PAT NEAL: A good horse

A young Pat Neal holds the lead rope for his sisters on the back of Cinderella the donkey.

A young Pat Neal holds the lead rope for his sisters on the back of Cinderella the donkey.

Back on the farm, we used to say, all the animals go to heaven.

There was great reminder of this eternal truth when a picture came in the mail last week.

I was holding a lead rope on a donkey with my two sisters on her back.

A young Pat Neal holds the lead rope for his sisters on the back of Cinderella the donkey.

A young Pat Neal holds the lead rope for his sisters on the back of Cinderella the donkey.

The donkey was named Cinderella by someone with a weird sense of humor.

The legend says the cross on the burro’s back is a reminder of the time a donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem then followed him to Calvary where the shadow of the cross fell on the poor burro and stayed there ever since.

It’s a beautiful story, but if Jesus had to ride Cinderella to Jerusalem, he might have been bucked off long before he made it there.

Cinderella was a bucking burro. Us kids thought she must have packed the Anti-Christ.

Bucking was not her only talent. She had a way of brushing off a rider by going into the brush and knocking them off with low hanging tree limbs. Or she would gallop into her feeding shed that was just tall enough for her.

She knew how to get rid of a human in a hurry, so you’d better jump off before you were shoved off.

Still, riding a burro was better than riding a cow. I know that now. Especially the razor-backed Holstein steers we used to get cheap from the dairy farms.

You know the ones. They’d be about 1,500 pounds or more, of which 500 pounds was bones.

You had to wait until they were asleep to get on one these critters. You had to hang on once they woke up because they were not going to be happy. But if you could stay on a bucking burro, you had a chance on a bucking steer. Until they figured out how to brush you off in the woods, that is.

Then one magic day we got a horse. People were always giving us horses. Free horses are a lot like free trucks, boats or whatever. They have issues.

Still, there’s nothing better than having a good horse under you.

It certainly beats having a horse roll over on top of you. Especially if you are in a swamp or crossing a creek, but more on that later.

We were very proud of the fact that we could train our horses ourselves.

We taught them to do pretty much whatever they wanted.

They wanted to run fast. But if you could ride a burro or a steer, then riding a horse was easy.

The only problem was getting on top of them. That’s when the trouble started.

Just when you put a foot in the stirrup the horse would wake up and start crow-hopping in circles, while trying to bite you in the rear.

If you actually made it in the saddle, you had better hang on — there was only one speed and that was full throttle, until you came to a body of water.

That’s when the horse decided to stop, drop and roll, which could bust up the saddle and the rider if you stayed on.

Then again, if you jumped off you would have to get back on, so you’d better deal with it and get them running fast.

At some point, you would have to turn around and head for the barn, and the race was on!

Horses are always in a hurry to get home. It was the wildest part of the ride. They are all long gone now, but they all went to heaven, as far as we know.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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