American Cowboys Were The Real Thing. Sit Back & Hear Spike's Horse Story

His name was Spike Van Cleve. I spent weeks at his 21,000 acre ranch in the mountains above big Timber, Montana, going out with him each day and reflecting on the magnificent life he and the people who came before him lived. Ranchers. Horsemen. Cowboys. Generations on the land.

But Spike was more than just the horseman & cowboy. He had a 6th sense and locals said he could whisper horses. He was a poet & author (he wrote two books – 40 Years’ Gatherings and A Day Late & A Dollar Short) and he spoke in a way that mesmerized me and I have never forgotten phrases love “I caught the tail stop of the horse age” and so many others.

The people before him who taught him how to run a horse ranch and gather horses had peaceful relationships with the Indians who lived in the area in the early days. Although he had a excellent deal of metal in his body from all of the injuries, he got on a horse every day (especially Sam who is described in this video) and rode out from his small home to do some kind of work. That was simple in the summer when I made this film but hell during the winter with the blinding wind and snow and below zero cold,

Spike Van Cleve loved horses and from what I could tell, they loved him.

Spike went to Harvard and graduated and went back to the ranch, drawn to its beauty and its challenges. His incredible wife stayed with him through thick and thin and he was a rough character as a young man and pretty ornery as an aged one.

I made this documentary as a short subject to honor him and to express his philosophy towards life and towards his animals. It was nominated for an Academy award short subject back when I made it. Spike gave me an understanding of the life of a horse rancher and of life in Montana that I never forgot. Thank you Spike Van Cleve, and thank you Earl Scruggs and his sons Randy Scruggs and Gary Scruggs for creating a beautiful country western (with a bit of bluegrass) music track.

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