Are My Horses Smarter Than Your Congressmen?

April 22, 2011

by Linda Brady Traynham

Yes, and they’re better-looking and behaved, too.

This probably has all the usefulness of proving a geometric theorem, some of us having enough sense to accept that it wouldn’t be a theorem if we couldn’t prove it, but yesterday my neighbor from Transylvania (nice, means well, doesn’t understand Texas customs) came driving across my pastures (No!) after driving across one of my dams (double no), and came through the gate of my second favorite vista. I’ll give him credit for closing the gate behind himself, but he let two horses out of the pasture in the process, a triple no–and apparently didn’t even notice! At least, I give him enough credit to suppose that if he had he would have come up to the house, apologized, and asked for help catching them and putting them back where they were. This is my first point: just because a man is a renowned PhD in Aerospace Engineering doesn’t necessarily mean he has enough sense to notice the consequences of his actions.

Buck (who is a bay gelding) tossed his head at Irish Brook, who is still in training but is as “cow-y” as the come, telling her, “Get your good-lookin’ hide over here, we’ve got work to do.” The pair of them bunched a dozen new registered Black Angus heifers I am odiously proud of. Somehow Buck communicated to Irish, “Come over this way a little.” When the horses backed off, sure enough, a couple of the heifers started to wander. No explanation needed; Irish pushed them back to the small herd and backed off again. The “little” girls…I dunno, 800 pounds each, mebbe?…stayed where the horses said to.

“Okay,” sez Buck, “Now that we’ve taught them what we want and who’s in charge, let’s move ’em over to the north-north-west about 300 yards…yeah, this’ll do fine…and go guard the gate,” and they did. He didn’t have to explain to Irish, who is also a registered QH, who grasped intuitively that the purpose was to keep the heifers from making a break for freedom when humans finally brought Skyler and Glen Livet back. Because they’re at least 18 months too young to be bred, they have teenaged hormones, and the stallion who renovated the barn recently to get to Belle when she smelled good would be glad to oblige. The teeny-boppers are still growing and premature pregnancy would stunt their growth for all time and they might die trying to give birth. Buck planned ahead to keep matters from worsening.

I ask you: do your congressmen have that much sense? Can they see the consequences of the behavior of others and take appropriate action immediately? (That being as stupid a question as exists.) That bunch of clowns thinks we’re impressed by what purports to be a 38 bn “reduction in spending” that is less than a tenth that much and far too little to get the job done. And is spread over a lot of years when different Congresses will control fiscal policy. Show us a cut that starts NOW and means something. Sorry, Mr. Boehner, what you did is nowhere near enough, nor is it what we expect of you.

Irish Brook is going to be a whale of a cow horse! And oh, the four of them are beautiful, lined up in a row, and probably getting ready to have a race just for the fun of it. Recently Irish got a lesson in working cattle, and in the process of…

it seems to be some sort of relay, since the horses are starting at different times headed for the same destination…

demonstrating her superb instincts to cut to the right after a breakaway cow. What we call “turnin’ on a dime and givin’ yuh back nine cents change.” She stopped very suddenly, looking around confused. “Where’d my rider go?!” Yup, she moved so fast and so suddenly that she came right out from under an excellent rider with over twenty years’ experience! He had dropped his reins deliberately to encourage her to use her instincts, ready to knee rein (use knee pressure on the off side from where he wanted her to go) if she needed a hint. She didn’t. He did. He’s still laughing about it, because she was doing her job perfectly, and he wasn’t. Laughter…that’s the one he came off of and broke his arm in the process when he learned you don’t carry a cell ‘phone that emits loud rock music suddenly when riding a “green broke” horse even if “there isn’t an ounce of vice in her.” He doesn’t carry a cell when riding, now, and a radio plays constantly down at the barn where the other four have access.

I ask again: does your contingent to Congress have any good instincts, any grasp of its job, or even the ability to notice when an otherwise good idea turns out wrong? Almost certainly not. If Bernanke were a horse he wouldn’t be allowed in my remuda. Pelosi and Maxine Waters would have been sold for dog food while it was still legal. No, they wouldn’t. I wouldn’t have allowed them on the place, and neither would Daddy.

