One Fall I was asked by a former Barn Boss to go down to Arizona to help him out during a Thanksgiving weekend festival. One of the other wranglers I’d worked with in the past, JB, was already working for the Barn Boss at his new ranch, but he needed an extra hand in order to maintain his regular ride schedule and manage the festival. Not being one to miss out on the opportunity to ride in a warm climate, I loaded up the kids and we headed south to Arizona for the weekend.
Since the festival was not at the ranch, we had to work out of a horse trailer. Nothing in my training had prepared me for setting up shop from a stock trailer, but we wranglers are nothing if not flexible. JB and I ran what was essentially a glorified pony ride, only we were using horses and our loop was a one-mile block, not a small round pen. Not exactly what I’d envisioned when I said I’d work the festival, but it was a good excuse to go to Arizona and ride in the good weather.
At the end of the festival, we loaded up our horses into the stock trailer, piled ourselves into the truck and started out for the ride back to the ranch. No sooner had we turned onto the ranch road when we felt a ruckus in the trailer. Normal movement is one thing, but this felt like a horse had lost its balance and fallen, which can become lethal, as they were all tied. If a horse had fallen, it could have been hanging from its halter and lead rope, under the feet of the other horses. The ruckus continued as we pulled to a stop and leapt out of the truck. Standing on the wheel wells, we counted heads, and all were still tied and accounted for. There weren’t any horses down and we couldn’t immediately figure out what had caused the commotion, but the horses had quit banging around and were standing nicely once again.
With shrugs all around and a string of curse words out of the Barn Boss’ mouth, we piled back into the truck and resumed our trip to the ranch without incident. At the ranch, JB happened to glance at the trailer’s side window as we were walking to the back to unload, “Sonovabitch, looket that!” He was pointing at a small hole in the window that we hadn’t noticed when we stopped the first time. “Boss, don’t that look like a bullet hole?”
Sure enough, it did look like a bullet hole and being out in the Arizona desert, it wasn’t entirely out of the question that the trailer had been shot accidentally, or, I suppose, even on purpose. A bullet through the window would also have explained the ruckus the horses put up. We went over the trailer, inch by inch, looking for another hole, an exit hole, but there was nothing. Which meant that a bullet, if that’s what caused the hole, went into the trailer, but didn’t leave the trailer.
It was with some trepidation that we unloaded and inspected the horses. The horses at the back of the trailer were unscathed and a little surprised at the thorough inspection they got before we turned them out. One horse, however, who was tied opposite the shot-out window stepped out of the trailer with blood running down his leg.
Hot damn! One of the horses had been hit by a ricochet. We looked at the leg more closely and saw that the bullet hadn’t actually entered the leg, but had carved a nice furrow in it as it skipped by. It was a lucky break for the horse, who had already lived through a previous gun encounter in his old life. The horse’s name was Thirty-eight. As the story goes, his old owner had tried to shoot off of him and missed, instead hitting the horse in the head with a .38 caliber round, which could still be felt under his skin. The horse lived and was eventually sold at auction.
What were the odds that the only horse, in a stock trailer full of horses, hit by the bullet’s ricochet was the only horse that had a previous gun encounter? Crazy, isn’t it?