Posted by: paywindow7 | October 24, 2011


I’ve known two-track stars in my day. One was a high school distance runner who set and held, for many years, the Texas state record for the mile. The other was a five-year old, twelve hundred pound, quarter horse gelding named Joe who positively loved to run.

I met Joe the summer of my thirteenth year while I was pretending to learn how to work cattle on my uncles place near Matador in the Texas panhandle. Joe was a ranch hand himself who had fallen into bad favor with the other cow hands who had to work him because of a bad habit he had developed. That habit was his propensity to chase jackrabbits. When one would spook out from under him, he did not shy away from it like normal, instead he would make one jump then wheel and be after it in a flash leaving the poor sod who happened to be aboard at the time in an immediate state of free fall onto what ever the Texas landscape had to offer. Most of which is hard and sharp.

This quirk of his was potentially fatal to him because in those days if you did not pull your weight you were gone and since there was not a market for this trick his days were numbered and his future appointment with the rendering plant assured. He was assigned to me to get him out of the remuda and as an inside joke to the rest of the hands who knew that the new kid was about to acquire some prize winning ground hickeys.

Joe and I hit it off immediately. Not that he didn’t dump me too he did, more than once. But even that worked out OK as I was just learning how to cuss anyway so those little surprises of his gave me a chance to work on my presentation. When he got tired of chasing the rabbit du’jour he would backtrack to see where he had dumped me and my rants when he came wandering back were met with his look of curious, aloof disdain as if to say “you gotta learn how to hang on better sport”.

Later in the summer, when he figured I was ready I guess, he introduced me to what I believe was his favorite pastime. We had been out looking for strays and had come across a dry creek bed that ran for about a mile with almost no meander. It really wasn’t much of a creek, more like a drainage ditch that would flood heavily when the big thunderstorms slammed in from the west. The creek was about twenty feet wide by three feet deep with a flat limestone bottom covered with about three inches of sand and brush along the banks on either side. A perfect running track.

We would drop down into it from the surrounding plains and he would get antsy and start side dancing. When he and I both realized that I could no longer hold him, he would rear slightly then do a modified pirouette on his hind legs to align with the creek then take off with a tremendous lunge that would almost leave me airborne.

As you know there is not much in the animal world that can match the feeling of raw power you get when you’re on top of a running horse. I don’t mean one that’s in a lope or even a gallop, but when they are in a flat-out quarter horse sprint. Digging in and low to the ground, throwing their head, neck and shoulders into each stride, gaining speed with each stretch. Their breath coming in powerful snorts timed to every second or third stride. Since I was just a kid at the time I didn’t weigh much and the saddle had a low horn, so I would lean as far over his neck as I could with his mane lashing me in the face and me yelling and whistling into the wind. The sound and speed of his hoofbeats lost that characteristic equine rhythm and morphed into a low rumbling sound that seemed to have a life of its own as it enveloped the two of us and the brush on the creek banks blurred by on either side.

As we would get close to the end of the creek he would break stride on his own and slow to a walk all the while tossing his head around as if asking me “how about that shorty”.
No one else ever mentioned that he would do that so i always figured it was his gift to me and It’s been one I’ve remembered for over fifty years.

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