GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Things that come up in the daily operation of a ranch.
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GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Post by Soapweed » Sat Nov 23, 2019 8:44 am

By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Back in the year 2001, we had our brandings on the last two Saturdays of April like usual. No one else seemed to brand in April in those days, preferring to wait until May, so this plan worked out well for many years. On April 28th when we did our second branding, we were short of help and the day turned out hot and ferociously windy. We had planned to do three bunches that day, and had 420 calves processed by 11:30. The wind was so nasty, and the crew so small, that we elected to hold off on the remaining 230 head and do them some other day.

An opportunity really didn’t come along until the afternoon of May 17th to brand the remaining bunch of calves. We gathered the cattle, sorted off the cows, and were ready to start branding at 3:00 p.m. All went well, and we mounted our horses to ride back to the house for supper. My wife Carol is a great cowgirl and cook. Even though she worked as hard, or harder, than anyone else in the branding corral, she had tacos ready and waiting to eat when we got back.

I was riding my good old stand-by faithful horse Tom Cat. Many horses have come and gone on our ranch, but Tom Cat was one of the best. On this day he would have been 19 years old, but was still going strong. Forrest Stewart was riding alongside, and he was mounted on a good-looking four-year-old paint gelding. His horse was aptly named “Goose” because of the goose-shaped white blaze on his face. Forrest had bought the horse as a weanling and had broke him as a three-year-old. I had seen Forrest riding this horse at several brandings during the past two years, and the horse had always “caught my eye.” As we rode along, Forrest commented, “Do you want to buy a horse that would be your next Tom Cat?” I said, “Yes, but they don’t come along very often.” Forrest said, “This horse Goose that I am riding would be the one.”

Tom Cat always had a fast ground-covering walk that I especially enjoyed when dragging calves out of a branding corral to the line of wrestlers. He’d walk fast dragging a calf out, and walk fast back into the corral to put you in position to catch another calf. I loved that feature of my grey horse, so challenged Forrest, “If Goose can walk as fast as Tom Cat, I might be interested.” We both lowered our bridle reins and had a “horse walking race.” It was neck-and-neck all the way to the barn. This did pique my interest, because I already knew Goose was a good cow horse by watching him be ridden by Forrest. “How much?” I asked. “Forty-five hundred,” was his answer.

I’ve always been kind of a cheapskate when it comes to buying horses, or bulls, or just about anything else. That seemed like a lot of money, so I probably tried to barter a bit. That didn’t work, as Forrest held fast on the $4500. That is a lot of money for a horse now, in 2019, but it seemed to be even more back in 2001. We enjoyed our supper of tacos, and as Forrest Stewart and his son Tyson loaded their horses to go home, I said, “I will think on it.”

Looking at Carol’s diary from 2001, I see we made the $4500 purchase and took possession of Goose nearly a month later, on the 12th of June. Forrest was right, on his assessment that Goose could turn into another Tom Cat. He did, and has been a wonderful horse on our Spearhead Ranch for the past 18 years.

Goose had plenty of natural “cow sense,” and had a special talent to always be in the right place at the right time to persuade a bovine to go where needed. He shined as a rope horse, and would put the rider into proper position to catch calves in the branding corral, or for roping out in open country if necessary.

Forrest advised us of one of Goose’s habits, “He is gentle and easy to catch, but don’t drop the reins out in a pasture or he will leave you.” This was surely the case. One time, Will roped a young calf to doctor it, undid his dallies, and dismounted to administer the medication. He dropped the reins on the ground, and Goose immediately used his wonderful ground-covering walk to head back towards home. Will was quite disgusted to be a pedestrian for the half mile to the nearest fence.

On a nice spring day our ranch crew was trailing 200 cow/calf pairs about five miles to the neighboring Quible Ranch, where they would be grazing all summer. As we rode along, I noticed that one calf didn’t seem to be branded. Upon closer observation, the calf was still a bull and had somehow been entirely missed on branding day. As we neared Highway 20, which we needed to cross with the herd, we dropped the calf and its mother back. I was riding my good endurance horse Yellowstone, who was half Tennessee Walking Horse and half Quarter Horse. He was a “pretty good cow-horse,” but not a “real good cow-horse.”

After crossing the blacktop, I traded horses with Carol. I loped back about a mile to where we had left the pickup and trailer, loaded Goose, and came back to the pasture where the cow and calf were restlessly wishing they were with the main herd. I parked the pickup and 16’ bumper-pull trailer right along the highway, in a fence corner. The trailer paralleled one fence, and the tailgate was opened so it touched the other fence which was at a right angle to the first fence. I mounted Goose and we moseyed over to the cow and calf. It took some pretty fancy maneuvering to keep the cow and calf both together and headed towards the pickup and trailer. Goose was at the top of his game. His athleticism and diplomacy both came into play, and soon we had the cow and calf between the trailer and the highway fence. As she turned the corner going towards the trailer tailgate, she bumped the latch and pushed it so it was in her way. She then turned around to face me, and there wasn’t enough room for her to turn around again to face the trailer opening. Giving her all the time in the world, I could tell she was not going to go around that slight obstacle.

