Sunday, March 10, 2013
Ranger Jim’s Ramblings James J. Griffin
Since this is out of my usual slot, I’m just going to jot down some random thoughts and information.
We’ll start off with a quiz. This is from the files of today’s Texas Rangers. A couple of years back, my Ranger buddy Jim Huggins had to investigate and solve what became known as the “This Little Piggy Murder”. So, can anyone come up with an idea as to what the case involved? Answer will be on my regular blog slot on March 14th. And if anyone comes up with a guess that is even close, they’ll win an autographed copy of one of my Jim Blawcyzk Texas Ranger novels.
Back to horses. I want to bring up horse gaits, and hopefully prevent at least one western author from making a mistake I see over and over again in Westerns. A cowboy NEVER, EVER “canters” his horse. I repeat, a cowboy NEVER, EVER “canters” his horse! A cowboy “lopes” his horse. The three gaits of a Western horse are walk, jog, and lope. Walk, trot, and canter are the gaits of English horses and riders. You can get away with saying a cowboy trots his horse, although you really shouldn’t, unless you say jogtrot, but canter is completely, totally, absolutely incorrect. In fact, if you go to a horse show, in the western classes you will always hear the judge instruct the riders to “walk their horses”, then “jog”, then “lope”. And while a lot of people think the gaits are the same, there are differences. An English horse’s trot is generally faster than the Western horse’s jog, and an English horse’s canter is generally faster than the Western horse’s lope. Hence the reason English riders have to post to the trot, to keep from being bounced all over the place. So, no more cowboys cantering their horses. Next time I see that the author gets forty lashes with a rubber horseshoe.
While we’re on the subject of horses, I did one of my Western talks, reenactments, and a book signing at the Torrington, CT Public Library this past Thursday. One of the people who showed up was Eric Van Leer, a friend from college whom I hadn’t seen in over forty years! Turns out he lives only a few miles from Torrington, and saw the event listed in the local paper. He and I were both in the college’s Equestrian Club, in fact both of us bought our first horses while we were in school. Like me, he still has horses, and after the event was over (he helped me with the shootouts, doing a fine job of killing me, and later an excellent job of dying when I tried to arrest him and when he went for his pistol gunned him down) invited me back to his place to see his horses. We ended up talking for hours, catching up on old times and making plans to visit regularly. He now has a Morgan horse, and he reminded me that most people don’t realize the Morgan was a very popular horse in the frontier West, being used for cattle work, pulling stagecoaches, and as a general riding mount. The Morgan was the first true American breed of horse, and a rarity in that every Morgan can be traced back to a stallion named Figure, who was owned by a Vermont farmer named Justin, you guessed it, Morgan. Figure passed his traits to every mare he was bred to. Morgans are compact and tough, gentle and intelligent, so were well suited to life on the frontier.
Back to the Texas Rangers. Did they in fact hand-carve their badges? Were there Hispanic and African-American Rangers? Native American Indian Rangers? How about females? When were they founded, 1823 or 1835?
For answers to these questions and more, tune in Thursday March 14th, same blog time, same blog channel (with apologies to the old Batman TV series)