Thursday, January 2, 2014


Recently I read that cowboys of the high plains seldom rode horses that were light in color because they believed that those horses attracted lightning during thunder storms.

In this photo from my collection, a squinting Idaho cowboy sits astride what appears to be a dark bay horse.  No fear of lightning on that particular day I suppose. 

The ranch house behind him is enormous and it looks as though both the cowboys and family may have quartered there.  Meals were probably served there because the dinner bell is mounted high on the roof next to the tank/rain barrel.  Because the tank is so large the house may have had running water.

Another cowboy sits on the stoop to the left and just behind the heels of the horse sits a dog.

The cowboy wears suspenders and a collared shirt.  Around his neck he wears what today is called a glad-rag.  All of this is accented by his "woolies," chaps made from sheep's wool.  His are dark in color, while most that I've seen have been light in color.  The chaps may be a prop to add drama to the photo, because in front of the house trees have bloomed and a window on the house's second floor is open.  Just a stunning picture from the West as it once was.

This cowboy's Montana Peak hat is the tip-off that he is from the northern tier.

In southern Montana, near the Wyoming border, my wife and I and several others were riding between ranches after moving fifty or more cow-calf pairs to a new graze.  We were more than two or three miles from the second ranch when the most vicious thunder-storm I have ever seen broke over the ground we were trying to cover.  We put our horses into an extended trot, praying that none of us would be struck by the crazy zigzag lightening that struck, cloud to ground, all around us.  The rain was desperate and traced paths down my cheeks, soaked through my yellow slicker, left my hat shapeless and limp, and put puddles in my boots.  But the truth is that the old superstition must be true.  Each one of us were riding dark horses on that July noonday when storms came to the mountains, and not one of us was struck by lightning.  You can 
believe it or not.

Copyright, January 2, 2014 by Loren Schumacher
Photo from the author's collection

1 comment: