Cowboy Heart

by | May 29, 2001 | Grief

P. S. We proudly present two back-to-back stories from the same amazing author, Roger Kiser. After you are done reading the first story (grab some tissues) you’ll understand why we are putting it in both publications. Then, you’ll see a remarkable follow-up story which occurred last week.

“Silt, Colorado!” Hollered the Greyhound bus driver, as he pulled off to the side of the road.

I grabbed my small bag and climbed off the bus. Sitting beside the road was a large man who was standing beside an old Army jeep.

“Are you Roger Kiser?” He asked me.

“Yes, Sir,” I replied.

“My name is Owen Boulton. I own the Rainbow K Ranch,” he said as he stuck out his hand to shake mine.

I had been sent to Colorado by the Juvenile Judge in Florida so that I could work on a ranch. It was a program that had been set up to help troubled teenagers.

Within a week, I had been turned into a full fledge cowboy.

I had been assigned a large horse named “Brownie” and had been given a full outfit of western wear, as well as a list of never ending duties which started at around 4 o’clock each morning.

Things went rather well for the first couple of months. We worked from 4am until 6pm, seven days a week. We bailed hay, branded cattle, collected chicken eggs, mended fences and shoveled cow manure. It was a never ending job.

The best part was my horse, Brownie. I guess she had been given that name because she was brown in color. In addition to my other chores, it was my job to care for her. I fed her, bathed her and brushed her down on a daily basis.

Every morning when I would come out to collect the eggs from the chicken coop, she was always waiting for me by the gate. I would walk over and pet her on her side. She would toss her head backwards and make a strange sound like she was blowing through her lips. Slobber would fly everywhere.

“I bet you could sure whistle loud if you had some hands,” I would tell her. She would stomp her feet and turn around in a circle.

There were not very many things that I loved on the face of this earth when I was a young boy. But that horse was one thing that I would have died for.

After we ranch hands had eaten our breakfast, I was told that I would have to go with several of the older men and repair fences up on the northern range. We loaded the jeep with fencing materials and tools and off we went. It was almost 7pm when we got back to the ranch.

As we drove up to the barn, I saw about twenty ranch hands all sitting around in a circle. I got out of the jeep and walked toward the large crowd.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“It’s your horse, Brownie. She’s dead,” said one of the men.

Slowly I walked up to where Brownie was laying in the corral. I bent down and petted her on her side. It took everything I had to keep from crying in front of all those men.

All at once, the corral gate opened and Mr. Boulton came riding in on an old tractor. He began scooping out a large hole right next to Brownie.

“What’s he gonna do?” I yelled out.

“We always bury the horses right where they drop,” said one of the ranch hands.

I stood to the side while he dug the hole for Brownie. I would wipe the tears from my eyes as they rolled down my cheeks. I will never forget that feeling of sadness for as long as I live.

When the hole had been dug, the men all stood back so that Brownie could be moved into the large hole. Mr Boulton lowered the large tractor scoop and moved toward Brownie.

“PLEASE MR. OWEN SIR! Please don’t move Brownie with that tractor bucket. You’ll cut her and mess her up!” I yelled out at him.

I ran out in front of the tractor, waiving my hands and arms up into the air.

“Look here boy,” said Mr. Boulton. “We have no choice but to do this when a horse dies. She is just too heavy to move by hand.”

“I’ll get her in the hole. I swear I will Mr Owen, sir.” I screamed as loud as I could. I ran over to Brownie and I pushed on her head as hard as I could, but she barely moved. I pushed and pushed but her body was just too heavy. Nothing I tried to do would move her any closer toward the hole. Finally, I stopped pushing and I just lay there in the dirt with my head resting against Brownie’s side.

“Please don’t use that bucket scoop on Brownie,” I kept saying, over and over.

One at a time, the ranch hands began to get down off their horses. Each positioned himself around the large brown horse and they began to push and pull with all their might. Inch by inch, Brownie moved toward the large hole in the ground. All at once she began to slide downhill. I raised her head, as best I could, so that her face would not be scarred. The next thing I knew, I was being pulled down into the hole.

Suddenly, everything went totally silent. I just sat there at the bottom of the hole with Brownie’s head resting on my lap. Dust and dirt was settling all around me. Slowly, I got to my feet and I placed her head flat on the ground. Then I positioned each of her legs so that they were straight. I removed my western shirt and I placed it over her face so that dirt would not get into her eyes. I stood there crying as my best friend was being covered with dirt.

Most of that night I stayed in the barn cleaning Brownie’s stall. I cried until I could cry no more. I guess I was just too embarrassed to go back to the bunkhouse with the rest of the ranch hands.

Early the next morning, I walked back to the bunkhouse to shower and change clothes before going out to collect the chicken eggs. As I entered the small wooden house, the ranch hands were up and getting dressed. Laying on my bunk was eight dollars and some change. On a match book cover was written, “Buy yourself a new western shirt.”

When I looked up, all the men were smiling at me. One of them said, “You may be a city boy R.D. (that’s what they always called me) but you definitely have the heart that it takes to be a real honest to goodness cowboy.”

I wiped my swollen red eyes and I smiled real proud like.

Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.


Cowboy Heart