By Jo Cross
CUCHARA- Charley and Annie Powell owned Cuchara Camps when our family first came. Charley carried the mail, was a sort of general manager of the place. Annie had a few saddle horses which she rented by the hour to anyone courageous enough to put up with their uncertain antics. Pepper was a big bay with black points who enlivened the ride by his trick of stumbling, causing his rider to lurch forward, sometimes the unhappy rider to wind up on the ground. Since Pepper was too tall to mount without a platform, the rider was often forced to walk him back to the ranch a half mile or so from the Cuchara Commissary. I was on my first ride on him, when he stumbled. I jerked his head and gave him a healthy whack on the rump with the long ends of the reins, and had a little conversation with him. He didn’t understand the words, but he got the message and never stumbled with me again.
Marge was a handsome sorrel and was my usual choice. She had an easy movement and responded to gait changes with slight pressure.
Bingo was a small black gelding of uncertain origin, though his head and blocky build suggested Morgan somewhere in the nether regions. He was stubbornly determined not to go anywhere except to the home ranch, where he would stand immovably until the rider gave up or Annie would come out and take him to his stall.
Charley’s daughter Wanda and her husband Albert Jameson ran the hotel and its dining room and the commissary. Charley’s son Lloyd had a sawmill at the ranch where he provided planks for building cabins, firewood for cook stoves and fireplaces. He also found rocks suitable for stepping-stones, rock gardens, foundation, and for slopes where the soil would wash away.
Helen (my sister) and I usually took a friend with us when we went to Cuchara. Helen’s friend, Many Louise Newby, went along for many years. My friend was Mary Louise Wellemeyer. They soon became Mary and Mary Lou.
Mary Lou wanted to learn to ride horseback, as she had never been on a horse and it was such fun. Annie Powell brought Marge and Pepper to the store at 9:30 am just when everyone was coming for their mail. I put Mary Lou on Marge, because she was more manageable, but she wouldn’t budge. I kept telling Mary Lou to nudge Marge with her heels and tap her with the reins. Mary Lou couldn’t get the signals right and Marge wasn’t responding, so I said I’d get up behind her and show her. I swung up behind the saddle, but Marge wasn’t having that—no, siree, not by a long shot. She tucked in her back legs and provided us with a slippery—slide. I wound up with a lapful of saddle and Mary Lou. We had an audience of about 30 people.
When they saw we weren’t hurt, everyone roared with laughter at our expense, so we had to laugh, too. Since Marge managed to break the cinch, that took care of our riding!
When I got my breath back, I had a few words for Marge, she still sat on her rump with her back legs stuck out. She had a gleam in her eye as she enjoyed a real horse laugh.