Nobody objects to a little vanity in a good horse, mind, and they are definitely well paid in hay, grain, and a Cadillac insurance plan; they’d run Cass Sunstein off in a heartbeat. However, they show initiative, settle their two differences quietly (who is Boss and who gets at least first treats, preferably all), and have the best interests of the ranch very much at heart. Bonnie Blue got in a snit once because Buck was being ridden and she wasn’t, and went and rounded up all the cows and brought them up to the house. With a toss of her elegant, thoroughbred head, she said, “I’m not just another pretty face, you know, and I’M at least as good a cow horse as HE is.”

Belle–another thoroughbred–is partial to demonstrating that she can blow the doors off anything else on the place because SHE is a former race horse. (Shhh! She’s in her early prime and the others don’t know she never came in better than third and was trained to work cattle because nobody–I guess–wants a former race horse that can’t do anything else. Chuckle…one of the younger thoroughbreds is also race lines, and give Skyler another year and she’s going to leave a very annoyed Belle in her dust.) Buck is the only hoss on the place who isn’t purebred, a deliberate Morgan-QH cross, because those turn out big, smart (even for horses), handsome fellows who make magnificent cow horses. We have a slight problem (involving three fences to separate them!) because Buck doesn’t believe he’s an “it” and it was pure hatred from the moment Poco Bar Knight stalked out of the trailer, whipped his gorgeous head around, and exclaimed, “Wow! Girls! Lots of girls!” and the six girls all giggled, “Oooh, Frankie!”

On another occasion I had a couple of new purchases dropped off in front of the house. The former owner looked at me oddly, and asked, “Are you sure, Ma’am? Won’t be no trouble tuh taken ’em over tuh where thuh rest o’ yur herd is; saw ’em when I come in, over in thuh SE corner.”

“No, thank you, right here will be fine.” (Cows are smarter than they look, too.) A couple of minutes later here comes Bonnie Blue, all but rolling her eyes in disgust. She bunches the new girls and wends a complex way around buildings, fences, and gates, and pushes them over to join the herd. Back she comes, and says, “THAT is where cows belong. Do I have to do everything around here myself?!” Buck, meantime, had been running frantically back and forth along the fence of the Horse Pasture sputtering, “Stop! Why does she get to do that? I can do it! It’s my job!” Definitely, horses have the egos for Capitol Hill. In general they can’t be bought, either, although they take handouts happily. They can’t read, but if they could they wouldn’t pass any bills they hadn’t gone over thoroughly. The old owner looked at us in near awe, from which I conclude he had cows but no horses.

We had very bad news from the Vet, yesterday: our Head Cow, Maggie Thatcher–she earned it–is no longer able to conceive, but, dang it, she is STILL the Head Cow, very good at her job, and dam of the next Herd Sire, and the first person to suggest she should be sold to MacDonald’s may get wrapped in a cow skin and run through the auction barn. She still has an important job she does well, although it breaks our heart we didn’t get a Little Maggie out of her. She “should” have been good for several more calves, but these things happen. The one who may lose his job is Brutus, who appears to have decided that a piece of cow every other month is fine, while we prefer all of them to calve within a month or so of each other. Still, he throws gorgeous calves when he gets around to it: very high birth weight, inky black, marvelous conformation…Don’t even ask what he does in the even months because I have no idea. I don’t know. I just know that all the pregnancies except one are at 3, 5, 7, and 9 months. I was astounded his favorite isn’t with calf.

Oh, Lawdy! Imagine a Congressman sticking his hand way up inside a cow (arm’s length, basically) and feeling around for the head before announcing how far along the Education Department is and the condition of the Agriculture Department! And “palpating” for six bucks a head plus a trip fee. I haven’t forgotten the in excess of two mil/mo it took to shuffle Madame Pelosi back to her home in California every week to recover from the rigors of working three days.

I think I’m on to something: let’s go recruit Vets as candidates. Obviously, they don’t mind dirty jobs, they do them right, and they only charge all the traffic will bear. Either sort of vet will probably do fine.

