State Champ

By John Paul Jarvis

I was attending meetings in Phoenix and agreeably surprised with the resort, the Arizona Biltmore designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was 121°F/49.4°c when I arrived and I instantly valued the air conditioning, original flagstone ductwork beneath the floors – a Roman concept revived by Wright in 1929.

Our schedule included an afternoon of recreation, eschewing golf, a game I’m saving for my 90s. I elected to horseback ride in the desert.  The concierge confirmed arrangements and we took a limo to the Camelback Dude Ranch.

The modest ranch was well kept with barns and a shaded corral located on the edge of open desert. The stern faced wrangler viewed our arrival with that look that clearly states “what do these idiots want”.

Wranglers have an interesting occupation correctly matching the right horse and rider. Being short staffed he grudgingly agreed to let us ride unaccompanied. Both of my colleagues were European so a dude ranch was a complete novelty as were western saddles.

The taciturn wrangler watched as I approached the corral. I asked “Do your horses neck rein?” which is power steering. He said, “Yes.” I then selected a handful of oats from a feed bucket and rubbed my palms together under the rail. All the stock in the corral sauntered over for a handout.  It’s the small stuff.  He asked “Can you ride,” to which I replied, “Yes”.

He saddled three horses, all exceptionally groomed, with special consideration for one of our party who was a big man.  He warned about the danger of abandoned mines as well as an uncompromising watchfulness about overworking the animals, with the declaration that if they came back “lathered up” the price was doubled.

We followed a trail to the open desert and I was treated to the mount of my life.  Complete control with a simple lean, no requirement for reins and a sense of anticipation for the rider that was flawless.  This animal was highly intuitive and trained beyond my skill level.

We lost all track of time with the desert beauty and returned late, ‘rounded up’ by one of his hands.  We came into the enclosure and his brief smile was genuine when he saw that our mounts were not “lathered up” and he asked me what I thought of the horse. I exclaimed about the quality of the animal. He smiled, his second of the day, and told me that it was his personal horse and was the reigning Arizona Calf Roping Champion.

Astounded I asked, “Why the honor,” and he said, “The animal needed a workout and I figured you could handle him,” and turned on his cowboy high heel.

John Paul Jarvis has enjoyed a full corporate career as CEO of four subsidiaries of foreign multinationals and served on six boards. Board and boat sailor, tennis player, terrible musician all tempered by eclectic friends – affords a basis for views and opinions on a broad range of topics.

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