There seemed to be no choice but to let the cow and calf back out of the trap they were in and start over. This we did, and she remained fairly calm. I rode back, readjusted the tailgate latch, and Goose and I started over again. Goose also remained calm and cooperative. We eased the cow and calf back around the corner, and this time they jumped onto the trailer. I loaded Goose onto the back half of the trailer, hauled the cow and calf home, and got back just in time to meet up with the rest of the crew. The other three riders were just arriving at Highway 20, after having moved the rest of the herd a mile and half to where they needed to go. They loaded their horses, and our mission was accomplished.

Although Goose was fairly gentle and highly intelligent, he was not a kid horse. On one occasion a young lady was visiting, and she wanted to ride. We put her on Goose, and that nearly became a big mistake. He didn’t buck her off, but twirled rapidly enough that she fell off. We didn’t ever try him again with inexperienced riders. He was good about carrying small children when Carol wanted to let them ride with her, and a baby calf could be loaded in front of a rider in a snowstorm.

In 2013, I had the misfortune to contract West Nile. This turned into a three-week stay at the Regional West Health Center in Scottsbluff. As a result of this illness, my legs don’t have the strength that they did previously, and getting on a horse now is most easily accomplished by using a feed bucket to stand on. Nowadays I tend to ride the big circles in the comfort of a Polaris Ranger, but still get horseback quite often in the spring and fall to do necessary cattle sorting. Goose has been a big help, because he has allowed me to be clumsy while crawling aboard. Usually a big rubber feed tub is along in the Ranger for this purpose. Just this fall, I noticed a salt block in the corral, and decided to use it as a mounting block.

A “rule of thumb” for negotiating stairs is to go up first with the good leg, then follow with the bad. Going down stairs is just the opposite, as one should go down with the bad leg first. By standing on a feed tub, I usually put my “bad” left leg in the stirrup, pull with my arms, and throw the “good” right leg over the saddle to get aboard. The salt block was not as high off the ground, so I decided to get on Goose differently than normal. I put my right foot in the stirrup, thinking I could juggle my feet differently after getting mostly on. This didn’t work. I was “belly down,” kind of “high-centered” on top of my saddle, with both legs dangling trying to get the left foot in the stirrup. Poor old Goose didn’t quite know what to think. He started turning, and I got off balance and started falling. Grabbing for the lariat rope that was attached to the saddle with a leather strap, all that I accomplished was to break the rope strap and carry the coiled rope to the ground with me as I landed. Goose took off walking towards the barn as I floundered around trying to get up. Fortunately I didn’t get hurt. It sure wasn’t Goose’s fault. I eventually found a bigger feed tub, got on, and joined my two sons who were both mounted on their horses and were already sorting cattle in the upper corral.

All through the years, Goose has been the “go-to” horse on the ranch, as you always knew any horseback-cattle working job could be accomplished with him. He most certainly was in the same league as my old Tom Cat horse, as Forrest predicted he would be.

This fall, Goose got a horse bite in front of his withers. The wound was well ahead of where the saddle or blanket touched, so I continued to use him. The sore got infected, and we took him to a veterinarian. Another little hole was made for a drain hose to be applied. My son Will diligently took good care of Goose. Healing didn’t seem to be happening, so he took the horse back to the vet again. More rounds of treatment were administered, along with special grain and hay. Poor Goose’s neck became very sore, and the infection got into the bone. His neck hurt too much to lower his head to eat. Even though grain was fed on a stool for him to easily reach, he lost a lot of condition.

Goose is no longer with us. He was one of the very best, and we will miss him. Rest in peace, old partner, you were faithful ‘til the end.

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Re: GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Post by Big Muddy rancher » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:47 pm

RIP Goose,

Thanks for sharing your memories,

We sat with Dad or 2 weeks in the hospital before he passed, we told many stories about our favorite old saddle horses. If we got the story wrong Dad could still correct us.
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Re: GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Post by mustang » Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:30 am

There is a special relationship between a man, his horse and his dog. People who have never had a horse and or a dog will never
understand nor appreciate that relationship.
"Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever."

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Re: GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Post by Haytrucker » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:15 am

It's been a while since I had to feel that way about a horse, but I won't ever forget. I sure enjoyed the many pictures of Goose doing his job. Bet it took a bit to remember your favorite stories. Had to be many.

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Re: GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Post by Silver » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:40 pm

It is a sad thing to lose a partner like that. Sorry for your loss.

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Re: GOOSE—HE WAS A GOOD ONE By Steve Moreland, November 22, 2019

Post by leanin' H » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:25 am

Sorry to hear Goose is loping along in the meadows of heaven. Your story took me back to fine memories of great compadres i've had the pleasure to throw a leg over in my own life. Cimmaron and Ranch top my list. I wrote a poem about a little paint mare of my daughter's we lost and its still a pretty tender spot in my heart. Soap, thank you for the story. I send happy thoughts to you in Nebraska over losing Goose. Maybe someday, if we make it to heaven, we can go for a big circle on our favorite horses together. And if the Lord doesn't allow horses up there, send me to hell.
A poor ride beats a great walk any day!
<Parry Taylor>

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