Tuesday, December 22, 2009

There's an old story about Teddy Roosevelt and his successor, William Howard Taft.

Roosevelt was a keen manipulator of his own public image, understanding like no other president before him the power of the mass media. So he was concerned that Taft, his Secretary of War and hand picked successor, would not do anything to ruin his image with the public and sabotage his ability to use the "bully pulpit" to move his agenda forward.

He also knew that Taft was a big old boy. He was only a little over 5'11"... A short little scudder, as my daddy would say, but he weighed in at over 320 pounds. He's famous for being the heaviest guy we ever elected to be President. They had to bring a new bath tub into the White House because he didn't fit in the one they had. So, what was T.R.'s advise to Taft on exiting the political scene?

"Don't ever let 'em take a picture of you on a horse." Well, I'm taller than Taft, and not quite as heavy, but I know that horse was hurtin'. Every now and then he'd give out a frustrated whinny as we climbed a ridge or something. I figured he was sayin' somethin' like "Son of a bitch! Eat a salad now and then, Shit!" I'd say "Yea I know. Poor baby."

The horse is named Cherokee, and he belongs to my buddy Dave Willingham there, in the chaps. He teaches down in Florence, where I start my days teaching AP classes. Over the years we've become buddies. He's always takin' about his horses, so recently a plan materialized for me to come down and join him for a ride. He's been around horses all his life, as have I. But I haven't been on one in about fifteen years. Turns out, it comes right back to ya.

Not sure why, but I always hear the theme from Bonanza when I see this shot. I guess I'm Hoss, in that equation. Hell, Dan Blocker was only 6"3" Shit, I'm bigger'n everybody! Check out his bio there. Surprisin' and fascinatin' stuff.

What was the best thing about riding a horse? Well, maybe it was the saddle jumping up and slamming me in the nuts over and over again when ol' Cherokee decided to break into a trot. Mmmm, yea, that was special (check out some of the other pictures here).

I tried to stand up on the stirrups from then on, and the nut slammin' mostly went away. Then, at one point, Cherokee decided to break into a full gallop. Man, that was cool, but my life flashed before my eyes there for about 30 seconds. I just knew I was gonna end up bein' tossed ass first into a ceder clump. But I held on. It was GREAT, and I'd do it again in a second.

Seriously, it was great to be out there with the guys, enjoyin' the scenery and the ride. After all, this stuff's in my DNA. I come from a long line of horsemen. My ancestors, uncles and cousins were and still are old rodeo types. All of them were doubtlessly laughin' their asses off as I hopped along, tryin' to hold on to the saddle horn and stand up in the stirrups, tryin' to stay on the horse and keep my nuts from gettin' slammed into that saddle again.

We rode at a local park, the Parrie Haynes Ranch. It's a wide tract of land that was once one of the biggest cattle ranches in Central Texas.

Parrie and Allen Haynes were married in 1895, and started their lives, along with most of the other local folks, as Sharecroppers. They lived frugally, and in time were able to amass a wide tract of land. When Allen died, Parrie took over running the operation.

Being childless, Parrie made sure that the children of Texas would benefit from her success. When she died in 1957, $100,000 was bequeathed to the Killeen school district for scholarships, and over 4500 acres of the ranch were turned over to the state, so that the orphans of Texas would have a place to go and enjoy the wilderness.

After a period under the supervision of the Texas Youth Commission, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission took over the management of the land in 1993. Since then they've partnered up with Coca Cola to fund the construction of greater camp facilities.

Today, riders can enjoy about 50 miles of well marked trials that wind up and down the ranch, over fields and hills, through beautiful spring fed streams. The trials are maintained by volunteers from the Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association. It's a great place. I can't wait to get out there again and do some more exploring.

After the riding, Dave and his son Ryan and I went back to their house and did some shooting. I'd brought a few of my toys, and Dave brought out his western style .45 revolver. It was a fun time. I told them, next time they needed to come up to Killeen and stick their heads in the big blue safe and pick the ones they want to shoot. Maybe we'll do that, some time early in the new year.

Anyway, it was a wonderful time. By the time I got home I was feeling like I'd run a marathon. My whole body was sore. I hadn't used all those muscles... legs, arms, back, in a very long time. I think if I rode more often I'd figure out how to do it without all that hoppin' around, and maybe lose about 100 pounds.

Hell, maybe if Taft had ignored Teddy's advise they wouldn't have needed that new bath tub. Cheers.


BRUNO said...

I never did ride a horse. I rode a pregnant Jersey COW once when I was a kid. An' I had a MULE shit on me once---does that count? LOL!

I prefer mine with WHEELS and a MOTOR!

Although they ain't one bit easier on the KNUTS...!

Mushy said...


Very nice post brother!

Used to ride with my cousin and ride under limbs and swing off like cowboys in the movies! Those days are gone forever!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post too and learned a lot I didn't know about "Hoss". I've always loved Bonanza. Hoss was my all-time favorite. A friend of mine met him when he attended a birthday party for a young teenage girl, godchild of Dan Blocker. I believe it was in Tyler, TX. He said he was the an incredibly down to earth, nice guy. Take Care! Belle

Arturo Fuente Cigars said...

I prefer mine with WHEELS and a MOTOR!i suggestion u to go in horse racing.i hope u don.t mind my suggestion.

FHB said...

AFC - You suggest I do, or don't? The horses would be better off if I didn't. That's fer sure.

Nice brand, by the way.