April 02, 2007

The Trap Corral of Stone

I rode out early this morning on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake with a Navajo friend of mine, Tom Bryant from Page, Arizona. We had been planning a ride together for about a year and a half and we finally managed to do it. Antelope Island is a unique place - literally a home where the buffalo roam (There is a herd of about 600 on the island) and where the deer and the antelope play - not to mention coyotes, wild turkeys, bald eagles and ravens. During the fall there is a state sponsored buffalo round-up during which the herd is culled and vetted. My father (84 years old) and I helped out a little last October.

Today I wanted to take Tom up to the old trap corral, once used to catch mustangs (wild horses) on the island. It is said that there were at one time up to 1,000 head out there that provided fine mounts to the Mormons, the cavalry and local ranchers. As time went on and horses were replaced by the internal combustion engine, they became more of a nuisance and were exterminated to make way for sheep (no kidding). A locally well known sheriff, Lott Smith owned several mustangs from the island.

As Tom and I made our way up to the high ridge where the corral stands, he explained that even now on "the res" they use trap corrals to catch the reservation wild horses and burros. In fact during the past three years, a small group of about five riders would chase the burros into a box canyon equipped with a corral. They move as fast as rabbits, Tom says. Once inside the corral, a pickup truck closes off the entrance and they are then sold off. Over the past three years, they have averaged about 25 burros at each round-up. This is a small local thing, not a large scale gathering. So, when I showed Tom the corral it was really nothing new to him, but he is the kind of guy, like me that always wonders what is around the next bend and what's over the next hill. He had a good time.

As we talked a little about Lott Smith, Tom mentioned that he had grown up with Lott's grandson, the family having a ranch in Arizona. Brigham Young had prophesied that due to Lott's temper, he would die with his boots on. One day, he got into an argument with some Navajos and they shot him. He was rushed home, giving orders to his wife to take his boots off, but it didn't work, he died anyway from his wounds.

This poem explains a little about the trap corral and some of it's history. It is a special place for me and has been for many years. The accompanying photo gives a glimpse of the corral and its placement high above the Great Salt Lake.

The Trap Corral of Stone
by Paul Kern

The west may all be settled but its spirit can’t be thrown,
On an island in the old salt sea stands a trap corral of stone.
It’s use to some a mystery but to others it's well known,
To whence a storied feral stud - the spotted wild roan.

Trap corrals catch mustangs when there’s just no other way,
When they’re too fast and wily and keep you well at bay.
A herd of horses wild, well bred and fast and free,
Once roamed this island range out in the old salt sea.

High upon a rocky ridge a trail there bends and curves,
Fast horses slow up some to settle down their nerves.
Years ago they built right there a trap corral of stone,
To catch the colts and mares and the stallion spotted roan.

A finer horse you’d never find, that wild spotted roan,
Lott Smith knew his mind and would have him for his own,
Run ‘em in and throw ‘em down and tie ‘em nose to tail,
He and his partners did the deed and did it very well.

They tried to break and tame that feral spotted roan,
The stallion that they caught there in the trap corral of stone.
One day all saddled up the spotted roan broke free,
And swam back to his home out in the old salt sea.

Never to be caught again, the saddled spotted roan,
Never to come close again to the trap corral of stone.
Corralled but hardly captured the spotted roan remains,
The blood of wild horses flows deep in western veins.

The men who ride fast horses in places wild like these,
Share heart that rides the wind and dally ties the breeze.
The west may all be settled but its spirit won’t be thrown,
On an island in the old salt sea near the trap corral of stone.

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