Hube Yates, recently retired as a Captain of the Phoenix Fire Department was just beginning to enjoy a leisurely life at his ranch near Heber, Arizona, when opportunity reared it’s head.  He didn’t welcome the chance to work at a guest ranch in Cave Creek — really, really didn’t want it, but he was a kind man.  He and his wife, Patsy, talked over the proposition that presented itself.  They said yes and they said no.

“I went back and told Jean that I would work for about six weeks, and help screen the people who applied for the jobs,” Hube explained.

He had some advice for the boss lady: “Don’t get a couple of cowboys like you have out here. They absolutely don’t know enough to tie a rope around a horse’s neck. They didn’t know anything about a horse. One of them admitted it.”

Neither did Jean and her doctor husband.

“We screened one couple after another. There’d be a wonderful woman and her husband would be just gettin’ over one.  Another time it would be the woman and another time the man. If could just get some of those couples rearranged, they’d have a good team. We couldn’t find a good couple to save our souls, so Patsy and I agreed to stay for a little while longer.”

The Owens duo wanted to close the guest ranch in the summers.  Someone had told her that you can’t get guests to come at that time of the year. It’s too hot.

Hube questioned that, and agreed to write a brochure and let the world know that there are activities in the wild and wooly West, even in the summer. It worked. They did more business that first summer than they’d ever done in the winter.

Hube and Patsy became a fixture there — Hube taking the guests horseback riding, entertaining them around a campfire and telling about his adventures, and taking care of the horses.  Patsy earned her keep by cooking, playing piano for sing-alongs in the evenings, and doing whatever needed doing.

Six weeks turned into six years.  Jean did not want to see him and Patsy leave. She said, “Hube Yates, the day you quit, I’m going to close the doors.”

That’s exactly what she did.

“But we didn’t leave Cave Creek — just moved to a place where we could keep our own horses and open a ridin’ stable,” Hube said.

On their 50th wedding anniversary the owners of Frontier Town, an Old West shopping center, threw Patsy and Hube a party. Everybody in the community was invited, a happy, happy time for a couple who still loved each other.

In those six years at the guest ranch they had become such a part of the community that you couldn’t imagine them anywhere else, except for maybe Heber.  He had a ranch there.  Every summer he would take people along who wanted to ride horseback with him for 200 arduous miles over rugged mountains. It was an adventure vacation for them, but the purpose for Hube was  to move his horses to a cool climate.  He loved his horses and good old dog, Sam.

Friends from Cave Creek would make the drive up to visit them, and cool off too.  Patsy didn’t count the number of people who arrived, especially on Sundays.  She knew how many biscuits she cooked. She was one busy woman.

And during hunting season the hunters arrived.  Hube said, “If anything silly is going to happen, it’s going to be on a hunting trip.” He had the stories to prove it. Here’s one about an elk:

“One day a buddy was visitin’ me at the old Bigler Ranch east of Heber. We were standin’ around talkin’ about how the elk had been eatin’ the corn that we had planted to feed the calves. While we were discussin’ the situation the dog went up in a dense cedar thicket about a hundred yards away from the first row of corn. Pretty soon he came out of there just as hard as he could run. He came over to us and looked back at the thicket and barked and barked.”

He did this over and over, until Hube’s buddy said, “Hube, ride around there and see what in the thunder is botherin’ that dog.”

What he found was a huge old elk cow lying there. When the dog came up to her and barked she’d get up and strike at it with her front feet, then lie down again.

“When I told my buddy he started laughin’. I didn’t think it was that funny.”

Notice that Hube was very tactful. If he thought a story would be embarrassing to a character he wouldn’t call him by name. In this case, we didn’t know his buddy’s name.  It was just buddy.  The others were just guys.

Buddy said, “I’ll get my horse and then you run her down towards the cornfield.” He was still laughing.

“I run the elk right out with the dog yappin’ right behind her. My buddy roped her right at the edge of the cornfield, jerked her down and hog-tied her. He was makin’ a miserable job of it because he was laughin’ so much.”

Buddy’s next order was for Hube to go up to the ranch house and get the pickup truck.

“I drove it right up to the elk. My buddy had hauled a lot of cows in his pickup so he had high sideboards on it. He also had a pulley that he used to pull an old stubborn cow right up into it. We just snaked that silly elk right up into that pickup and threw a canvas over it. We drove up to the tool shed and he went in and came out with a bell and a good strap.”

Buddy measured the strap around the elk’s neck and poked holes with a leather punch, still laughing, and attached the bell. “Get back there and try to keep her covered up if you can,” he said.

“Here we were, four miles east of Heber, and we drove about twelve miles west of Heber and backed up to a place near an old ranch house. We pulled the elk with the bell around her neck out of the pickup, untied her and let her go. That old elk got up and started runnin’ with that thing jangling’ on her neck. She turned a square corner — just square — and wheeled and come back at us. The bell was jangling’. She’d turn and go the other way. She just turned and ran and turned and ran. She spent several minutes tryin’ to outrun the bell right in front of us.  She finally went around the point and went off wearin’ the bell.”

Several months later, during elk season, Hube rode by the old ranch house up at the Ellsworth’s place and heard some loud talking coming from the house.  Someone noticed Hube and called, “Come on in, cowboy, and have a cup of coffee.” He joined them. They were kidding a fellow who had told them an unbelievable story.

One of the men in the group said, “He went out huntin’ this mornin’. He was gone about an hour-and-a-half and he come back and claims he heard a cowbell.” Everyone laughed. “He thought maybe somebody at this ranch had an old milk cow. He walked around the point, and walked right up between some rocks right up to a big cow elk. And he says the elk has got a cowbell on. He couldn’t believe it. He let the elk walk off.”

The teasing from the men went on. They said there would be no more whiskey for him.

The poor soul who was receiving this treatment tried to defend himself.  “I did see an elk cow with a bell on.”

Several days later Hube returned to find that the camp was in turmoil.

Another guy had gone out the next day and had walked up on the elk wearing a bell. Back at the camp he told the man who had first heard the bell that he saw it too.

The man who had taken the razzing turned things around.  He asked, “What elk with a bell?  I didn’t see any elk with a bell. I was just kiddin’ you.”

The debate had started. “You did too. I walked right up on that old elk.”

They called in the other two men and told them the story.  Somebody said, “Cut him off. No more whiskey for you this trip.”

The next time Hube rode over to the camp, the third man had seen the cow elk with the bell.  He said, “I heard the bell and I saw the elk.”

There was only one guy left who hadn’t seen it or heard the bell. He said, “First, one guy goes and has so much liquor in him that he hears a cowbell and follows it to an elk. Then he comes back to camp and tells the story so good that another guy had to see it. Then finally three of them saw it.” He shook his head. “Three to one, but you’ll never make me believe it.”

Hube thought the best thing he could do was just keep his mouth shut. “So that’s what I did, but I did a lot of smilin’.”

_ _ _ _

See how many stars this book has at  Look it up by title or my name, Gene K. Garrison.  It’s available in paperback, hard cover and on Kindle.


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