Duke has a fancy schmancy AQHA name, but Bobby calls him Duke “because John Wayne would’ve liked him just as much as I do,” he says.
Bobby and Duke hit it off the first time they met. The usual “horse breaking” activities were not necessary. “I pretty much just got on him and we went about our business,” Bobby remembers.
Duke does have a few idiosyncrasies and personality quirks. And he’s a smart booger, too. Everybody who knows him swears he can read the numbers on the cattle when they work a team penning. He picks out the correct one every time.
For those who haven’t seen team penning, the cattle have numbers, usually on their hips or backs, and each team draws for a number. Cattle carrying that number are the ones the team must pen.
When you need to rope something, Duke will drive up on it and give you a great throw. “You’d better not miss though,” says Bobby with a grin. “He won’t give you another chance. In fact, he’ll reach around and bite your toe. He’ll just grab it and hang on awhile.”
At one roping Bobby and Duke got lucky and won. A novice roper was watching, and decided he’d really like to buy that good dun rope horse. Bobby thought about it and named a big price and danged if the fellow didn’t go for it, and wanted to try Duke out.
When the guy threw a lousy loop Duke not only grabbed his toe. He spun around, snorted, ran backward and acted like a crazy thing that wasn’t even broke to ride.
The deal was off. Smart horse.
One spring Bobby and a buddy were supposed to bring a herd of wild cows and their calves out of Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico. Even by deep-breathing cowboy standards this is “rough country.”
“We had 35 head gathered up,” Bobby says. “They took off, me and Duke after them and then they went outta sight. When we come blaring over the hump I see they’re skidding down a huge rock slide and I can’t see where it ends but I figger it’s a lo-o-o-ng ways to the bottom.
“Duke can’t do anything ’cept slide, and down we go. I can’t decide whether to hang on or look for a place to unload. I decide bailing off might be the best plan but there ain’t no place to bail. The only thing between us and oblivion is two cedars no more’n a foot apart, I swear. I figger we’re prob’ly dead, but danged if old Duke don’t fit us between them.
“We get stopped. Course I got no shirt left, my stirrups are tore up, Duke is missing a bunch of hair and one ear looks kinda weird, but hey, we’re among the living. We got outta there with one cow and her calf.”
There’s been no more talk about selling Duke.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: