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Joined: 06/03/2010

               I started “cowboying” at an early age as witnessed by the photo from my youth.
Future Sixgunner
I am the short wrangler at about age 4 or 5. I actually even listened to the Lone Ranger on the radio in the days before we got a TV.
               A few years later found us living in Upper Michigan in a small town. We lived at the far North end of town just inside the town limits and our house had a small barn on the property. My older brother, Larry, acquired a Welch pony and my riding days had begun. I’m not sure what really differentiates a Welch from a Shetland except a wee bit more size. A Welch is about three quarter the size of a smallish full size horse and a little easier to mount for a kid (Sometimes!). This pony, Chocolate, was a bit spunky bordering on the verge of unbroken “bronc” for a kid like me. I had to stand a hay bale to get up on him and that was without a saddle stirrup because we hadn’t gotten a saddle yet.
               Choclate was also a little tough on the bit and liked to try to spit it out while I was riding. Sometimes he simply pushed it a little forward and bit down hard with his teeth so when I pulled on the reins he simply ignored me. This usually meant a quick ride back to the barn and a sudden stop that more often than not resulted in a quick dismount for me! I soon learned how to keep him on track, mostly, and started out looking for bad guys to shoot and good people to save, just like the Lone Ranger, Roy or Hopalong.
               By this time I was carrying a nice Nichols six shooter cap gun and decided it was time to ride Chocolate and go shooting on the range. I never even thought about a pony being “gun shy” because on TV all the cowboys shot from horseback and I figured horses just didn’t mind, big mistake! While caps aren’t excessively loud compared to a real gun they do bark and Chocolate didn’t like those barks one bit. I rode far from the house out into some fields and wood lots a few miles from the city limits and began to ride around the field shooting my cap shooter, pop, pop pop!
               I was suddenly propelled straight up off the back of the wildest bucking horse you ever saw in a rodeo anywhere on earth. I plunged back down (hard on my butt) to his back and was thrown up again only this time sideways too! He tossed me like a sack of oats and I hit the ground with a resounding thud. Chocolate didn’t bother about the reins dragging along as he sped towards home at a full gallop. When I made it home a long bit later he was standing quietly in his stall munching hay and acting oblivious to his human. The bridal was a mess and the reins were quite a bit shorter.
               To add insult to my aching body and sore butt Larry banned me from riding until I had made sufficient amends to he and his horse. The amends ended up being over a month of cleaning Chocolate’s stall, feeding and watering him and donating any funds I had saved to repair the bridal. This kind of curtailed my cowboy adventures for some time to come. I eventually got back on Chocolate and made a believer out of him as to who was the rider and who was the pony.
               I never quite gave up on horses though and my brother and I got a full size horse named Rebel. Rebel was a large horse but so well broke and well mannered that he was a joy to ride, even if I did still need a hay bale to reach the stirrup. Later in life while hunting from horseback in the mountains or when I bought my daughter her first horse I was never tempted to shoot off horseback. Some lessons are never forgotten.