The Hundredth Meridian

Hobbles and a Bridle

Neither Art Antilla nor I felt like getting drunk. We stood away from camp on the cliff edge above Devil's Hole canyon, drinking black coffee while the Commissary Commandos huddled around the campfire with their whiskey bottles and someone pitched a bowling ball over the talus slope to the creek bottom 800 feet below for some sheepherder to find and marvel at. The ball struck first 100 feet down, bounced, soared another 300 feet, struck a boulder, and flew on like a cannon shot, taking with it the top half of a small pine tree before lodging itself in the creek bed. The Commandos cheered lustily, and everyone had another drink. When I was able to make myself heard again I went on with the story of how Saab Star had broken his picket line one evening at Elbow Lake in the Wind River Mountains earlier in the summer and made his way out through more than 20 miles of wilderness to the trailhead. "You ought to try hobbling him next time," Art said.

We watched while the gelding, lifting his feet, carefully untangled his legs from the picket line as he grazed in a clearing on the other side of camp. "I've had that horse since he was 18 months old," I said. "I broke him and finished him, and I know him well enough to be 90 percent certain how he'll react in any situation. He isn't like other horses. If I put hobbles on him he'd panic and throw himself, and I couldn't get close enough to take...

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