The Hundredth Meridianrnbv Chilton Williamson^ Jr.rnHobbles and a BiidlernNeither Art Antilla nor 1 felt like gettingrndrunk. We stood away from camp on therncliff edge above Devil’s Hole canyon,rndrinking black coffee while the CommissaryrnCommandos huddled around therncampfire with their whiskey bottles andrnsomeone pitched a bowling ball over therntalus slope to the creek bottom 800 feetrnbelow for some sheephcrder to find andrnmarvel at. The ball struck first 100 feetrndown, bounced, soared another 300 feet,rnstruck a boulder, and flew on like a cannonrnshot, taking with it the top half ofrna small pine tree before lodging itselfrnin the creek bed. The Commandosrncheered lustily, and everyone had anotherrndrink. When I was able to make myselfrnheard again I went on with the storyrnof how Saab Star had broken his picketrnline one evening at Elbow Lake in thernWind River Mountains earlier in thernsummer and made his way out throughrnmore than 20 miles of wilderness to therntrailhead. “You ought to try hobblingrnhim next time,” Art said.rnWe watched while the gelding, liftingrnhis feet, carefully untangled his legs fromrnthe picket line as he grazed in a clearingrnon the other side of camp. “I’ve had thatrnhorse since he was 18 months old,” I said.rn”I broke him and finished him, and Irnknow him well enough to be 90 percentrncertain how he’ll react in any situation.rnHe isn’t like other horses. If I put hobblesrnon him he’d panic and throw himself,rnand I couldn’t get close enough torntake them off without getting my headrnkicked in. I’d never get him on his feetrnagain without Steve Walker’s backhoe tornlift him up.”rnArt was dubious. He said he had neverrnknown a horse not to take to hobblesrnwithout a lot of trouble. Art remarkedrnthat he had a seven-year-old marc thatrnhad been saddle-broke, then foaled beforernanyone got around to bridle-breakingrnher. “She did real good under saddle,”rnhe said. “We snubbed her to a postrnand got up on her, and during elk seasonrnthat fall we ponied her while she carriedrnone of mv’ bovs. I don’t have a whole lotrnof free time this summer,” he added. “Ifrnyou could finish her for me, I’d be willingrnto make it more than worth your while.”rnI considered.rn”State your price,” he urged.rn”You just want her bridle-broke? Thatrnshouldn’t be a tough job. I’ll do it for…rnlet’s say a set of good leather hobbles.”rnArt was surprised. “That don’t soundrnright to me.”rn”Why not? It’s easy work.”rnHe shrugged. “All right then, a set ofrnhobbles.”rnArt introduced us at Chester Buck’srnranch on the Hams Fork below the LakernViva Naughton Dam the week after thernCommando trip. My pupil was a fleabittenrnQuarter Horse mare, not tall butrnstockily built. Her name, Art said, wasrnStormy. He brought the saddle andrnblanket from a horse trailer parkedrnagainst the barn, and together wernsnubbed her, placed the blanket andrnpulled it up on the withers, and set thernsaddle carefully on the blanket. Reachingrnunder her belly for the girth, I putrnthe end of the billet through the ringrnand drew on it, taking care not to fix thernstrap too tightly. Then, standing by thernmare’s head with my right arm under herrnchin, I took the bridle Art handed me,rnlaid the snaffle bit gently against herrnfront teeth, and pulled back on the headstall.rnThe mare took the bit easiU’, and Irnslipped the brow band in place and fastenedrnthe throatlatch. “Good giri,” I toldrnher.rnI untied her from the post and led herrnonto the turnaround in front of the ranchrnhouse, well away from outbuildings,rnparked vehicles, and fences. While Artrnlooked on from a distance, I stood by herrnleft shoulder and drew back, very lightly,rnon the reins. The mare looked bored.rnHolding the reins in my right hand I setrnmy left foot in the stirrup and stood in it,rnletting her feel my full weight beforernstepping down. I did this four times, andrnon the fifth I swung my right leg overrnwithout touching the croup. I steppedrndown, then up again, and this time Irnthrust my right boot firmly into the stirrup.rnWhen the marc did not react Irnurged her forward with a light pressurernfrom my heels. She stepped out instantlyrnand went five or six paces before, lightrnas a butterfly, I let her feel the reins.rnThe mare went up on her hind legsrnas I leaned into the mane, lost her balance,rnand fell over backward on thernturnaround. Art later claimed that Irnsaved my life by kicking out of the saddle,rnbut it is much more likely that I fellrnfrom it. I landed on my back on the hardrnred clay with the wind knocked out ofrnme and the mare alongside in the samernposition, as if we were a couple in bed together.rnShe rolled to get her legs underrnher, scrambled up, and stood with thernreins dragging, while I lay staring at thernviolet sky and fighting to regain that hollowrnfeeling in the chest that means yournhave air inside it, not solid bone. As soonrnas I could breathe again I got on my feetrnand retrieved my hat. King in the dust arnfeyy yards away. On the one hand, Irndidn’t want to get up on that horse again.rnOn the other hand, I knew I had to.rnWhen I did though I made a big pointrnwith her about not pulling back on thernreins. Instead I mounted and dismountedrnseveral times before snubbing herrnagain, removing the bridle, and pullingrndown the saddle and blanket. “Roundrnone goes to you,” I told the mare. “Butrntomorrow is another day.”rnWhen I returned to the ranch nextrnmorning I had along my own, lighter,rnsaddle and blanket, and also two 20-footrnlengths of smooth nylon rope and a drivingrnwhip. The mare was off grazing inrnw illows away from the fence with thernother horses, pretending not to have noticedrnme. I approached carrying a handfulrnof sweet grain in a bucket and makingrna noise like an oat, slipped the halter overrnher nose, and brought her out of thernpasture to the snubbing post. “Toda werngo back and start from the ground up,” Irntold her. “You’re in kindergarten again.”rn1 saddled and bridled her, knotted thernends of the reins together, and droppedrnMARCH 1997/49rnrnrn