STORIES FROM THE LIFE OF JOSEPH HUNT
By Ozro Hunt
My father, Joseph Hunt, died at the age of 82 in Monticello, Utah. He had saw a lot of country in his days and saw it all from a covered wagon. When I was 8 years old, I had been through 9 different states and Canada and had road on nothing but a wagon or a horse.
My dad loved horses and took great pride in them especially race horses. He was a real rider and a good one. He was also a bronco rider. The last covered wagon ride we had was in 1907 the last day of March. We left Cortez, Colorado and moved to Bluff, Utah. We were only there 6 months when dad wanted us to mount the covered wagon and take off for some other sea port. But we all backed on him and stayed in Bluff. We liked Bluff and the people there. I was 13 and Marion was 17. We both got jobs punching cows. The Bluff people were very well off, hundreds of cattle and sheep.
Dad got a job freighting from Cortez to Bluff for the Co-op Store. He bought two big saddle horses from a rich cow outfit. This cow outfit figured those two horses were too slow to catch a wild cow, but they thought they might make work horses. Well, they sure did. They would get down and scratch every time dad spake to them. Dad traded two or three ponies for three cows. One of the cows had a calf about three weeks old that wasnít branded. Dad wanted me to go with him and help catch the calf and brand it. The cow was wilder than hell. I ask him what he was going to catch the calf on and he said, "Old Prince". That was one of the horses that the cow outfit had sold him. I said, "The reason they sold him to you was because he couldnít catch a broken legged jack ass." Dad said, "Iíve tried him out, and he can run like a coyote." So I went with dad. The cows were running about 3 miles down the river from Bluff. We soon found the cow and calf. Dad stuck the spurs in Old Prince and took to the calf in about 300 yards and he roped the calf. Dad said Nielsons must have some damn good horses if Old Prince is the slowest one in the bunch. He said, "I am going to out run every horse Nielsons have with Old Prince this summer." He began to train Old Prince.
Dad bought another work horse and would take Old Prince along for a blind. When he would leave town, he would be working Old Prince and leading the horse he bought. When he got out of town 3 miles, he would lead Prince and work the other horse. It took 10 days to make the trip to Cortez and back.
The first trip in he told the young cowboys that he did not think all their horses could outrun Old Prince. Well, they had about 10 head of saddle horses in the corral, so they told him they would bet him $20 that he could not pick one out of the bunch that he could outrun. He put up the $20 with them and told them he would pick the horse the next morning. I was working for this outfit, so that night I told dad which horse I thought was the slowest in the bunch. The next morning dad picked the horse I had told him to pick, and the big race was on. Dad was his own jockey, only 68 years old, he didnít have to get his motherís consent to ride. Nielson Brothers had their own jockey. They told dad to set the distance so he said, "300 yards". They went down and cut Ďem loose. Here they come both whipping! Prince was nice to handle; Dad was holding Old Prince and whipping his leg! Sure made it look like a good race. Dad won by 3 ft. Ė enough to win the money.
Well, the boys came back for another race. They told dad to try and pick one more that he thought he could outrun, so dad put up $25 and told them he would pick his horse tomorrow. He wanted my advice on the next one. I told him to pick a pretty boy, horse, as I thought he was the next slowest one.
At 2 oíclock the next day the race was on. 300 yards again, but this time they wanted a man to tape them off. Here they came, both whipping, but dad was whipping his leg again and holding Old Prince.. Same thing again, Dad won by 3 ft. By this time the boys began to get serious. $25 in those days were equal to about $200 now, so the boys told dad they would pick out 4 head and give him his choice for another $25. Dad took them up at that, but told them that they would have to wait till he made the next trip to Cortez. The next morning he left town working Old Prince and leading one of the others, but after 2 miles, he took Old Prince out and led him. This time when he reached Cortez, he bought some bandages and a large bottle of Absorbine Jr. From then on Old Prince had his rub down and bandages on his legs every night. Dad meant business!
Well, when he got back this time, he said Old Prince is ready to go. While he was gone, I got more dope on the four head he had to choose from. By this time Dad was pretty cocky. He didnít much care which one he run, but I told him again which one to pick. So he did and the race was on! But the boys changed jockies Ė got a older guy to ride and told him to not start unless he was in lead. But that didnít work. Dad was too much jockey for him. Everytime they would break, Dad was in lead. They scored for about 10 minutes. Finally here they come, both crowding and whipping! Dad won again by a small margin. He told me that it was the easiest race he had ever won.
Well, that race got their goats. The next day the boys tried out the first horse and the last horse that they matched Dad with, and last horse outran the first one 30 feet. Yet Old Prince only outrun both them 3 ft. Well, out of the three horses they had left, one of them was real fast. They called him Old Short. They had stood him pat against anything that came alo9ng. They wanted to run Old short against Old Prince for any amount. I told Dad to lay off Old Short, that he was a fast son-of-a-gun and nothing in the country could touch him. Dad said "give me 10 more days with Old Prince and Iíll outrun him too." But he told the boys that he had worked Old Prince too hard that trip and didnít care to run him anymore. The next day Dad left for Cortez after freight. He took 12 days for it this time so he could get Prince in better shape and the Nielsons and I left for the winter range to chase wild cattle. We had a hard trip. Old short was a real wild cow horse and did he get rode that trip. And Dad got back to Bluff about the same time and all the boys could talk about was how they would like to show Old Man Hunt just how far Old Short could outrun Old Prince.
Well, when Dad got back he sure wanted to tie in to Old Short. Dad had Old Prince shining like silk and he said "He is ready to go." I said, "Well you just as well get it off your chest. Old Short has had a hard trip. If you canít outrun him now, you never can."
So, the first day the boys saw Dad they began to talk race with Old short and Prince. Dad acted like he was scared of them and wouldnít run, so that made the foreman of the cowboys mad. He said to Dad, "Why, you old fool, you think you have got a race horse." He said, "I weigh 185 lbs and Iíll run you Old Short and Iíll ride against you." That was just what Dad was waiting for so Dad said,"Iíll run you for $50 for 300 yards." Well, the sun had gone down and it was getting dark. Dad wanted to wait Ďtil morning but Nielson was afraid he would back out so he said, "letís go!" they went to the end of the street. Nielson tried to get the start of Dad, but Dad had rode too many races to let that happen. I guess they scored for 10 minutes. It would have been drk but a bright moon was shining. Finally here they come! All we could see wad Dadís bald head in the moonlight and a big fog of dust. This time Dad was riding for blood. They were both whipping but Dad wasnít whipping his leg this time and he wasnít holding Old Prince. Dad won again by 2 ft.
When they came back, with their horses, Nielson was calling Dad some bad names. I didnít hear what Nielson was calling Dad but I heard Dad say, "Well, you son-of-a-bitch, if you are not satisfied, I can whip you for $50 more." But some of the older brothers broke up their quarrel and the sports were over.
That was the last race Dad ever rode. He was still a young jockey at only 68 when he retired.
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