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Sunday, August 07, 2011

Horse Feathers

This "Story Writing 101" assignment was as follows:
"If you have ever been bucked off of a horse, tell us how. 'Falling off'will be okay if you don't have a genuine 'bucked off' story. Or if you haven't been bucked off or haven't fallen off, then have you been bitten, kicked, run over by, or otherwise abused by a horse? Inquiring minds want to know. Bonus point will only be awarded if you provide x-rays."

I will start us off with a few.

My cowboy years were numbered. My Dad always had horses... a lot of horses. But the family only had one saddle... Dad's saddle. It was an old model with a high cantle and a small metal saddle horn. But Dad got by with it just fine... as did a century of other fine cowboys before him... give or take a century or two. Dad broke most of our horses that weren't gentle when he traded for them. One big black tossed him high up against the granary wall and left his hip pocket hanging on a nail above the door. It hung there for years. But this story is supposed to be about MY experience with horses.

Dad's saddle horse, Danny, was fun to ride. But being the youngest in the family, someone else almost always had dibs on the driver's seat, the saddle, and I had to ride behind. My sister, Ruth, and I went after the milk cows one evening riding tandem on old Danny. We were down in the Niobrara river-bottom where some strips of trees separated open meadows. We cut through one of these wooded areas and my hat was snatched from my head by a low-hanging branch. So Ruth reined Danny to a stop and I slipped off to pick up my hat. It was just in front of Danny. I tripped over a grapevine and as I fell, the grapevine rustled dead leaves in the tree just above Danny's head. He made one swift jump and came down with each front hoof directly on the back of each of my calves. It roughed and rippled up the hide and put two permanent dents in the muscles. Well sort of permanent anyway. You can hardly see them anymore unless the light is right and I imagine things.

At least that is how I remember the story. Sister Ruth may have another version. While I was lying there in pain and sure that both feet had been removed above the ankles, she may have briefed me on a version that would be fit for public consumption... parents in this case. We may have been jumping hay bales or chasing rabbits or some other activity and I was somehow run over in that process. But I've told it the other way so often that I believe that it's the gospel truth... with some wiggle room built in.

Most of my horseback hours were spent bareback on a Shetland pony. He was a little stud hoss and his name was Buddy... all white except for a mostly dark brown head and blue eyes. One Christmas morning we came downstairs and there he stood, tied to the Christmas tree. He was just a colt at the time and cute! I'll tell you! He was cute! When full grown, he stood only about 38 inches tall at the shoulder. I'm not sure what that would be in "hands". So he was too little for the big kids to ride and to ornery for the little kids to ride. Dad didn't turn him into a gelding because he wanted to raise some smaller sized horses and Buddy made that happen in ways I didn't quite understand when I was four or five... but when you live around animals, you quickly learn such things from more than birds and bees.

Anyway, I was a little kid and, ornery or not, I rode Buddy from maybe the age of four to ten... or so. Buddy was headstrong and took me sightseeing to many places I did not want to go. For example, with his steely blue eyes, he could spy a low hanging limb from a great distance and scrape me off on it.

Early one Spring, Dad rode Danny and I followed along on Buddy and we went to check on the cows in the lower pasture. The river-bottom ground may have still been frozen as I found out that it was very hard. Old Buddy still had his winter coat of long white hair and he looked more like a dog than a horse.

This is a good spot for an unrelated, shaggy dog story. Rodney the knight, a little fellow, traveled around Medieval England astride a St. Bernard Dog. One night it was raining torrents so he stopped at an inn. The inn-keeper said, "Sorry! No vacancy!" As dejected Rodney turned to ride back into the rain, the inn-keeper called out, "Wait! I'll find something! I wouldn't put a knight out on a dog like this."

Anyway Knight Raleigh astride his shaggy dog Buddy, came upon a milk cow, Sadie, that always had a rambunctious, slightly evil temper, and she had a new baby calf. So we rode over to see how they were doing. When I rode up toward Sadie she bellowed and bawled and came at me with lowered head. I guess she must have thought that Buddy was a threat to her calf. Buddy made a jump and exited the scene and I landed flat on my back with no air in my lungs. I can still see Sadie's face as she charged up to me and threatened to flatten me even more. I made myself as thin as possible as she shook her head about two-tenths of an inch above my nose and blew... is it polite to say "snot"?... blew snot all over me.

Dad thundered up on Danny and gave old Sadie a swift smack with his quirt and she abandoned her attempt to flatten me and went back to her calf. Dad let me crawl onto the back of Danny, once I had caught my breath. I suppose I might add that I was making some bawling noises of my own when my wind came back. As cowboys don't cry, I won't try to categorize those sounds. We galloped across the meadow and Dad closed in on Buddy and reached down and grabbed a rein. Once we were stopped Dad said, "Get on and show him who's boss." I really didn't mind riding double with Dad. As a matter of fact, it felt pretty good right where I was sitting and hanging onto that high cantle. I may have muttered something like, "He can be boss today if he wants to."

I had many experiences on little old Buddy but this will do it for today. Now it's your turn.

Confession Of A Cowardly Rider

by Adele Penhollow

Being a city-girl, I had no opportunity to ride a real live horsey when I was a kid. But, Mom & Dad took my two sisters and me to various amusement parks in our youth.

