The Cowboy & the Small Town Girl

Part 4: A Brand New Color Wheel

 

Did I mention that being a non-cowgirl married to a cowboy wasn't easy? Cowboys speak a whole other language-- even when it comes to colors. I was an artist. I knew colors. But I didn't know cowboy colors.

 

"Isn't that a beautiful beige horse?" I commented to my husband in the early years of our marriage.

 

"Dun," Jack said.

 

"Done what?" I asked, thinking we were really conversing here.

 

"It's not a beige horse, it's a dun-colored horse," he corrected me. "In fact, it's a buckskin or lineback dun since it has a black mane and tail and a line down its back. If it had horizontal stripes from the knees down, it'd be a zebra dun. If it had a lighter colored mane and tail, it would be a palomino."

 

"That's what those silver-saddled horses are in the opening ceremony of the San Antonio Rodeo, right?"

 

"Right."

 

"So then, what color is that rusty brown horse with the light-colored mane and tail?"

 

"Sorrel."

 

"Or that dark brown horse over there?"

 

"Chestnut."

 

"Or that almost white horse?"

 

"Gray."

 

"Okay, then what is that almost black horse?"

 

"Gray."

 

"Now I'm really confused."

 

"And sometimes a gray is called a flea-bit or blue roan, but more often a roan is a sorrel or chestnut or bay sprinkled with gray or white."

 

"So a horse can't simply be polka-dotted then."

 

"Of course not, Donna. That would be an Appaloosa or a dappled horse."

 

"I had a dappled dress once."

 

"It doesn't work that way."

 

"Well, what is a bay?"

 

"It's a reddish-brown horse with a dark mane, tail and lower part of the legs. But a horse can also have a blaze or piebald face, or have stockinged legs or sock feet. And there's also pinto or paint horses."

 

"Of course," I said, totally confused. But I thought I might be onto something when I said, " So... our son is a dun and our daughter is a chestnut?"

 

"How'd you come up with that? Van's tow-headed or cotton-topped, and Vanessa's hair is..."

 

"A bay? A sorrel?"

 

"No, Donna," he said exasperatedly. "Her hair's brown."

 

"Well, then, what color are those orange boots in your closet?” I knew I’d pressed the “Gone too far button” with that question since he bled maroon.

 

But that's another story.

 

*  *  *

 

Glossary

 

Appaloosa: distinguished by mottled skin and a patch of white hair over the rump and loins that is blotched or dotted with a darker color

 

Bald Face: a very wide blaze, extending to or past the eyes. Some, but not all, bald faced horses also have blue eyes

 

Bay: a reddish brown with the mane, tail, and points black; slightly darker than chestnut brown.

 

Blaze: a wide, white stripe running down the face of a horse, but between the eyes: a strip or streak is a narrower stripe 


Buckskin dun: a light, yellowish dun horse with dark mane and tail, and can have dark legs up to the knees


Chestnut: a reddish brown with mane, tail, and points the same color or slightly lighter


Dappled: usually cloudy and rounded spots or patches of a color or shade different from their background


Dun: a brownish gray to beige color; the American Quarter Horse Association says that the dun gene is a “dominant modifier and can appear on both black- and red-based horses, adding the dun characteristics of a dorsal stripe, dark tips on the ears and lower part of the legs.” 


Flea-bitten gray: dark spots scattered throughout the gray color


Lineback dun: a buckskin dun with a dark dorsal stripe along its back


Paint or pinto: a mottled-colored horse characterized by large splotches of contrasting  

        colors


Palomino: a light tan or cream color with flaxen or white-colored mane and tail


Piebald: marked by two different colors, usually referred to a horse's face when white covers 

        most of it and surrounds at least one if not both eyes


Roan: having the base color (black, red, gray or brown) muted and lightened by specks of 

        white hair mingled throughout; a gray roan is sometimes called a blue roan


Snip: white markings on a horse's nose


Sorrel: a chestnut or bay-colored horse with light-colored mane and tail; also brownish 

        orange to light brown with light-colored mane and tail


Star: larger than a snip; white markings on a horse's forehead


Stocking: white marking that extends at least to the bottom of the knee or hock, 

        sometimes higher; a sock is white marking that is shorter than a stocking foot


Towheaded, cotton-topped: flaxen or white-headed


Zebra dun: dark stripes from the knees down on a dun horse


Whew. No, that isn't a color, but for all I knew at the time, it could've been.

Donna Van Cleve

November 2020

Humor

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