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"Oh, sure, he'll pack. And he can easily carry the two deer," she assured us. "But whatever you do, don't try to pack the mare."
Because there were only the two horses, I volunteered for the trip. Lorin, the typical older brother, said. "Naw, I better go. Looks like that storm is coming over the Divide pretty fast."
That settled the matter. Who was he to insinuate that I couldn't load a couple of damn deer on a horse and come back? With a youngster's wounded ego, I insisted. We slapped the saddles on and cinched them up. For two hours in the falling snow I guided the little mare down through snow-covered brushy swales and across open ridges, the horses carefully picking their footing on the slippery mountainside. The roan shuddered as we stopped at the two dead deer. Preoccupied, I thought it was because of the cold.
The horse's surprising resistance at first dismayed me. But there was no choice. I had to get them lashed onto his back and head back to camp while the gathering storm allowed it. We were in a tight jam—if only the roan had the horse sense to realize it.
I could hardly stand on the slick hillside. On the third try, with the little buck in my arms, I slid completely under the loan's belly as he snorted and pitched and tried to reach me with his thrashing feet. Several times I managed to get the deer onto his back only to have it bucked off as he reared and dragged the mare and me down the mountain. When I pressed the attack from the uphill side, he twice fell and rolled over. Once the mare almost choked before I could cut the snub rope. Gravity took the fight approximately 100 yards down the mountainside. The mare took a terrific beating.
Once, surprisingly, I got the deer partly lashed to the saddle and shouted at the roan, "I got you now, you bastard."
But the roan jerked loose and bit me on the elbow. My heavy jacket saved me from an injury but didn't save the roan from getting a tremendous clout across his enormous nose—a mistake I never made again; it hurt me more than it did him.
Often during the next two hours, in anger I threatened to shoot him. The storm above us continued to build. I tried hobbling him, but with his legs tied he couldn't stand; one move and he was down. Tying the deer onto him while he was down didn't work, either; there were too many moving feet.
Resting for breath, I wondered how he had acquired this phobia. When he was a yearling, had a mountain lion dropped on him from an overhanging limb? Was that a puma scar running back along his side? Had he been unable to shake off the fear that rode his back whenever he smelled wild game?
I considered switching and trying to load the little mare, but her reputation was even worse, and I didn't need more trouble. The snow was now falling heavily, and the wind scooped it around us in wild flurries.