In the inimitable yarn-spinning fashion of Horse Tradin’ and Wild Cow Tales, Ben K. (Doc) Green now takes us back with him to the deep Southwest and the never-a-dull-moment years he spent as practicing horse doctor—working out of Fort Stockton, Texas—along the Pecos and the Rio Grande, in one of the last big “horse countries” of North America.
With precious little formal schooling, but with a perfect (if sometimes profane) corralside manner and plenty of natural wit, Doc became the first to hang up a shingle out there in the trans-Pecos country. And he didn’t start small! The territory he had for his practice was 420 miles north and south by 360 miles east and west. And he covered that territory by all means known to man—shank’s mare, horseback, buckboard, and (his standby for long hauls) a beat-up old coupe on whose body panels he kept his books in chalk.
To go with Doc on his rounds, visiting his “patients,” is a nostalgic and hilarious journey into a spacious yesterday—and a liberal education in the kind of horse and cow savvy of which precious little remains in the modern world. As a horseman it was a savvy he came by naturally. But perhaps he learned most from his own research: his own book on horse confirmation, privately published in several printings, is still a bible among practical horsemen; his research in his own laboratory on horse colors and pigmentation has made him an expert on what makes a “strawberry roan” or a “coyote dun.”
But the meat of Ben Green’s books is in his yarns. To hear him tell the tales of his struggles with mean and friendly stockmen, yellowweed fever, banditos, poison hay, and “drouth”—to say nothing of his canny mix of science and horse sense when treating animals “that ain’t house pets”—is a 100-proof old-time pleasure.
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October 23, 2013
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