unreasonable, or persistent manner."

Each morning after breakfast, if we didn't have guests, I would wrangle the stock from the big pasture and run them into the corral. This accomplished a couple of things. One, it kept them from eating all day and thus saved some grass and, secondly they were handy if I needed to shoe, trim or doctor one. Without guests, Karen had to cook only for the two of us, which gave her a fair amount of free time. One of her favorite afternoon pastimes was to fill an old chrome steel milk bucket with oats from the tack barn and wander through the corral in an attempt to foster "relationships" with the stock. Some, such as Big Pal, fell into the "grain hog" category while others equated a human being as a prelude to work and thus avoided Karen like the plague. The grain hogs would gather round Karen for their treats after which Karen would attempt to make friends with some of the more reluctant individuals. In order to approach the more skittish critters she would "shoo" the more persistent grain hogs out of her way. As "destiny" approached I was bent over shoeing a horse tied at the hitch rack, but aware of Karen in the corral cajoling some of the more shy members to try a handful of oats with no strings attached. Then, as the old saying goes, things seemed to happen all at once! Later, upon further investigation I established a chronology of events that occurred so quickly they appeared to be simultaneous.

The horse I was working on jerked back, pulling her foot free at the same time I heard Karen shriek, and at the same instant I heard a loud thud with a metallic tone. When I straightened up and looked towards the corral I could barely see Karen for the dust, and at first didn't see Big Pal laying at her feet. It didn't make sense! Karen was red in the face and Big Pal appeared to be dead! I ran to the corral and asked Karen, "What the hell happened?" Her incoherent rage made no sense to me, so I turned my attention to Big Pal. As I vaulted the fence and headed across the corral toward him, he lunged to his feet and shook himself. Ten seconds before he appeared to be as dead as a horse can get, and then just as suddenly he regained his senses. To say I was perplexed is putting it mildly. I still didn't have a clue as to what had happened! Slowly Karen regained control and her anger faded to righteous indignation as she told me the story.

Picture this if you will. A young lady in a pair of blue jeans right out of a western wear advertisement meandering through a corral with twenty-eight head of horses and mules…carrying in her right hand a chrome steel milk bucket full of oats. Several head, including a big palomino, are first in line for their treats. Karen initially gave these first comers a handful of oats each before turning to walk to the other side of the corral to treat the more shy members of the string. Big Pal, being the most "persistent" of those who had already received a treat, began following Karen through the corral in hopes of seconds. As she would approach another horse or mule, Big Pal would walk up behind her and try to stick his head inside her arm to get at the oat bucket. Karen repeatedly gave him a gentle elbow in the nose to rebuff him. As this little duet continued to play out, both parties began to lose patience with one another. Karen's temper flared at this point and she gave Big Pal a not so gentle elbow to the nose and started to walk away. When Big Pal stretched his neck out and bit her on the butt, the next sequence of events occurred in the blink of an eye.

Out of instinct, pain, and ire, Karen instantly began a roundhouse swing with the chrome steel oat bucket in her right hand. As she whirled through a 180-degree arc, the chrome steel bucket full of oats came in contact with the side of Big Pal's head. No boxer I've ever watched delivered a more effective knockout punch. She cold-cocked Big Pal and he was down for a ten count. I very nearly became her second victim when I started laughing after she finished telling me the story! I'm happy to report both parties came through this ordeal without any permanent damage though no amount of pounding could restore the old milk bucket to its original condition. However, Big Pal did learn to take one handful of oats and never ask for seconds!

This _Big Pal Passes On Secnds recipe is from the Cee Dub's Ethnic & Regional Dutch Oven Cookin' Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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