Desert Dust  By Josie Tauscher

I had tried several times before to catch wild horses without much success.  This time I was determined to get this beautiful stallion or die trying. Desert Dust was a true Palomino with a long flowing mane and tail just a few shades lighter than his golden hide.  Riders had tried to catch him for two or three years without getting a rope on him and now it was my turn.  I rode to the top of the hill, hoping for a glimpse of the herd I knew he ran with.  I had seen them several times but never close enough to count his animal harem.  I was sure there must have been at least forty mares and colts in the band, mostly bays and blacks and not even the colts were like my prize beauty. Scanning the desert around me I saw no sign of them, so I decided to get back to my camp.  I had many hours of hard labor ahead before I was ready to try my luck at catching this prize horse; there was a strong brush fence to build across a small blind canyon which would have to be reinforced with barbed wire, a stout pole gate high enough so he couldn’t jump it and many other things that would take time to accomplish in order to keep him in once I caught him.  I would have to return to the home ranch to get more horses.  I had figured my two best saddle horses would be sufficient, but after watching him run I knew I would need at least six. As I rode up over the last rise above my camp I stopped and looked back.  To my surprise, Desert Dust was standing, silhouetted against the distant skyline on a small rocky hill.  The wind blew his long tail in a ripple of silver against the sunlight.  He was a good two miles away and hadn’t seen me as yet.  I took the binoculars and watched him for a few minutes, glorying in the unsurpassed beauty of this magnificent horse.  Suddenly, he spied me and with a toss of his head and a clear loud call to his harem, disappeared down over the hill.  I rode on into camp dreaming of the day I would claim him for my own. Two weeks later I had the fence finished and the gate nearly so.  I had peeled green cottonwood poles four and five inches thick and nailed and wired them together for strength.  Making the gate eight poles high, I didn’t think any horse could jump it.  After setting the last gate post as near the canyon wall as I could I hung the gate so it would swing back against the brush fence.  This would hide the newly peeled poles so they wouldn’t frighten a wild horse.  I wanted to try to coax him into the trap if I could.  Hobbling my three mares and leaving them in the canyon trap, I hoped would entice the wild stallion close enough for me to get a rope on him.

I knew the water holes were few and far between and I felt sure the herd would return to the spring in the box canyon.  Hobbling my three mares, I put them in the corral trap, leaving the gate still hidden.  My horses would stay in the pen as long as there was feed and water.  Going up to the top of the canyon I hid in the rocks and settled down to await the results of my theory.  After sitting around among those rocks for two days just watching, it didn’t seem like such a good idea, I certainly didn’t get the results I expected.  I had seen nothing of the wild bunch except from a distance and they showed no inclination to come in my direction.  Coming to the conclusion that I was wasting my time I decided to go after them. Saddling my best horse I planned to circle the herd and try to get them running towards the corral trap.  If I could get them close enough to the other horses in the pen, I hoped the stallion would be curious enough to investigate and become used to the ranging near my horses.    I rode nearly five miles before I could get the herd between me and the trap.  Riding up out of a small valley, I spied the herd feeding on an open stretch of plain.  Just as I topped the rise and saw them, the stallion saw me.  With a shrill whistle he ran toward the mares and herded them away before him.  Spurring my horse to dead run to keep them going in the right direction I was elated to think I had things going my way at last.  They were about a mile ahead of me and going good when something scared them and the stallion turned and ran east away from the and out of sight.

Chagrined but still undaunted, I decided I needed help so forthwith started for the ranch to enlist part of the bunkhouse crew to chase horses.  I knew I’d get a good ribbing because I had made my brags that I could do this job alone.  I hated to ask them after being so sure of myself but after the results of the last few days I was willing to admin one person couldn’t do it. The next morning, three of the boys and I started out early, hoping to find the herd close to the trap.  Sure enough they had been because my hobbled mares were gone and I knew the stallion had lured them out of the corral.  I took the binoculars and climbed to the top of the bluff above the trap.

I soon saw them about a mile distant, my mares too, so we decided to circle them and attempt to corral as many as we could.  Keeping out of sight far away from the herd we managed to come up on them from the other direction and were quite close before the stallion saw us.  It was then fairly east to get them running toward the corral.  The stallion tried to urge the hobbled mares to greater speed, but of course they weren’t afraid and were in no great hurry.  He kept coming back to urge them on, dancing on his hind feet and whistling shrilly.  The other mares and colts ran on far ahead paying no attention to the others.  Taking down my rope, I rode hard trying to get close enough to cast the loop over his neck.  He ran to join the band, daring me by his manner, to catch him.  We left my horses behind and between the four of us managed to get part of the herd and my prize in the trap.  Closing in, we shut the gate behind us and rode on up to the head of the canyon. The horses were gathered as close to the wall as they could crowd with the stallion facing us.  As we came nearer he reared and with bared teeth screamed his defiance at us.  It was going to be a big job to tame him and I was anxious to get the rope on him and start.  Tying my bridle reins together, I swung out my loop and rode in close.  My first cast with the rope caught him around the neck and he came down fighting with every ounce of his strength.  I dallied the rope around the saddlehorn as one of the men got another rope on his feet and we managed to throw him but he was up like a flash, fighting, squealing, and kicking to get away. The other horses were milling around and stirring up so much dust it was almost impossible to see what we were doing.  Just as I thought we had him, my rope broke at the hondo and he was loose again.  He made a wild dash through the other horses and cleared the gate in one magnificent leap and was gone.  Dazed and tired we just sat there unable to believe our eyes.  How could he jump that high?!

I was terrible disappointed but after thinking it over I decided if he wanted his freedom that bad I would never try to catch him again.