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Mary Lou and the Thistle

It was time to move the cow herd to another pasture. They’d eaten the grass to a point where it needed a rest to recover. I saddled Mary Lou and off we went.

There’s times when a herd of cows is so malleable, you can do anything with them, there are other times when the exact opposite is true. This turned out to be one of those “exact opposite” days. I needed the cattle to go uphill to the next field. All they wanted to do is head downhill.

There were 50 cows and 50 half grown calves, and only one Mary Lou. The cattl e broke into a run to get away from us. I let Mary Lou have her head to run along side and turn them.

We were running along a hill, dead out when we came upon a bull thistle sporting a huge, sweet, purple flower-absolute candy to Mary Lou.

At a dead run, Mary Lou snaked her head out to the down hill side, to grab the thistle top as we raced by. She’d totally forgotten the cattle and the reason we were out there in the first place.

When she reached for the thistle, she put a front foot on a rein and did a mid air flip. There’s nothing like that feeling, when your horse disappears from under you and you’re left plowing up the ground, wondering where she’s going to land and how bad it’s going to hurt when you come out of this horse wreck.

When the grass settled, I was laying with my head downhill, my feet uphill and Mary Lou was on top of one of my left leg. Her hooves all pointed uphill, and she was trying desperately to roll over on top of me as she didn’t want to make the effort to roll uphill.

My saddle saved my life. I was riding an old Hamley saddle that at one time had belonged to my grandpa. The horn was one of those old high horns and the saddle rolls were the same. Old and high. When Mary Lou tried to roll over down hill, the saddle kept her from coming over. I could get my free leg to the horn and was pushing as hard as I could to force her to try to get up on the high side, knowing if she came on over, I was going to die.

I wasn’t talking to her very nice and she finally developed a great enough fear of me, to heave herself up on the high side. When she got to her four feet, she staggered down the hill over the top of me. You can say you don’t believe in miracles, but I felt her hoof on my chest, directly on my breastbone, yet I didn’t die, I didn’t have a mark on me. To this day, I’ll tell you, that was one of the biggest miracles of my life.

I was shaking when I got back on Mary Lou, who seemed to have sobered up after her thistle episode. We gathered up the cattle and pushed them into the new field.

It seemed it was harder dealing with what had happened after the fact, than it was while it was all happening. It took me a while to settle down and believe I was OK.

Most horses will use common sense and you can trust them with your life. Mary Lou was one of those horses who lived in the exact moment-see the thistle, grab it-to heck with the consequences!

I rode her for several years before I finally learned it was a lot safer to ride a good horse.
Donna Ridgway

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A story about ranch life.

Tags

horse, life, story, ranch

Enjoying what Montana has to offer, greatly influences my work. Rodeos, horses, mountains, all of this plays a part in what I create. I lived here in Montana, taking care of cattle and horses on the ranch until I retired a few years ago.

I now spend my time recreating in Montana, and creating photos and paintings from what I see here in this state.

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Comments

  • David A. Everitt (aka silverstrummer)
    David A. Everi...about 5 years ago

    Wow such a story to tell your grandchildren, this was written brillaintly and you pulled the reader into it. You were such a lucky lady and definately had an angel on your shoulder! How things could have been if that saddle wasn’t on. Definately not the day for you to go “flying”.
    Thank you I really enjoyed reading this. – David

  • Donna Ridgway
    Donna Ridgwayabout 5 years ago

    Thanks David!

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