by John L. Fuhring

The road East

     The great movie trip started early on a Thursday morning.  I Picked up Rusty at his stable in Orcutt and was on the road by 7:00 AM.  Wanted to have plenty of time to get to Simi Valley in case of slow traffic or car trouble or in case the other guys wanted to leave early.  As it turned out we made great time, got to Simi by about 9:45, but had to wait around an hour and a half while everything was made ready.

     Before loading up my horse and all my stuff, I had an opportunity to see what kind of trailer equipment we were going to use.  Alarm bells started going off, but I really wanted to go on this trip and have this adventure, so at first I restrained myself from making any comments. The trailer we used belonged to one of our company named Bob (will have more to say about Bob - boy will I have more to say about Bob).  This trailer was old, rusted and junky and very small for 4 horses.  The jack didn’t work, it did not have a functioning emergency  brake or, for that matter, any functioning brakes at all.  The next thing I noticed was that the "safety" chains were a joke.  The chains were fastened to the trailer hitch with, if you can believe it, light duty spring clips.  I mentioned that these fasteners would never be able to hold even an empty trailer for one second, but when I perceived that this comment was not at all appreciated, I shut up.

     About 11:00 AM we pulled out and started to pick up the other guys, their horses and equipment.  I kept noticing other health and safety issues like not having the lead ropes with the horses and a complete ignorance of what electrolytes are and for what purpose they should be administered before a long and hot trip. More alarm bells were going off as I realized that I was traveling with people who knew just enough to be dangerous.

     The group consisted of Dan, Keith, Bob, Greg and myself.  Dan was the owner/driver of the RV and a very nice guy.  He owns a small black Morgan type horse.   Keith is an educated and intelligent Englishman, a good rider and the owner of a well trained black Arabian.  Bob is retired playground bully and a genuine, 100% dumb ass SOB.  Bob owns a gray Appaloosa (hereafter referred to as "Bob’s appy").  I’m sorry, but I found absolutely no redeeming qualities in Bob except that he had done nothing to date to land him in prison (that I know of and mores the pity).  Lastly we also picked up Greg, another really nice guy.  Greg didn’t have a horse, but had arranged to rent one (as we shall see).  Finally, there was Yours Truly with, without doubt, the best looking horse in the cavalry, Rusty.

     I tried to avoid the "what do you do for a living" conversation because it seems as though people use that knowledge to place themselves or others in a rigid social hierarchy.  I suppose that it is impossible for strangers to meet and not ask that question eventually.  After we got going we introduced ourselves and I asked about what the others were interested in and where they have been.

    Conversing with Bob was a bit of a challenge.   Bob wanted to know what I did for a living.  In an attempt to be funny,  I told him that I "Wasn’t Exactly a Rocket Scientist," paused, then continued to explain that I was a rocket engineer.  "I hate engineers, nothing is ever right with those people, they are nothing but a pain in the butt" was the gracious reply.  The conversation didn’t improve much when it turned to National origin.  Bob’s last name is very Irish sounding and so he assumed that I didn’t like the Irish very much since my  name sounds German.  I felt it necessary to  explain that I was at least half Irish, had been to Ireland on vacation and had actually kissed the Blarney Stone while I was there.

     Our first stop was at Barstow Calif. to allow the horses to get out and drink.  It was hot.  My horse was thirsty and drank a lot (I had given him Lite Salt for a couple of days before the trip).  Two of the other horses drank lightly, but Bob’s appy didn’t drink at all.  This was not too remarkable and no one thought anything about it.

     We crossed the California/Arizona border at the Colorado river in the early evening and were not required to stop for any inspections.  After dark we made a gas stop in a rural part of Western Arizona.  I was standing between two gas islands when I noticed a pickup making a beeline for me.  I had a very odd feeling about this truck and the way it was driven so I quickly stepped out of the way.  Out comes this really (really) ugly looking guy.  He was armed with a nickel plated .45 automatic - with the clip in it.  This guy was dressed in "biker" attire, had a noticeable chronic limp and proceeded to go into the station to pay for some gas.  There was no friendly exchange of greetings.  Did I mention that this guy was really ugly?  He obviously meant to look as "macho" and threatening as possible and it worked.  Thought to myself; "Sure am glad I do not clerk at gas stations in Arizona with these kinds of armed goofballs on the loose."  The other guys in my group seemed to admire this gunman’s "free spirit," but I offered the opinion that this guy was some kind of low life walking around like that and not somebody I or they would want to emulate.  Didn’t get too much argument on that one.

     I know that this is a little mean of me, but watching this armed and ugly guy gimping around, I couldn’t help but think of that old Irish drinking toast "May God turn the hearts of our enemies, but if He won’t turn their hearts, at least let Him turn their ankles so we will know who they are by their limpin’."

     We continued on to Flagstaff AZ. and arrived at very deserted and lonely forested area outside of town long after dark.  As it turned out, we only had a couple of flash lights and could hardly see what we were doing.  Again, Bob’s appy did not drink and I seemed to be more concerned about it than was its owner.  I suggested some electrolytes to increase its thirst and get it to drink, but the advice was contemptuously ignored. We tied the horses to the trailer and rested ourselves for about four hours before resuming the trip.

    In the early morning we quickly loaded up and got on the road.  I asked the others if the animals had a good drink before they were loaded and got the impression that very little time was "wasted" on that chore.  This made me very concerned about the horses (especially mine) and said so to the others.  If you can believe it, that fool Bob actually mocked my concern.  I was hoping for an opportunity to unload the horses along the way and give them a good watering, but we were running way behind schedule and didn’t stop except briefly for gas.

      By the way, while backing up in the dark pre-dawn hours while getting out of our camp, Dan jackknifed the rig and put a big dent in the front of Bob’s trailer.  Bob was very, very upset about his poor trailer, but I think it actually improved the looks of the old junker.  This big ugly dent somehow complimented the trailer’s overall ambiance.  Sort of a vanguard expression of "Art de Junque."

    Arriving at Santa Fe in the afternoon and later than we planned, we immediately went to wardrobing so that the costume "artists" could check out our uniforms and equipment to see if they met their standards.  We had just left the wardrobing building and were heading for highway 41 to take us the 25 or so miles to the set (and where our horses were to be kept) when the trailer hitch broke.