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Horseman Passing By


I encountered the Horseman in Laguna Beach riding along the Pacific Coast Highway. He was ahead of me moving at horse speed. The traffic hurried as always, slowed to a pause, and then pulled around him. As I pulled past him, I could hear the clip-clop of the hooves of his mount and his packhorse. I glanced into the rearview mirror after I got ahead of him and saw the blinking red and blue lights and heard the short bleep of a siren tapped once. The Horseman had been pulled over by the Laguna Beach police for an “interview.” I pulled around the corner, parked, walked back, and joined a group of citizens already watching this encounter.

The Horseman was riding to Texas. He said he’d started at the Canadian border. The cop asked him why he wasn’t driving. He said he didn’t have a truck and a horse trailer, just a horse, a pack horse, and a dog. His plan was simply to ride the coast to San Diego and turn left.


The Horseman had what he called a “shoulder pass” which he drew from his pocket and presented to the officer. The officer, being confused, was not even sure such a document existed and examined its molecular structure.

Then the Laguna Animal Control officer showed up. That officer informed the cowpoke that he did not have his dog on a leash. Something all good little citizens of California do as willingly as they carry bags of their dog’s feces around clutched in their hands.

The Horseman replied sensibly that his dog (named, I swear, “Dog”) knew how to follow along, and that if he put a leash on him from the saddle he risked strangling the dog.

“Horse goes one way, Dog goes another. Tough on Dog, officer.”

At this point, having been alerted to the Horseman, another police car showed up with another, but more senior, officer. He stood to the side a bit taking in what the situation actually was.

The animal control officer, failing to see the sense of not strangling a dog on a leash tied to a horse, began a hectoring Little Hitler lecture on the very special ordinances of the very special town of Laguna Beach, California. The Horseman stood motionless as the scolding went on. After all, if you are riding a horse from Canada to Texas in the 21st Century, you are probably not in much of a hurry. Finally, the litany of banal cop-talk was interrupted by the senior officer who evidently had less patience for the Animal Control claptrap than the Horseman. 

In short order, the senior officer informed the others that, regardless of the endless petty ordinances of Laguna Beach, what they were actually going to do was let this man continue on his way. Not only that, they were going to give him a police escort out of town.

I assume the senior officer looked into the near future of any other action. And in that future, he saw the issue of providing police transport for two horses to some undisclosed location as well as the dog, while they were arraigning the Horseman.  That alone was going to be far too much paperwork to contemplate. That and noting about 15 citizens gathered nearby, all ready for a sincere chat with the city council about the wisdom of harassing this Horseman probably gave him pause as well.


The Horseman had heard and seen it all before on the long road between Canada and Laguna Beach. He took “The Cowboy Way.” He rolled a smoke, nodded, saddled up, whistled to Dog, and was escorted out of town.


That was all years ago in another life on another planet. But I still like to think of the Horseman, rolling a smoke, talking to dog, and watching the dim parade of our perpetual foolishness float. I like to think he’s still out there making his way from Canada to Texas — via a left turn in San Diego.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jack Lawson December 20, 2021, 9:48 AM

    Beautiful in its nostalgia !!

    I hope the Horseman is having a pleasant Christmas season in Texas with two of Man’s Best Friends.

    Jack Lawson
    Associate Member, Sully H. deFontaine Special Forces Association Chapter 51, Las Vegas, Nevada
    Author of “The Slaver’s Wheel”, “A Failure of Civility,” “And We Hide From The Devil,” “Civil Defense Manual” and “In Defense.”

    “Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean…”
    “I mean plumb, mad-dog mean… ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up, then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.” – Spoken by Clint Eastwood from the movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales”

  • Dirk December 20, 2021, 9:51 AM

    Wonderful, the wise old cop got it right, what exactly was the infraction misd ?. Dog catcher, fuck him. A waste of tax payer money. Experienced similar, folks doing the “Applegate Trail ” wagons, horse men/ women. Admired em.

    Now I’m wondering what the cowboy did when he got to is destination in Tejas. It’s not the destination,,,, it’s the journey, I seek.


  • Richard December 20, 2021, 10:06 AM

    So many would-be tinpot dictators out there with some power to abuse. Glad this story had a righteous ending, thanks to an old timer with some common sense. When exactly did this country’s government scum stop fearing the governed? T. Roosevelt? W. Wilson?

  • nunnya bidnez, jr December 20, 2021, 10:08 AM

    It looks like he made it all the way to New York City!
    check the photos, guarantee it’s the same guy, although the horses look different.


    [silive.com is the website of The Staten Island Advance, located in NewYork City’s “forgotten borough”; I lived there for ten years, believe me it deserves to be forgotten]

    • gwbnyc December 20, 2021, 2:50 PM

      looks like a match.

      S.I.- really nice little zoo.

  • gwbnyc December 20, 2021, 10:10 AM

    where does the “horseman, pass by” originate other than McMurtry?

  • Mike Austin December 20, 2021, 10:28 AM

    Another slice of Old America gone with the wind. 150 years ago a man riding a horse across the country got no notice at all. That was the time of Wyatt Earp, of Doc Holliday, of Billy the Kid, of Wild Bill Hickock, of the great cattle drives, of Tombstone, of gold and silver, of the Plains Indians and all the rest. The frontier closed for good in 1890—damned barbed wire. Since then things have been easier, softer and gentler. Whether that is a good thing or not I cannot say.

  • Dirk December 20, 2021, 11:22 AM

    I envy this gentleman, those are working horses, god bless brother. Any idea if he’s still kicking, traveling via horse back?


  • ghostsniper December 20, 2021, 11:59 AM

    If those armed criminals approached him 150 years ago he would have pulled his peacemaker and killed all of them on the spot.

    But then, 150 years ago people treated each other with respect, criminals were fewer, and most people minded their own business.

