Previous Experience Required
It was a typical Sunday morning in late summer on my beat in downtown Saskatoon. The busyness and hoards of intoxicated bar hoppers were all gone, except for the traces they left behind – broken bottles, drink glasses, and the occasional pile of vomit left behind by somebody who had a little too much of a good time.
I had finished my regular few laps in the downtown core, checking the alleys and bank lobbies for anyone who may have bedded down for the night. Many of the homeless people that I have become friends with in the past few years usually spend their nights in one of the warm bank lobbies, but this morning they were all empty. I smiled to myself as I hoped some of them were enjoying a good nights sleep in a warm bed, or at least a soft couch.
I did a spin down by the river and ended up by the Bessborough, our grand castle of the prairies, when I got a call from dispatch that they had a special task for me.
I was told that officers were tailing a runaway horse at the corner of Boychuck Drive and Highway 16. Knowing I had a ranching background, dispatch was wondering if I could attend and assist in catching the horse.
At first I was taken by surprise at the strangeness of the situation, but soon realized that it could actually be quite serious if the horse were to wander into heavy traffic.
I tracked down a pail from a fellow officer’s truck, and headed out to the scene to see what I could do.
By the time I got to the far east side of College Drive, I could see that the horse had crossed all four lanes of traffic and was traveling eastbound on College, towards the busy McOrmand Drive. I crossed through the ditch and got up as close to the horse as I could without scaring him.
All of our vehicles have nylon bag rope in them to be used if somebody is drowning and unfortunately, a nylon rope cannot be used for making a lasso but I had to make do with what I had. I exited the vehicle, cut off about 15ft of nylon rope and put it in my back pocket. I reached down, grabbed a handful of gravel and threw it in the pail. I slowly began to walk towards the horse, desperately hoping that this fella was broke (trained) and would respond to the decoy pail of “oats”.
I gave the pail a few shakes and saw his ears immediately perk up. As I walked towards him, I knew this would be a one shot deal. I had to get control of him quickly because the minute he discovered there weren’t any oats in the pail, I would most likely not be able to catch him. When I got within a few feet, I gave the pail a final shake and when he reached over to inspect the pail with his nose, I threw my arm and the rope over his neck and dropped the pail as he began to rear back. I held my ground and got the rope around his neck and managed to get a knot in it. He reared up a couple more times, but I knew I had him secured.
I could hear the joy in the dispatcher’s voice as she said, “ten-four” after I announced that I had caught the horse and had him under control.
But being the unique situation that this was, we weren’t sure what to do with the horse after it had been caught. While waiting for dispatch to sort it out, I had a bit of time to think about how my past experiences have assisted me throughout my career as a police officer, but I never would have thought all my years as a cattle rancher would have came in as handy as they did today.
I couldn’t help but think about a special horse I had years back, named Raindrop, who taught me a lot about catching things and more importantly, having patience.
Raindrop was one of the best and smartest horses I ever rode, but he had a bit of a hang-up – he was nearly impossible to catch (unless he wanted to be), and made a fool out of me more times that I could count. I got him from an old cowboy on the Sakamay First Nation when I was around 13-years-old. He was a old Red Roan Appaloosa with big black spots on his backside, and he was extremely intelligent.
Over the years, I learned that when we wanted to ride or go move cattle, we would have to catch all the other horses first and be almost ready to leave before Raindrop would “allow” us to catch him. But if he decided that he didn’t want to be caught, he wasn’t. This resulted in many pails of spilled oats and plenty of frustration, but when I did catch him and ride him, he could cut cattle with the best of them and was a real pleasure to be up on top of. He could rear up on demand, and as a young fella, I felt like Roy Rogers riding Trigger.
I received word from communications that the Corman Park Police had made arrangements with an equestrian club south of town, and that the wrangler would be coming to take the horse until the owners could be found.
A feeling of pride came over me as I saw the wrangler approaching. I was really quite happy that this ended as well as it did.
As we loaded the horse in the trailer, I reminded myself that this job is a dynamic one constantly filled with surprises. A Police officer goes to work every day never quite sure what will be thrown at them. However, I never would have imagined that I would be relying on my rancher skills, but I was more than happy to be a cowboy again, even if it was only for a short time.