Wyoming Cowgirl - On the Ranch

The Old Horse 
and the Raven

Story by Cris Paravicini

This thirty-year-old horse has remained king around here, almost forever it seems...
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The Old Horse and the Raven

It was about a country night ago when a wild wind chased its terrible tail across our valley. Without respect for the sleeping kingdom, it suddenly and unexpectedly had raged through the willows and corrals, tore across our yard, and swept over the backs of the horses, cows, and sheep. It clawed at the snow-cat tarp and the rickety, old rooftops plastering snow on the westward side of everything in its path. 

The next morning, the old horse that I watch each day, stood shuddering beside the log barn. He knew, as he's known for years, that this was the best place to be during a storm. And he knew, too, that this was the time when the morning rubbed shoulders with the night; when her first ray of sunshine would ricochet off the barn, warming his frail body and burning away the shadows of dawn. 

Used to be, this old fella would snort and squeal and run at the front of the herd when the night winds blew. And, used to be, at dawn he would hold his head proud and high, and watch the raven fly by. Used to be, in his prime, he and his teammate were champions - the fastest chariot team in the state. Yes, he was a king. 

Later, he was semi-retired to the ranch to spend his remaining days poking through the newborn calves with his cowboy and teaching little kids how to ride with the wind. And once in a while, we'd all look up and watch the raven begin circling overhead. It used to be. 

This thirty-year-old horse has remained the king around here, almostScoopforever it seems. He's the head honcho. Ruler of the roost. Cranky boss of all the other saddle horses. Everyone in the pasture answers to him, always - with his bared teeth, pinned ears, and spin and kick moves. 

I never liked him much because of his stubborn, pushy attitude, and his cold-jaw and stumbling gait aggravated me. But he had earned his retirement here, honorably, and since my husband liked him, I tolerated this sorrel Quarter Horse named Scoop. 

This morning, though, when Scoop looked up at me as I approached, I felt sorry for him. His nostrils vibrated softly, silently, as he turned and shuffled stiffly toward me on stovepipe-shaped hooves. He was glad to see me; he'd been waiting for me. I could see it in his mattered eyes. I brushed the tracks of caked, white winter from his swayed, razor-ridge back, and could feel his washboard ribs as I ran my fingers down his side and through his thick, lackluster, winter coat, which hid his true physical condition. 

Softly, I patted his neck a few times and scratched behind his ears, then kicked a solid place in the snow and poured a bait of grain into the hollowed nest. The other geldings stood off at a distance like stone soldiers, and made not a move to steal his treat, because only Scoop and I know he's not the king anymore. 

A contented, appreciative rumble hummed in his throat as he began grinding and slobbering and enjoying his feed. As I watched him eat, I guessed we should float the sharp edges off his teeth, again, so he could eat better; and his feet need trimmed, again, too. Time, in many other ways, however, is outrunning our best efforts. 

A yip from behind us caused me to swing toward the fence. There, in a futile, almost funny attempt, my heavy-set, old dog was trying to leap into the air toward a big raven that perched on a nearby cap-gate. Irritated, I too, tried to wave the dark predator away, but it preened its sleek, black feathers and chortled deep in his throat, taunting me from deep within his piercing eyes. I tapped Scoop lightly on the butt to send him off to the feedground, and cussed the old bird aloud, saying, "Ha! It isn't time yet - it isn't time yet." 

And just when I thought I had a handle on life, a humbling thought occurred to me, and I laughed under my breath: Maybe the raven waits not for the old horse.



The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 1999. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 1999.

Wyoming Cowgirl is sponsored by Pinedale Online, Pinedale, Wyoming

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