My brother and I had a small disagreement recently (over whether or not to sell a joint asset; no, we’ll just divide it, and see which one of us laughs in the long run) and he sniped that running a small ranch is a “status symbol.” Wa’al…yeah, a little bit, sorta, but we do it for sheer joy and to keep our honor bright, since there are days when I think wistfully of feeding assorted hands and neighbors to th’ wild hawgs. We see it all, the good, the bad, the frustrating, and what can only be called “the endearing.” Yesterday a little Banty hen brought her new clutch of chicks out proudly to show them off and for “Chicken 101: How To Scratch For Bugs.” The tiny balls of fluff scratched industriously. It cracks me up that a hen-raised chick is always better than one that came out of an incubator; everybody needs a mother. Jelly Bean (her breeder likes candy names) got her new twins in the yard and grazed “casually” past my window because I hadn’t taken time to go out to the goat house yesterday to give the new borns their just due, shame on me–and I have to find time to tell Thunder “GOOD job!” (Done.) He stamped his superior genetics all over that pair, as always, as well he might. Pound for pound, he’s the most expensive male animal on the place. Daisy Mae, a red Nubian, is sporting twins who (except for flop ears instead of airplane ears) look just like their papa.

Sure, I’d like to be the modern equivalent of Captain King or the Duke of Duval (County) but it isn’t going to happen any time soon. It isn’t going to happen at all unless we get to TEOTWAWKI, in which case there will be a lot of ownerless land and stock.

Ah…remember a while back when I said I’d tell you when I thought it was (insider pun coming up) time to get in batteries? I’m racked and on safe (decocked, of course), and no, I can’t tell you any particular tipping point. Everything else is loaded but without a round up the spout. I’m talking about the 9 mil that resides on my desk, just above my mouse pad, until I go to bed, and then accompanies me. Now that I’ve thought about it, wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of long guns I keep in handy places ready to use. Supposing you don’t have very small children (too young to teach gun etiquette) in residence or visiting it can’t hurt. If I really get the wind up, I’ll tell you when I take the safety off. I’ve never liked safeties; I much prefer being ready to jack a cot’ridge into the chamber, but I’m not as strong as I used to be. Whoop of laughter…imagine needing to take out an “Allahu Akhbar” type and not knowing Arabic for, “Hold on a minute, I’m not ready, but surely Allah will like it better if you actually take a little risk here?” Rumbling sputters of mirth: as nearly as I can tell from their behavior, Allah doesn’t believe in giving the sucker a fair break. Or even care much if the Jihadist succeeds so long as he destroys himself messily.

If you really want to know the macroeconomic reasons I think so, go read my daily article at — and why aren’t you doing so already, dear friends and readers? Chuckle…I believe in loading the dice in this instance, and how many comments we get is definitely one way we keep score. I keep up very carefully, and there is far too much emotion in the market, and my guess is that far more “good people” than is safe have picked up at best a few months’ food and a little silver. They aren’t paying attention to what Obama is saying, and even given that the man is an inveterate liar, I’m troubled by a very “Imperial” presidency, indeed.

I had a dream last night–and no, I don’t believe in dreams or horoscopes, tea leaves, or the I-Ching. It was one of “those” dreams, when you awaken and don’t dare move until you sort out where you are and whether or not it is true. I was younger, John was there, no Charles. There was a very large barracks built next to my house and I could see blank-eyed men in black sitting around tables, not talking or playing games, just…waiting. A knock on the door, loud, demanding, impatient. John went to deal with HS, and came back and said, bleakly, “This time I fobbed him off with a holster, but they’re coming for the guns. Soon.” He fell asleep on a sofa, and I could “feel” at least an expanded squad, probably a light company outside…and I froze. I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t blurt out anything to wake John up, not so much as a syllable. I do not “believe” in dreams. I do not. This one was so vivid, so real, so terrifying, though, that I pried my eyes open eventually, sat up, discovered I could speak, and read from three a.m. until dawn, lest I fall back into that nightmare. In a very different way, I “believe” in nightmares. Not the ones that haunt my sleep, but the ones that I read about on Townhall, White House press releases, NIA, and financial newsletters.

Linda Brady Traynham runs a ranch in Texas and writes for The Texas Ring.