Light At The End Of The Tunnel  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Some years ago I was on a cattle ranch in Nebraska and on this particular day the foreman, Jeff, was showing me the various pastures and how to get to them. This was a relatively small ranch for the area, a mere 3,500 acres, but for me it was huge. I had been issued a horse, Pepper, and I was told he was familiar with the ranch and certainly more so than me. I could tell he was a little herd bound and was most happy trailing Jeff’s horse.

My job that day would be riding fence. Once Jeff showed me the “lay of the land” I would be left on my own and he would attend to his own duties. The ranch was bisected by a railroad line which I learned was heavily used and carried massive amounts of coal from the west to the east. Apparently this part of the track was the steepest railroad grade in the United States. The trains needed helper engines to make the grade and occasionally you could feel as well as hear the dull roar of the engines pulling the coal up that grade. It was really something to see. A half dozen engines pulling a hundred coal cars was quite a sight. 

Being hilly country, a lot of the track was on built on huge earth berms which separated one pasture from another. To allow for passage of cattle and horses the railroad company provided culvert pipes at ground level through these berms. They were about 7-8 feet in diameter and except for the “light at the end of the tunnel” they were as dark as a tomb and as I later found out they were just loaded with blown in sagebrush.

Now I’m from Wisconsin but my horse was from Nebraska. I assumed Pepper was familiar with these passages because I was not, at least not leading a horse. We finally arrived at the opening of one and Jeff told me to go first. Now, as is often the case, the boss wants to test your competence with a horse and I thought “here we go again”.  Pepper seemed happier with following and I was being asked to lead but you do as you are told. Now it's a round pipe so except for the very bottom the surface is curved.  That forced me to lead directly in line with the front of the horse. This meant that if the horse bolted he would run over me. As I entered the 100 foot plus long tunnel I fell into complete darkness and began stumbling over the aforementioned sagebrush. I nearly bolted at that point but I controlled myself and tried to act like I do this every day on my way to work. In addition I could hear the rumble of an approaching train and I did not want to be in that tunnel when it crossed over us.

Tunnel Imageed
It seemed like an eternity but we finally reached the other side. When I reached sunshine I turned my horse, grabbed my phone and snapped the picture I have included. Jeff told me that there were times at the end of the day when he was so dog-tired he would ride his horse through the tunnel and just hunch over.  Pepper and I crossed that tunnel several times after that with no trouble but I always dismounted and led him (I’m not crazy!).

Every time I go out west I do things that I never have done or thought I could do. There can be many ways to do a certain thing and you can learn a lot by just watching and sometimes by pushing the so-called envelope. Stay safe but don’t close your eyes to a new experience. With some measured risk can come great reward.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights By Steve -- Stoved Up 

Insights by Steve -- Forever A Cowboy

Insights by Steve -- Horse Do

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

Insights by Steve -- Horse Geology?

Insights by Steve -- Working Together

Insights by Steve -- The Circle

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now