Bio: Dude 1981-82. Descriptor: My horse, Big Red.
William’s Story: My wife Clare fell in love with Wyoming in general and White Grass in particular when she first visited there at 16. Her description of life at the ranch, the majestic Tetons the beauty of the Snake River with moose knee deep munching grass, and the fabled town of Jackson Hole led is to visit the ranch while we were dating. I wanted to share this love affair of White Grass which coincided with our falling in love.
We have since returned to the White Grass as guests and as visitors as the restoration project began, but it was our second trip in 1981 that I met Big Red. He was my assigned horse and a beauty. As I soon discovered Big Red was a biter, kicker, barn sour and just about the craziest horse I have ever encountered. I often wondered how in the world I got “lucky” enough to get Big Red. Maybe Curly’s idea of fun? When I first tried to mount him, Big Red shied away from me, ears pinned to his head and looking like he was ready for war. At well over 15 hands high, broad chest and glossy red coat Big Red certainly stood out in looks, but I could really sense an element of danger. But no one argued with horse assignments or risked being labeled a complainer. And I am not a complainer!
Our first ride proved to be an adventure with Big Red biting the horse in front while trying to kick the small mare behind him and being a bully to every living thing in range including me. All this was happening at a full gallop! I will say this for Red; he had a comfortable gait, reined well, and loved to run. He also liked to chew on every hitching post whether it was at the barn or at Dornan’s. In all honesty I liked Big Red even with all his faults. I always felt that his life and those around him would have taken a different turn if he had been treated differently. Those were the days cowboys were rough on horses that misbehaved. But that’s another story entirely.
I personally had some close encounters on Big Red especially going up to Phelps Lake or any narrow rocky trail. Big Red liked testing the limits of the rider’s ability. A couple of times he got too close to the edge and my palms would sweat.
On our last trip to the White Grass before it closed I asked about Big Red since I got a different horse. We were devastated to learn that Big Red had taken Mike (an all -around cowboy from Oklahoma), who had been our guide on several rides in years past and himself over a cliff killing them both. Witnesses told us that Big Red acted up right preceding the accident due to a bear being close or maybe Reds’ shear meanness propelled him over the cliff. Almost 33 years later I cannot recall many of the horses I have ridden, but I will always remember Big Red and a cowboy with a smile as broad as his Stetson.