Gpa Tales

Cockleburs - Cowboys or Weeds –


    When Dad was elected president of the Cocklebur Riding Club he lobbied for and got permission to add younger men and boys to join the riding club. Hyrum Wilson, Joe Staheli, and I joined at that time. The idea was that we would participate in some of the competitive events. We did have fun, and I would like to share some of that fun with you now. We were involved in some fun races. One of the first was the change saddle relay(one mile). The idea was to have one person ride four horses. (This was like the pony express.) The rider would ride the first quarter mile then get off the horse, remove the saddle, put it on another horse, get on and ride the next quarter mile etc. Thus the rider would have to change the saddle and mount a horse three times. We knew we had things made because Joe was an honest trick rider. He could get on a horse at full speed. Joe must have spent hours making a fast change cinch for his saddle so that it would take only one pull and it was tight. This was brilliant. One difficulty in this race was holding a horse with another horse coming up fast. Joe won this race by so much that we could never get anyone to race us again.

    We organized a relay team for the district meet and won. Thus, we got to go to the state championship meet in Richfield. This was an honest mile relay where you must pass a baton within some 200 feet distance or you were disqualified. The trick here is to start your horse running in time to be at top speed so that the incoming horse does not shoot past you. We did great in the district meet, earning the right to go to the state meet. In the state meet I rode next to last. I had the lead coming in to Joe who had the last leg on the relay. I was sure that Joe would not lose my lead and we just might be state champions. I hollered to Joe to start going but he just sat there way to long. Ginger and I went sailing past him because he was literally standing still. I tried to stop but we passed the baton just a few feet after the marker, and one of our teammates was the judge that had to disqualify us. I can still see him throwing his hat down in disgust. You can't win if you don't follow the rules. The state trophy would have been nice, but we missed our pass. Brent had some problems with a teammate losing the baton and his chance win mile relay in track.

    The Ute Stampede was and still is one of the big rodeos in Utah. It is held in Nephi in July between the fourth and the twenty fourth. As an advertising stunt, one year they decided to have a race from the four points of the compass ending at the rodeo grounds. They invited four riding clubs to compete, each coming from four different directions. Each team would cover 25 miles. The Highway Patrol radios signaled the start. The Cocklebur Riding Club came from the North and others from East, West, and South. This was a neat idea for a race because it would get at least 100 riders headed for the rodeo. Ginger and I had mile seven while Buster and Dad ran mile eight. We went out a couple of days before the race and walked our mile looking for trash or problems with our distance. Ginger and I had a hard mile because it was mostly uphill. This was a good choice because Ginger was a strong runner. I would have to run along the edge of the pavement since there was too much sage and rubber rabbit brush to the side of the road. Dad had a good stretch where he and Buster could really fly making a significant contribution to the race. Our plan was to drop Ginger and I off, and we would wait at our marker. Dad would find a place to leave the truck near the end of his mile and come back to his mark riding Buster. We would run our mile and take time to cool the horses down, load them in the truck and catch the end of the race in Nephi.

    Come race day or evening, I could see the highway patrol car coming up along side of the rider. I received the baton and rode my mile with a strong steady pace and passed the baton without problems to Dad. He quickly covered his mile, we loaded the horses in the trailer and never even came close to catching the racers.  As we drove to Nephi we would see people cooling their horses or loading them in trailers. We would ask some how it went: everyone had a story. Some people were late to their positions so people had to run two miles. Rumor had it that one team had a guy ride 5 miles because four riders didn't show up. I guess most people did not study their mile like we did. There were many that had troubles with their mile. Again my father’s great care with detail and planning had saved us. The Cockleburs did not win the prize but we sure had fun. Dad and I had run our leg of the relay without error. We were all surprised with how fast the relay went. I don't think they ever tried this stunt before or after because it really was dangerous. Today it would be impossible with freeways because of the legal issues.

    One of the events I loved to watch but never dared enter was the trail ride. The trail ride had a number of problems to solve such as opening and closing a gate in a specified time, riding your horse through a water container, and many others. The water container was often a tractor tire tube with a liner to hold water in the center of the tube. Horses do not like to step on something that is soft like the inner tube. Each team could put one challenge in the trail ride and the ride would consist of these challenges. The one that I remember most was the time that the club from Delta had a bear chained near a gate that you had to open to pass through and then close. The horses never saw the gate or anything else after they noticed the bear. Evidently horses have an innate fear of bears. It may be the smell, but this was one of the hardest tasks that I ever watched a rider and horse accomplish. The horses would not pay heed to their rider in the presence of this bear. To run this course you needed a super calm horse, not a high spirited thoroughbred like Ginger and Buster.

    The moonlight ride – Every summer we would take a ride that left from the arena in the mouth of the canyon at about 8 pm. This ride was scheduled for a weekend in the summer with a full moon. We would ride up the canyon in the moonlight. This was really an interesting trip because you could see much more than you expected after your eyes adjusted to the dark. We would ride up main street through town, gathering riders as they came from points east and west until all met at the arena. We would then head up the canyon. We would follow the road into the canyon until we came to the creek. We would then ride on the east side of the creek up to Walker’s Flat, where we would cross creek and the road. This required going through a gate which Dutch Draper would always open and close. This was impressive because Dutch had only one arm. He had lost his left arm in an accident at Kiegley quarry. He would put his flashlight in his mouth, walk his horse up to the gate, and open it. He would hold the gate until all had passed through, then close and secure the gate. Dutch was an amazing man who could do everything. We would travel up the canyon taking the cutoff trail or the old road. The distance must have been about a ten mile ride. The Cockleburs had a cabin above Payson Lakes and below the Ranger Station. The cabin had originally been a log cabin, but it burned before my time. The new cabin was rebuilt with blocks and a metal roof. The major focus of the cabin was a huge cook stove from one of the local restaurants. The first to arrive would build a hot fire in the stove and then as others arrived a large t-bone steak/person would be tossed on for our mid night snack. Dad would have a giant-sized hamburger as he couldn't eat a real piece of meat to save his life. If you wanted to sleep you took your sleeping bags out in the woods and slept where the jokers couldn't find you. If you were discovered you might find yourself in the fire or some other exciting place. Many would not sleep all night, but I needed my beauty rest at that time. The next morning would be a good canyon breakfast with eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee or hot chocolate. The spring at this cabin was literally as cold as ice. Washing your face in the spring water was exhilarating to say the least. Drinking the water froze your teeth. This particular morning many had a water fight at the spring or shall I say with spring water. Any one still sleeping was awakened with a cup of cold water.

    After the morning’s horse play, we would mount up and tour some of the high country. This ride would last until about noon when we would head down the canyon towards home. The riding club was a lot of fun and I got to do some neat things with my Dad and other horse lovers. Unfortunately, I learned many pranks and jokes that were of questionable value later in life. Soon I had to leave these fun days behind and finish college.