    • Mike Austin December 20, 2021, 1:13 PM

      Very true. The American West was hardly the lawless and crime-ridden frontier portrayed by Hollywood. The reason was as you mentioned: Mr. Colt and his Peacemaker. No firearm had a more appropriate name. “God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal!”

      “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”—Heinlein

      Imagine if today all Americans could carry their weapons openly everywhere—or better, US citizenship would depend upon every citizen openly carrying a gun. Crime would disappear. Antifa and BLM would never have existed. Every kid would be a Kyle. The Democrat Party would exist only in History books. There would be no “President” Biden. No illegals would dare cross our borders, and no wall would be necessary.

      • ghostsniper December 20, 2021, 1:55 PM

        If you added in that the gov’t taxation and regulation and intrusion was minimal (like in 1850) then you would have described nirvana as far as I am concerned. I was born in the wrong century.

        • Mike Austin December 20, 2021, 2:03 PM

          We both were. But then God had other plans. Ghost, you are the type of man who built this country, who defended this country: strong-willed, self-made, and a low—as in very low—tolerance for taking shit from anybody.

          Before Wilson there was no taxation and little regulation. In a free society what would happen to the tax man? To the government agent who said your land was a “wetland”?

  • nunnya bidnez, jr December 20, 2021, 12:23 PM

    further research yields damaging reports about Mr Mishler:

    “Mishler rode through San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Cleveland, Madison, Atlanta, Charleston and New York…”
    “Instead of spending time in church, it was discovered that Mishler had a habit of frequenting saloons….”
    “Starvation, dehydration, oozing saddle sores, improper shoeing, open leg sores, halter burns caused by friction, the list of crimes committed against horses nation-wide was unprecedented but Mishler continued to evade attempts to stop his travels….”
    “Tod “Doc” Mishler spent years rambling across the country on horseback in a white cowboy hat, staying with strangers and telling curious reporters that he was on a mission to raise awareness about child hunger.”
    “Now he has a new mission: Trying to get his two horses back after officials in New York City accused him of neglecting the animals.”
    “The 80-year-old, Bible-quoting horseman recently filed a legal claim demanding $50 million from the city for the horses, which were seized in June”

    • Vanderleun December 20, 2021, 1:05 PM

      Not very complimentary at all. Seven years after I ran into him.

      And five years since those stories came out.

      I wonder what became of the 80-year-old cowpoke with only his yarns to sustain him. Let me know if you find out. The trail goes cold for me after those stories.

    • ghostsniper December 20, 2021, 2:10 PM

      His fault was trying to live like it was 1850, in a 21st century world.
      It’s diff now.

      • Mike Austin December 21, 2021, 1:38 PM

        I wish it were 1850: Oregon, Sant Fe and California Trails; Sharps rifles; Indian scouts; Indian Wars—Apache, Kiowa, Sioux, Comanche and Pawnee; Manifest Destiny; 49ers; exploration of Colorado and Utah; the Great Plains inhabited by 30,000,000 bison. What’s not to like?

        Our own time seems sterile, so damn tame and feminine. Scarcely enough room for a man to move.

    • Jack December 21, 2021, 8:40 AM

      At 80+/- years he may be ready for a small cabin and kit on a small ranch to replace his wanderings, and I’ll wager that the ponies would vote for it too. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who would donate to help him with everything and, for no other reason than to give the ponies a break from this kinda-mindless galavant across America. I’m on SS but I’d toss a C-note his way simply from respect, understanding and admiration but probably more so because I love horses and I’d rescue every one of them if I could.

  • Jack December 20, 2021, 12:54 PM

    Although the old guy’s life style is a little unconventional he should be able to pursue it and to escort him safely on his way is the gentlemanly thing to do. It’s his life and his choice, give him your blessing, leave him alone and let him ride.

    But the younger cop…the ordnance enforcer. Calling for backup, surely he felt empowered and really official as he protected the public from the slow poke pace of the old cowboy drifter. Wonder if he’d be so visibly ballzy in an open conflict with an. armed area gangbanger

  • Armchair Sinner December 20, 2021, 9:48 PM

    What? No worries, guy. Thanks, officer. God bless America, eh. Watch the dog, please.

  • Anne December 20, 2021, 10:00 PM

    Sometime in 1962 a horseman showed upon Balboa Island. He had heard of me and got my address from some of my horse friends. I was young and didn’t know what to do. So I told him they could stay on the beach for the night and then had to leave. He was riding from Texas. Nice man.

  • Jack Lawson December 20, 2021, 11:14 PM

    In a statement, District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said,

    “When Mr. Mishler first rode into Staten Island, his two horses, Hope and Charity, suffered from painful bleeding sores and showed serious signs of dehydration. I am proud to say that today both of these horses are fully recovered and have been placed under the care of trained professionals at facilities capable of meeting their everyday needs.”

    Holly shytte… when a legal representative of the Oblask of New York relieves us of worry by the above statement as he lights another candle at the shrine of Stalin in his office closet, it just warms my heart.

    The horses are probably forced into horse talks at the equestrian center on… “How dark was my past… before Marxism brought me into the light!”

    Frequenting saloons !!!??? I’ve never heard of such horror.

    I’m a farm kid and I’ve seen halter burns and sores galore on animals as any over zealous and self important veterinarian will certainly see from 200 yards if one hair is out of place on an animal.

    Con artist !!?? The whole upper New York and D.C. area knows nothing but them. He’s at home.

    Jack Lawson
    Associate Member, Sully H. deFontaine Special Forces Association Chapter 51, Las Vegas, Nevada
    Author of “The Slaver’s Wheel”, “A Failure of Civility,” “And We Hide From The Devil,” “Civil Defense Manual” and “In Defense.”

    “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill