(I found this story in Country magazine Aug./ Sep. 2007)
About an hour into the drive, though, I had some serious doubts. Moving the little herd through some of the roughest hill country I’d ever seen, Tutti shuffled along in short, steady, baby steps and refused to be hurried.
She struck me as perhaps the laziest horse in all Montana – and proud of it.
Then we spotted a dozen cows and calves wandering up the hill into the scrub brush. Jeppie, our trail boss, wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of losing them, and had started yelling and swinging a coil of rope.
“You’ve got the cow horse,” she growled. “Get up there and bring ‘em back out!”
Beneath us, boulders and knee-deep gopher holes whisked by in a blur. Something snagged my coat and twisted me in the saddle. I grabbed for leather, choked out a panicky laugh and somehow managed to stay on.
Meanwhile, Tutti was doing exactly what God made her for. Cornering the cows with long, ground-eating strides, she quickly had every stray rounded up and headed back downhill.
As we rejoined the herd, I was gulping air by the bucketful. Tutti wasn’t even breathing hard. With her world back in order, the little mare resumed the laid-back in order, the little mare resumed the laid-back shuffle I’d mistaken for laziness.
I completely misjudged the best cow pony I ever had the privilege of riding, and learned a valuable lesson about reaching a verdict before all the evidence was in.
In fact, if I could live my life over, I think I’d spend it chasing strays in the Big Hole with Tutti. I’d relax in my stirrups, aim her toward the cows and let her do her thing.
For those few precious moments, I’d be 100% alive, and truly happy.
(Of course this isn't him!)