Real Cowboys Don’t Ride Paint Horses

I’m in Arizona in the beautiful San Rafael Valley outside of Patagonia. It’s a commercial for Acme Boots courtesy the success of John Travota’s movie URBAN COWBOY. At this point, just about everybody on the planet wants to have a pair of cowboy boots and ride the mechanical bull in a cowboy bar.

Jay Hudson is the foreman of the ranch we’re filming and some of his wranglers will be in the commercial. Jay is sixty, five-nine, two-forty, and sits on a horse like he’s an extension of the animal. I bribed him a little bit with a bottle Bourbon and a stash of Famous Amos cookies. I never asked about his eating habits, but we worked together many many times after that and I never forgot my bribe.

I cheated a little on this one. To further cover myself, I cast a rodeo cowboy from Phoenix that could do rope tricks and he brought his horse, a beautiful Paint.  The horse was let out of his trailer and his master administered to him while the ranch cowboys watched. Some chewed their snus, others spit, but they said nothing. The Phoenix cowboy finished cleaning up his Paint. The horse glistened.

Jay was laughing under his breath.

‘That horse can’t even stand.’

Out of earshot, we all start to chat, while Phoenix keeps brushing his pet.

‘Cowboys don’t ride Paint horses.’

‘Indian horses.’

These were hard nosed Arizona ranch cowboys who had a badass reputation among real cowboys. Horses were a tool for their livelihood, not a pet. Ranching was becoming a lost art and these guys clung to their value system, right or wrong. In this case they proved to be right.  On the first take, the Paint horse almost dropped from exhaustion after galloping a few hundred yards. It reminded me of the famous drunken horse scene in CAT BALLOU.

I felt sorry for Phoenix and his pet.

I felt stupid for being so impulsive and not doing my homework.