Editor's Note: This story by former Bee columnist Glenn Scott was first publish on Sept. 8, 1991.
Some folks who drive regularly along Highway 108 think old Cricket may just be a stuffed horse.
After all, she never moves. It's as if she knows that she is becoming a landmark. She just poses there on a knoll behind a cattle fence in the pasture just west of the Lover's Leap curve.
She's not stuffed, of course. At age 34, she's just, well, retired. Suits her fine to stand there alone, her head still, catching sight of the passing cars and trucks.
She can also see across the road to a distant pasture with other horses. She's just an old buckskin horse taking it easy.
Cricket belongs to cattleman Walt Taylor, a Knight's Ferry native who lives in Waterford. He leases the 350-acre pasture and released Cricket to roam it about four years ago.
He figured she deserved it.
And anyway, she doesn't do so good on clover. She founders. The feed's too rich, stiffens up her joints. She does better with hay and with the privilege to stand where she pleases.
Which is the odd part of this story. Whenever she wants, Cricket can shuffle right down the dry, grassy slopes, past clusters of valley oaks, to the bank of the blue-green Stanislaus River.
But she doesn't much, not during the day. She chooses to pose on a knoll overlooking the two-lane highway. She is a still, swayback profile. An old horse awaiting another cowboy sunset.
We met Walt Taylor at the gate to the pasture on Friday. He chuckled about the attention focused on his horse.
It's for real, I told him. I've probably had more readers call me lately about this landmark horse than any other subject. Folks are generally interested in lots of things -- in politics, foreign affairs, public works.
All the important stuff.
But they're real curious about a horse that stands permanently in the same place, at its home on the range. There's a little cowboy in all of us, maybe.
Or a little poet.
We climbed into his flatbed -- Taylor, photographer Forrest Jackson and I -- and bumped along the fence line toward the horse. Taylor warned us that Cricket wouldn't be eager to meet us.
"She doesn't like to be harassed," he said. "She's a funny old horse. If you don't know her, she's the hardest horse to catch."
On the way, Forrest noticed a green apple that some admirer had left for the horse on a fence post. Walt said people stop a lot with offerings. Someone even dropped off a bale of hay once. (Don't worry, he feeds her.)
A holiday wreath was draped on a fence post one Christmas.
Taylor was right. She was munching hay as we stepped from the truck, but her gaze never left us. She retreated if we moved her way.
Most people think Cricket stands always on the same knoll. Actually, said Taylor, she moves among four rises, all overlooking the highway.
"I think it's mainly because of the breeze," he said. "Under the trees, the face flies are bad.
"And maybe she wants to be famous, I don't know."
Walt Taylor's father, a Knight's Ferry rancher, once rode a good buckskin mare. So when Taylor had the chance 32 years ago at a sales yard in Newman, he bought a buckskin, too. That was Cricket.
She was dependable and, in a horsey way, part of the parenthood.
"She raised all my kids. My two oldest boys went to the junior rodeos on her for several years. All the grandkids and all the greenhorns who came to help me, they rode her."
About 20 years ago, a friend wanted to buy her for his little boy. Walt told him, "You don't have enough money.'"
After he retired her to the pasture, Walt was surprised when old Cricket staked out her knolls and local folks started commenting on the new addition to the landscape. He offered to move her. They said no way.
Now everyone watches for Cricket, from the weekday commuters out of Tuolumne County to the weekend visitors from the Bay Area. Taylor used to believe, while on the range near his horse, that travelers honking from the highway were signaling him.
Now he knows better.
They're communing with the horse that stands like a statue near the highway as if she were watching for them.
"When she dies," Walt said, "I'll get a backhoe and a cross and I'll bury her up here, if they'll let me."
No hurry, but it's her spot now.