Sunday, August 30, 2009

We Got Skillz

When you live in rugged country like ours, ranching and farming, you develop a very particular set of skills. Around here, these are the techniques that make life easier. Or at least survivable: 1. The Knee Buckle--the fields around here are littered with rocks and holes. Big holes. Holes six inches around and three feet deep, dug by industrious badgers in pursuit of juicy gophers. In summer, the grass grows up and hides these ankle-breaking booby traps. Which is why your knees develop the instinctive ability to buckle when your brain realizes that you've just stepped in the wrong place, pitching you onto your face but saving your ankle from sure destruction. Skinned up knees and hands are painful, but rarely require casting or reconstructive surgery. 2. The Quick Feet Shuffle--primarily implemented around hooved animals, especially those with evil intentions. It involves keeping your feet in constant motion, thereby making it more difficult for said hooves to smash tender toes. 3. The Grunt-Heave--a cold weather special, the grunt-heave is an integral part of mounting a horse while wearing five layers of insulated clothing and packing that extra ten pounds you put on between Thanksgiving and Easter. Pretty self explanatory: lever leg up and into stirrup, grunt, and heave with all your might to drag yourself into the saddle. 4. Synchronized Door Opening--we get some wind. Okay, a lot of wind. On breezy days, opening both doors of the pickup at the same time is an excellent way to rid the cab of excess clutter. Like the mail. And your paycheck. After a few mad scrambles across the grocery store parking lot culminating in a flying tackle of your bank statement, you learn to take turns getting out of the car. 5. The Reverse Pysch and Snag--a homegrown technique developed in response to a herd of roan Hancock horses too ornery and too wise for our own good. The procedure involves a bucket of grain and a halter cannily concealed inside your coat. Hold out the bucket of grain. Shake it a few times. Stand like a statue while the horse you are attempting to capture sidles up, stops a few feet short, and stretches its nose as far as possible to get a bite. Implement the quick foot shuffle as the two other horses that you have no interest in catching walk right up, shove you aside and bury their heads in the bucket. Wrestle the bucket away from them. Turn your back on the target horse. Maybe throw in a casual whistle. Not interested in catching you. Nope. Not one bit. Wait for the horse to give in, ease up and stick his head in the bucket. Make a premature grab, at which the horse will bolt, spill the grain, and run to other side of the pasture. Retrieve the bucket, go back to the barn for more grain. Repeat all steps above, but force yourself to wait until the perfect moment to make your move. Throw an arm around the horse's neck, yank the halter from under your coat, and slap it on. Pray that one of the other horses don't bite him on the butt just as you're about to fasten the buckle. There are, of course, dozens of other special skills and techniques we've developed over the years. But it's Sunday, and there's fresh huckleberry pie calling my name from the kitchen. I'm sure the rest of you have skills of your own. Feel free to share. Especially if you've got a better way to catch a Hancock.


Rachael said...

*laughs* My mare was really hard to catch. We carried carrot pieces in our pockets and we'd throw a few of them on the ground for random horses that would get pushy if they didn't get anything and then use them to tempt my mare. She hated to be caught, but got easier when we started using the carrots.

I need to learn the Quick Feet Shuffle. Been stepped on a few too many times.

SAC said...

I can count to ten in five different languages. (Um, which does not mean that I know more than that in these languages.) This is completely useless except for entertaining restless three-year-olds, but entertaining a bored toddler is not a skill to be sneezed at.

OK,OK: Arabic (I can speak about as well as a two-year-old;), German (four-year-old); Spanish (all learned from Sesame-Street); French (JUST the counting); and English (you think that doesn't count? Well, obviously you aren't three years old and having your fingers counted).

I've long suspected that certain toddler-wrangling skills could be transferred to horse-wrangling, but I've never had a chance to test out this theory. On the other hand, for obvious reasons, this particular skill would not be particularly transferrable.

Beth said...

Leaving the halter on makes catching that Hancock horse easier. At least there's something to grab. Without a halter already on, though, I think I'd try fastening a lead rope quick-like around his neck before attempting to put the halter on.

Kari Lynn Dell said...


We never leave halters on. Our horses are too prone to sticking their heads where they shouldn't be, and the potential for injury to the horse and the halter is scary if they get hung up.

Kari Lynn

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Haha! These are hilarious! Thanks for taking me for a walk in your world!

Bill Kirton said...

Kari Lynn,

You really can't imagine the pleasure I get reading your blogs - the life you lead is so far removed from mine. I have granddaughters who are crazy about horses and have their own ponies but I sit here in Scotland, feet up on my desk, and the hardest thing I ever have to do is switch on the electric mower to trim the grass. (And I often treat that as a hardship.) I know you're not thinking of your life as romantic, but that's the way it reads to this urbanite.

Kari Lynn Dell said...


Yeah, we're just wallowing in romance around here. :) And in reverse, Scotland seems so mysterious and fascinating to me, I would love to show up on your doorstep one of these days, figuratively speaking. Unless you have a spare room?


Carol said...

Ah yes... the Casper Maneuver is what we call the single door opening on any vehicle. And if anyone needs to ask why... go to Casper, Wyoming and you'll find out fast as your car gets blown off of I-25!!! We could create quite the list along the lines of Patrick McManus... shall we collaborate???

Kari Lynn Dell said...


When my sister was looking for teaching jobs she checked out possibilities in Wyoming. Her husband informed her that he had promised to love her in sickness and in health, but not in Casper.


dylan said...

Dear Ms. Dell,

Pardon this offtopic comment but I thought you'd get a kick out of this and I couldn't locate your contact info.


Kari Lynn Dell said...


I love that video! I ran across it a while back and had to show it to everyone in my family. Those are some people with some time on their hands, I think.

Kari Lynn

Leona said...

This is great. I've visited Montana a few times and wouldn't mind living there. Probably won't happen though as I've moved from Eastern Washington to Central? Texas. I love the pictures you paint with words.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, we had one wily old mare who refused to be caught. If my Dad or some other adult needed her for something, they sent me out to catch her. She knew that even if I did ride her she'd still be able to go wherever she wanted. So I'd venture out, loaded up with a pocket full of treats and a halter, and bring her in for the hand off.