These two young gals were Native Americans from the Little Shell of the Chippewa tribe in northern Montana. Their parents were friends of mine and asked if they could spend the summer at the lodge with me as they were both good with horses and could help out. This turned out to be an understatememt. Jen was thirteen and Leda was fourteen. I was hesitant about the whole situation but I agreed to let them stay for a couple weeks as I wasn’t about to baby sit a couple teenage gals for the whole summer.
Joe and I had been working this young gelding for quite some time and getting nowhere. The girls asked if they could have a go at him and I said he’s all yours. This was in the morning and I told the girls to be careful as this horse was pretty rank. Late in the afternoon I looked out the window of the lodge and there was Jen riding this horse, bareback down the road with no problem at all. Joe looked at me and said “pard I think we better keep these gals here all summer”.
In the evening I would tell the girls that I needed six horses ready to go early in the morning for a pack trip. By the time I got out of bed they had them caught, saddled and loaded in the stock truck.
One day this lady was standing on the porch of the lodge and admiring the girls as they were working with the horses. She said, “aren’t those just darling young lady’s” and just about then one of the horses tried to kick Leda. She grabbed his lead rope, spun him around and kicked him in the belly as hard as she could. Then she said if you try that again you S.O.B. I’ll kick your ass til your nose bleeds. I looked over at the lady on the porch and her mouth was wide open. She just stood there not believing what she had just heard.
The girls were riding down along the river breaking in this new horse when all of a sudden Jen came galluping up to the lodge and yelling that Leda’s pinky was missing. I jumped in the pickup and sped down there to see what happened. Leda was sitting on the ground and staring at her hand. Her pinky was still there but about half an inch of the tip was gone. She had got her little finger caught in her dally and it ripped the tip right off. I loaded her in the pickup and headed to the hospital in Butte. It was about a 45 minute drive and the entire way there was not the slightest whimper from her, you know she had to be in a lot of pain. The next day she was right back on hat horse.
They started having these races across the river and back wanted me to take part. The rules they had set up were you had to ride bareback and only with a halter and lead rope. The other rule was that there were no more rules. If you could dump the other riders in the river that was fair. I agreed to take part and I picked the best horse in the bunch. They questioned why I got that horse and I had to remind them that I was the boss. Joe also agreed to take part but only if he could wear two life jackets. We started from in front of the lodge and went full bore through the brush, willows, across the river and back. I must have taken part in this race at least ten times and it didn’t matter what horse I picked, they always won.