We Were Cowboys Before Cowboys Were Cool
There was a horse named Hacksaw
He was known by all as an Outlaw
Fire Red Eyes inspired Fear & Awe
Beware of him lest you end up Raw
Yo-del la-dee yo-del oh-dee la-dee yo
—Ford Chaney Circa 1960’s
I grew up in the small town of Corcoran Cali during the turbulent 60s, a sleepy secluded farming community. I always had a love of animals but was especially enamored of horses. My uncle, Ford Chaney, lived in Compton Cali at the time, and I looked forward to spending my summers there as he owned three horses that he would let us ride.
I refer to Uncle Ford as the Original Horse Whisperer because he could train a horse to do just about anything and I was a witness to that during those summers in Compton. It seemed that he and the horses communicated telepathically on their own wave length… they wanted more than anything else to please him. Owners would bring their horse early in the morning and Uncle Ford would get to it, and more than likely, by that evening, he would have accomplished what the owner wanted. It was something to behold!
Understand that he loved all animals, not just horses; dogs, cats, pigs, birds, fish. He loved them all. But to me, it seemed that horses adored him.
Back in the day, my Uncle Ford rescued a horse named Hacksaw. We never knew his history, but one could tell he’d been neglected and/or abused. His coat was mangy, he was underweight, his hooves were broken and had not been shod, he had a sway back, but what you noticed most were his fire red eye... Scary.
He took to Uncle Ford right away, and soon, with good feed, vet care, and kindness, he started to look much better, except for those red eyes. Uncle Ford was the only one he would let ride him, and others were forbidden.
I met Hacksaw after Uncle Ford had nursed him back to health, but we had strict instructions not to ride him because we knew the outcome. In retrospect, that damn horse was as smart and devious as he could be. So when neighborhood teenagers came on the weekend to ride Unc’s horses with me in charge as the oldest, guess who I matched them up with?
“Oh, you should ride Hacksaw. He’s old and slow, perfect for a beginner like you,” I assured them all.
Now mind you, Hacksaw would let you mount him and sit on him, but you were in for the ride of your life. There was this tree on the property with a low hanging branch positioned just about where a rider sat on Hacksaw’s back.
The old horse would walk around slowly at first and lull his rider into a false sense of security, and when the rider was feeling sure of himself, Hacksaw would head full speed for that branch and, Bam, the rider was knocked off!
At the time, me being a bit immature, I thought this was hilarious… me and my brother Steve would be rolling on the ground laughing our asses off. Hacksaw would walk by us, back to his stall with what looked like a mischievous gleam in those red eyes and an indignant snort. This went on the whole summer and the riders that got knocked off were too embarrassed to tell anyone.
As I recall, at the end of the summer, that ancient tree had around 25 notches on it… we never told Uncle Ford what they represented, but I suspect he knew.
Uncle Ford was also one of the first Black Singing Cowboys I had ever seen, and he could yodel with the best of them… something, as a kid, I thought was hella funn, but now realize how unique and talented he was. As an adult, I learned that he had been pursued by a couple of record companies, but somehow never found the time to check it out… what a shame.
Uncle Ford long ago made his journey to that Great Rodeo in the Sky; but nowadays, when I see all the young Black Cowboys and Cowgirls, I think of Uncle Ford and how happy he would be because "We Were Cowboys Before Cowboys Were Cool."