By RYAN M. TAYLOR
For the Capital Press
I knew he couldn't live forever, but it sure seemed like he was going to do just that. His given name was Mose Hollywood on his quarter horse registration papers. We just called him "Dude."
He was a sorrel gelding. He was born near Ray in western North Dakota in 1984, and he became my horse in 1988 for a $500 check of money I'd saved from the entrepreneurial activities of my youth.
It was the best $500 I ever spent.
Like most horses, he had his good points and a few things we needed to work on. He wasn't necessarily a sure-footed horse when I first got him, but the more I rode him the better he got. The best point he always had and always kept right up to his last day was disposition. He was the nicest, calmest, kindest horse I've ever been around. There wasn't an ornery or ill-tempered bone in his body.
Anybody could ride Dude, and everybody did. Novice riders, foreign visitors, cousins, girlfriends, kids of all ages, an occasional baby calf in a storm and, I think, even our border collie dog rode that horse. He never complained, balked or bucked about any of it.
Dude became kind of famous in 1993 when I wrote about him in a writing contest put on by the American Quarter Horse Association. I wrote a little essay about this sorrel gelding and me and our life on the ranch. Of 1,000 entries, the association picked it to be one of the 10 essays they used in an advertising campaign. I got a little prize money; Dude got a little fame. And, in a way, it put me on the path to where we are today.
Being one of the winners in that essay contest got me interviewed for a story in a Sunday Grand Forks Herald. That story got me work for their sister publication, Agweek, as a freelance writer, and, eventually, writing a column we came to call Cowboy Logic. Someone who regularly read that column offered me a job with Fort Dodge Animal Health.
While working for Fort Dodge I put on a supper meeting for ranchers with a New Town, N.D., veterinarian. Into that meeting that night walked the woman who I would ask to be my wife. Together, we've been able to ranch, publish three books, serve in the Legislature, campaign for governor, and raise three beautiful children who -- full circle here -- all learned how to ride horse on that kind-hearted sorrel gelding named Dude. That horse earned every bale of hay and bite of grass he ever took on this ranch. I wish we could have given him more.
But, everything that has a beginning must, someday, have an end. This week, the end came for our 28-year-old equine friend. I had told the family that Dude was getting awfully old, you could see it in his hair coat, you could see it in his eyes and the slowness of his movement.
He was still eating and getting around but when he started losing weight, I told the kids, and myself, that this might be his last winter. I was prepared for the grisly job of saying goodbye and putting him down, but old Dude spared me that pain, laid down on the ground of the ranch where he'd spent 24 of his 28 years and drifted off.
Thank you for all the rides, partner. You were a good horse, and one that we won't ever forget on this ranch.