Guide Graduation Day

Talking the Talk

By Carolyn White

My trainer in guide school had warned me that saddle horses tied together on a trail are among the stupidest animals on earth.

Hitch a seasoned pack mule between them and they’re usually fine, but left on their own “they turn plum’ idiot,” he’d observed dryly while stuffing tobacco into his lip.

Instead of following each other nose-to-tail like seasoned mules did, one (or more) was bound to stop and gawk at something invisible, or lean down to scratch a leg, or go around the opposite side of a tree. The wayward horse’s head would then get jerked by the horse in front of it. Its eyes would go wild and its hooves would dig in and then, snap, the piggin’ string—a length of hay-baling twine—got broken. Off would trot the newly freed horse through the forest, dragging along whatever others were tied behind it, until they went around the opposite sides of trees, banged their heads against the trunks, planted their hooves, and broke piggin’ strings, too.

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