Mysterious smoke signals on a distant hilltop, the thudding hooves of the Pony Express, the clicking of a telegraph key—that was about it for communication in the old West.

Now there's the new West, though, and cowboys with an urge to reach out and touch someone have the benefit of all the very latest in technology. All a saddle-sore cowpoke has to do is get down off his horse, amble into a phone booth and—whoa! Wait a gol-darned minute! Turns out that some of today's cowboys don't want to get down off their horses. Take the hard-bitten crew at the Lazy E Ranch in Guthrie, Okla., for instance.

Their complaints about the difficulties of interpersonal telecommunications reached the ears of Gail Monsey, who caters to the cowboys' coiffure needs at her barbershop in nearby Edmond. Monsey told her husband, Mark, who is a manager for Selzee Inc., a firm that installs pay telephones for Southwestern Bell. Mark and a technician friend, Dale Brouderick, quickly came up with the solution—the very first Phone from Horse—and lassoed Southwestern Bell into the idea.

Now the Lazy E, a 300-acre breeding facility and training center 30 miles north of Oklahoma City, has three pay phones mounted at cowboy-on-horse level (80 inches above the ground, compared with the usual 54 inches). Each phone has an extra-long cord, in case the horse gets fidgety during a long-winded conversation.

Sandi Striegel, who runs the country store at the Lazy E, says, "This gives new meaning to the term quarter horse." And, she says, the Phone from Horse has begun to attract tourists: "They think it's a regular pay phone, then they walk up to it and can't reach it. Then it dawns on them, 'Oh, phone from horse,' and they just love it and have to have their picture taken with it."

Now if only someone would build a trot-through fast-food outlet, life on the range would be plumb civilized.