Chance meeting with a cowboy

Cowboy Ted

“Darlin’, you just made my day.” The cowboy tipped his hat and turned his horses to the setting sun. Gold glints silhouetted them briefly and made my eyes tear.

“And you, sir, have made mine.”

A bad spaghetti western? A Louis L’Amour novel? No, just a chance meeting near Baldwin Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.

I was coming down the road when I saw this handlebar-mustached cowboy riding towards me — a-straddle one horse and leading the other. There was a sheathed buck knife on the saddle and a bed roll tied onto the back of his horse.

Leaning out the car window, I said, “You are too cool.” His clothes were not a dude’s idea of cowboy attire, but the real thing. On his head sat a black, beat-up cowboy hat with a horse-hair band. A hollowed out piece of antler acted like a clasp holding the ties together. A red, cotton scarf loosely knotted around the throat suited the gentleman to a “T”.

Ted Herubin has far-away blue eyes that have seen too much and perhaps suffered too much. He has multiple health problems exacerbated by the dust in Lucerne Valley, his home. To give his lungs a break, he rides his horse, Chief Long Wolf and leads pack mare, Miss Texas for a two week stay in the clean, Big Bear air. I asked what else he was doing up here. “Fishin’,” he said.

I answered, “Fishing?”

He said, “I’m a fisherman, a prospector and a horseman, ma’am but not a womanizer.” And he assured me he actually catches fish, those blue eyes sparkling all the time.

Herubin exists on a small military pension from his time served during the Viet Nam war. He recently had a heart attack and has not been able to drive since 1995. He rides his horses where he wants to go and that includes the San Bernardino mountains for a fishing trip. He said, “I used to live up here and I want to come back. Maybe live somewhere as a caretaker.” He knows the pure air would be good for his health.

Finally the talking and flirting had to come to an end. Time to go home for me and time to retire to a campfire for Ted.

4 thoughts on “Chance meeting with a cowboy”

  1. I personally knew this man. Everyone called him Cowboy Ted. He passed away several years back. He live about 1/2 mile from my ranch in a little line shack, sometimes in his little trailer. Once for my birthday he had made me a picture frame from 2 horse shoes with a picture of his horse Chief on one side and a Texas flag on the other. He said that was the best he could do because he had no money for a store bought gift. I have to laugh when I think of all the times that Chief would show up at my ranch in the middle of the night because Ted had managed in a less than sober state to have fallen out of the saddle. I would saddle up my horse Chico and lead Chief into the darkness until we would manage to find Ted. He would come up with a tale about Chief getting spooked by a snake, coyote, maybe mountain lion. This was the reason he was afoot. One time I heard a noise out at my horse corral around mid-night. I went to check and saw Chief being taken by another rider. Since I had my .45 long colt in hand I challenged this stranger. With pistol leveled on the intruder I asked in a loud voice, “What the hell are you doing on my ranch?” He answered back in a shaky voice, “Mister I am just catching my horse!” I replied as I drew back the hammer on that hog leg, “Mister I hope you are right with Jesus and you better be able to tell me the name of that horse, or I will drop you out of that saddle.” He replied “The horse’s name is Chief! The horses name is Chief!” I replied, ” I heard you the first time.” He answered back, “I was riding with Cowboy Ted, he was drinking again and fell off of Chief!” Cowboy Ted passed away up here at One Legged Ken’s. Cowboy Ted came back to the High Desert from the V.A. Hospital in Loma Linda. He said that he wanted to die up here where he loved life. Not in the cold hospital setting. God bless you Cowboy Ted. There you go, that was my friend “Cowboy Ted”!

  2. Sounds like you had a 1 in a million experience encountering this chap. Anyone would think he was a fictional character and that he would just “fade out” into the sunset.

    Thanks for sharing.

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