Shotguns and Stallions – June 06
I really never thought it would come to this.
It all began back in the distant snowbound days of March when one of our closest neighbours – wearing what look like a goat-skin – turned up on our doorstep.
“Dick shot my horse,” he declared by way of introduction.
After some plodding around the subject it turned out that the former owner of Grizzly Bear Ranch, a rough and rogueish character by the name of Richard, had blown away our visitor’s prize stallion.
The stud’s crime – and in these mostly redneck parts it’s still seen that way – was to break through the paddock fencing, chase Richard’s rather fetching young mares around and then try and roger one of them.
Of course I wasn’t here at the time, but I fancy it was round the back, near the naÃ¯ve etching of a cowboy sitting on his faithful mount and little hut marked “Livery”.
Anyway, Richard put a swift end to the loved-up stallion’s intentions with his high-powered rifle.
According to one neighbour he then dragged the horse into the forest, poured diesel over it and set it on fire. “It didn’t burn too well,” he said.
Another version has it that the horse was buried under another neighbour’s chicken shed.
When I first heard this story, I thought to myself: “What a cowboy! I would never do a thing like that.”
Fast-forward three months. A beautiful early summer evening. In one hand I’m struggling to wrap a towel around me as I leap Tarzan-like from my evening shower.
With the other I’m already reaching for our twelve-bore, armed not with puny bird pellets but huge great grizzly-stopping slugs. (I fired it once in the spring and it kicks like a mustang.)
Half-naked and hollering with rage I charge from the house to where Kristin has been holding the fort, trying to scare off an equine intruder with a lowly garden rake.
Before I could make the life-or-death decision – and with a flash of brilliant white and a nonchalant toss of his head – the stallion was gone.
The horse was none other than the son of the luckless lady-killer. His visit was the second in two days. The first had come at five o’clock the previous morning.
For a half hour or so we had heard our two geldings whinnying but assumed it was just a continuation of a fight between them for supremacy that had begun the previous evening.
Henry, our grey and a cantankerous old quarter horse had been trying to bully Cola, the elegant and better-bred newcomer, but had met determined resistance.
After getting to bed at 2am (an English friend had managed to get lost on the way to the ranch and I’d been out on a midnight sortie to try and find him) I wasn’t in a fine mood as the first light of dawn slipped over the Rocky mountains.
The invading stallion had broken through the paddock, torn up tracts of our garden and bitten Henry badly on the neck. Cola had suffered a nasty scratch in the melee.
Henry and Cola were still quivering with fear. I suspect it was the thought of being ignomiously, and perhaps mistakenly, ravaged by the valley’s alpha-male that put the fear of God in them.
Determined to go through the formalities, I searched for O’Shea, the owner of the itinerant stallion and three other sorry-looking white horses that survive on subsistence grazing.
But he had apparently moved out of the old truck box he had been living in with his new family. So, anxious to play the responsible citizen, I paid a visit to the local branch of the RCMP an hour to the south.
The mountie on duty was from the city and filling in for the day. He seemed bemused by rural tales of rampaging stallions and equine executions and doubtfully suggested I launch a civil lawsuit.
“And by the way,” he said as I turned to leave. “If you don’t have your seatbelt on next time you drive up to a police station, you’ll get a ticket.” Not exactly my idea of always getting your man.
So I’m afraid it’s going to have be the law of the gun. The code of the settlers. No stallion is going to mess with my horses or chase my woman around our yard.
Barely a season into our new existence, it seems, I’m already becoming a redneck. “Donâ€™t shoot the horse,” a wise neighbour told me recently. “I shot a dog once years ago and I still feel bad about it.”
But then – he’s probably a better man than I.