(3 of 3 in series)
Some horses exist in the ethers. "Pancho" was such a horse for me. My father, a proud man, always had horses and when he acquired his first Quarter Horse he let people know it. "He goes back to Peppy," he’d boast. In the late 1950s Peppy P-212 meant the King Ranch and the King Ranch meant Quarter Horses.
Pancho had the King Ranch looks: a red sorrel with minimal white. As a child I hated riding the pasture where Pancho ran year-round with the mares. He was a red whirlwind of crested neck, flaring nostrils and pinned ears that had to be driven off by my father’s nylon honda snapping across his brow. His progeny were a mystery. The fillies went into neighboring mare bands and the horse colts went to Canada.
We had him for years and then he was gone. I gave "Pancho" little thought until I came home 30 years ago, discharged from the service after my father’s death. In raising my own horses the iconic image of "Pancho" often haunted me. Exactly who was that horse? What was his full breeding and story? A computerized AQHA list of my father’s horses only went back to 1960 and "Pancho" pre-dated that. I knew "Pancho" wasn’t his real or complete name – that belongs to Pancho P-20 – and besides, "Pancho" was a pet name for my father. He’d had several horses named Pancho.
I’d all but given up tracing the horse when I received a surprise email from Montana breeder Jim Leachman asking for information on a deceased mare of my father’s. On her pedigree was the name "LR’s Pancho." Had I found the stallion? I checked further on the AQHA website. LR’s Pancho, a sorrel born in 1950, was by Paprika by Peppy and had been bred by Gober Lee Mitchell of Canadian, Texas.
Canadian, Texas meant something. Our long-time neighbors, the Mathers Brothers, were from Canadian.
That afternoon I walked into my chiropractor’s office where stood Bill Mathers, now in his mid-80s and retired from ranching. "Bill," I asked. "Do you remember a horse name LR’s Pancho?"
"Sure," he said. "We brought him up from Texas in ’51 and traded him to your dad. Our neighbor, Gober Mitchell, raised him." Bill’s brother, Ben, was still on the place in Canadian so I called him. Gober, he told me, was 95 and still active with horses. I called Mr. Mitchell. He could not remember LR’s Pancho specifically, but said the "LR" meant Vernon Close must have named him. Close’s wife’s name was Laurel Ruth.
Mitchell did remember the stud’s bottom side well. LR’s Pancho was out of a mare named Mitchell’s Flaxy by Ranger Hancock. "I got Ranger from the Burnetts," he said. "They never sold horse colts but they sold me this one because he had screw worm. Walter Merrick had him on the track. He ran okay but I brought him home. He was my main saddle horse."
The ownership record for LR’s Pancho on the AQHA website only listed Mitchell. A later paper search by AQHA staff would trace the horse from Mitchell to Close to the Mathers to my father. My father owned him for seven years before selling him to a Williston, North Dakota breeder. I thought my pursuit of "Pancho" would end there.
Then one day I visited my friends Ray and Marge Beecher of Grass Range, Montana to look at their colts by Gumbo Roany a High Rolling Roany son, a line I know well.
Marge laid an extended pedigree for "Gumbo" on the table. There on his bottom side was a mare named Rosebud Four. Her bottom line went back to Kramer Four out of Croppy Kramer out of Kramer Rose. Kramer Rose was by LR’s Pancho and out of Belle Rose Robertson.
The dust of history swirled before my eyes. In it I could see that red sorrel stud again, running toward me, an eight-year-old boy on horseback. Behind him, and in Gumbo Roany’s pedigree, stretched a line of horses, a veritable history of Quarter Horses from the Big Dry: Thirsty Jr., Little Texas E, Comet Binion, Grand Vizier (TB).
Of course, I purchased a colt from the Beechers, a double-bred LR’s Pancho. It was my way of bringing an icon out of the ethers and giving it flesh and bone. In a type of poetic and genetic twist, Pancho had been corralled.