A classic G. George Ostrom column from 2009...
Is it against the law to be “in personal control” of a horse while you are under the influence of corn squeezings or other brain-addling intoxicants? Basically that action in itself is not of great concern to the average police or sheriff’s department; however, exceptions do arise. Riding your saddle horse while “snockered to the gills” is a long-standing part of western history. Many is the yarn about various cowboys who had to be helped on their steed after spending too much time in the saloon or becoming bogged down in a whiskey patch. Charlie Russell did several paintings about boozing and riding, most notable perhaps was “In Without Knocking.”
I recall a hunting trip in the South Fork wilderness where our normally trusty packer-guide somehow “found” a full bottle Kentucky straight bourbon in a hollow log.
Apparently tried to drink it all before it evaporated.
My hunting partners and I had to tie him in the saddle on the ride back to camp because he … kept falling off.
In the late ‘60s, I was writing a magazine story about Moose’s Saloon in Kalispell but didn’t have the right camera to get pictures I needed. Asked friend Hal Kanzler if he would help by taking shots of guys riding their horses in through the swinging doors. Hal said, “George, do you think it’s OK to make up something like that for a non-fiction article?”
Next Thursday evening he called to apologize.
Turns out he was driving to Rotary meeting and just as he went by Moose’s, there were three local cowboys doing what he didn’t believe happened in those days.
Got several good shots.
Later on, Hal set up multiple flashes inside and got excellent photos of a man sipping a mug of beer while his horse ate peanuts off the bar.
They were regulars. Don’t remember exactly when, but Moose eventually had to make a rule against
horses in the bar, probably a liability insurance thing … maybe a killjoy liquor inspector.
Toughest issue for devoted cowboy imbibers is staying in the saddle.
The best thing about RUI — “riding under the influence” — is the horse doesn’t require steering, it knows the way home.
A very embarrassing adventure could result from being taken home from a night of imbibing by a steed you had “borrowed” from someone else. Suppose that has happened a time or two.
Latest incident in the news about an intoxicated equestrian comes out of Cody, Wyo. The poor guy was poured off his horse by police and put in jail the evening of Jan. 25.
The AP article did not say whether he was knuckle walkin’, commode huggin’ drunk, or what his blood alcohol content was. They charged him with public intoxication and creating a driving hazard. Say he was riding his horse down the middle of the street during low visibility in a snowstorm. He might have gotten away with that if his horse hadn’t been … pure white.
Taking a lesson from this incident, perhaps snockered Cody cowboys might begin thinking twice about riding coal black horses … on dark nights. Maybe this will create a booming Wyoming market for pintos.
Speaking of real cowboys, just recalled on of Bill Yenne’s famous quotes, “Boys, this situation is as dangerous as a roped handle on a double- bitted ax.”
Life in the West is an interesting adventure.