Pack Station

Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Creative Writing Program

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Judy Blunt

Commitee Members

Deirdre McNamer, Phil Condon


Sierra Packing Memoir


University of Montana


Prologue He was as broken-down an old horseshoer as I had ever met, but by God could he shoe a horse. How he did it seemed to be some mystery acquired over a lifetime of bending over beneath a million horses and mules. And yet maybe there wasn’t any mystery at all. Maybe it was simply that over the course of those million or so animals he’d lost the hesitation and doubt and fear the rest of us struggled with from time to time,and just got shoes on the damn things—though with as much beauty and skill as a guy could have ever hoped for. I bring this up because the last time I saw the old man he crawled out from under a horse, pulled the pipe from his mouth, pointed its stem at my face, and said: “Son, you’re more dangerous to a horse at this point in your career than you are any good. If you take my advice, you’ll get your ass up to some pack station as far into the mountains as you can go. Get a hold of some guy that has sixty or seventy head of stock that needs shoeing; some guy don’t give a goddamn whether a shoe comes off now and then so long as you’re there to nail it back on. You do that for two or three seasons, then maybe you can come down outa the hills and tackle some kid’s backyard pony without crippling it.” Well, of course I was hurt. Who ever likes to hear the truth, plainspoken and direct as it was, coming from the mouth of some lonely old fart who couldn’t even stand up straight or take a healthy breath without coughing. Right then I did the only pride-saving thing that any young man would have done who had the sand to do what was right under the circumstances. I took his advice.



© Copyright 2006 Robert Theodore Gail