When my "little sister" (who's 8 yrs younger than I ) had her chance to ride the fancy merry-go-round at the State Fair one summer, she was about 3 yrs. old, I remember...lots of curly ringlets all over her cute head. I had been her official babysitter when Mom was busy.

Of course I had no qualms about getting on that dizzying contraption, (I had 'experience'). She chose the white horse with a garland of pink flowers. That pretty horse was in the center row of the three-rows available. My other sister chose the black horsey with silver buckles. And, I ..of course.. was holding my little sister, proudly guarding her from falling off.

Everything was going great until the ride was nearly over...and I don't know how this happened, but I looked away for a zillionth of a second, and went flying to the side, smack into a handsome gray ... Appaloosa, I think ... and OUT the side of the platform .... whoosh ! ... with subsequent bruises to my body and ego.

My little sister was fine...she held on like a pro, and just laughed. Why she thought this was planned (or for her amusement) I'll never know. There were several people, including Dad, who came to pick me up, but I was completely embarrassed, and just couldn't make an intelligible remark.

So, ... although some of you have had the pleasures of riding, it's something I just never 'picked up'....yes, I'm an official coward, I admit this freely. But, I do get nervy with other things...such as going to a parking lot at the mall at 1:00 a.m. so that I can be the first one to make figure 8 marks in the new-fallen snow. I used to love doing that.. ; )


See there? All you folks who had horse stories but not "real live horse stories" should have sent yours in. This is creative writing and not a rodeo. Okay! The next one to chime in was the Rev. George T. Whitney. It seems he could have used a little divine guidance to keep out from under that cottonwood:

Rev. George T. Whitney

Raleigh, I used to stay often at Bill Davis' place 17 miles south of Ainsworth. They had a horse that we could ride bare-back. The house and the barn was a good way off old highway 7. The horse was pretty gentle riding out to the road, but was always in a hurry to get back to the barn. Many a time I was rubbed off that horse on a big ole cottonwood tree that was on a curve in the road going to the house. The horse seemed to know just how to get rid of us.

Rev. George T.

Yep! It seems like all horses suffer from get-home-itis. Many a speed record has been broken on the way to the barn. Elaine Osborn is a witness to this phenomena:

Elaine (Williams) Osborn

I don't pretend to be a creative writer or even a creative thinker with a creative memory so I'll just have to tell it as I remember. :-)

When I was just a young tike, probably about 3rd or 4th grade as we still lived on the old farm place about 7 miles west of Ainsworth, my Dad had asked me to help them out in moving some cattle from one pasture to another. Of course, I was thrilled that I was big enough to be helping out in such a grand capacity. My older brother, Larry, had a horse named "Tiny" which in no way reflected the size of the horse, especially to a little girl such as myself. For some reason I was given Tiny to ride for the cattle moving chore. All went well and I was feeling mighty proud to be a part of the cattle driving crew. When we finished, my Dad warned me that when Tiny knew that he was "headed back to the barn" I might not be able to hold him so to just let him go and hang on. Sure enough we weren't far into our ride back to the farm place when Tiny took off. Remembering what my Dad had said, I let Tiny have his rein and I hung onto the saddle horn for dear life. Everything was going O.K. and I just knew that we were moving about 100 mph with the wind blowing Tiny's mane and tail as well as my hair flying in the wind. Quite a site to behold in the mind's eye of that young girl and pride was growing. It is quite possible we weren't traveling as fast as I thought as a friendly neighbor came up behind us in his car and wanting to let us know he was there and going to pass, he honked his horn. This of course spooked Tiny who was on his mission to get to the barn PDQ.

Tiny started bucking and I landed in a patch of sand burs. It's possible it was just the ordinary little sand hills variety that you all must know so well, but since I am telling the story and it is my memory we are counting on, I recall it to have been a patch of those BIG thorny Texas sand burs. Tiny somehow lost interest in the barn and stopped to stare down at me and wait for me to remount, but with a bunch of Texas sand burs in my back side, fat chance of me getting back in the saddle. Completely humbled by the experience, I had to lead Tiny the rest of the way to the barn. I still have the scars to prove the story, some may call it cellulite, but I prefer to think it is those nasty old Texas sand bur scars.

I never did become an avid horseback rider!

Did anyone ever fall off of a horse and not land in sand-burs? Heck no! That goes with the territory! Ginger Axford contributed this nightmare of a horse story complete with sand-burs and wait until you hear about the bobwar (Texan for barbed wire) and the pitchfork! Yeowww!

Ginger Axford

In Norfolk when I was just a little girl, there was a professional photographer with a darling Shetland pony with all the trappings. He even had chaps & hats for tots. One of my favorite pictures of me is that happy little cowgirl in full regalia in the saddle astride that adorable Shetland pony with the silver trappings.

Five or six years later, my brother & I begged for & got Ol' Thunder. Daddy, AKA Turtle, bought him at Lambley's Sale Barn which was a block north of where we lived in the Collin's house on North Main. My how grand it was to be up on the back of that huge horse with the wind blowing through my hair. And, my, how it hurt when I fell off. To this day, I have an imbedded sandbur in my leg. Poor old Thunder went back to the sale barn when my folks saw his bad behavior when Nolan tried to get the halter on him out at the corral north of town where he was stabled.

Beauty came into my life shortly after we moved to the Redenbaugh place on the road past Von Heeder's, Ulysse Lambley's & Manifold's. Beauty was a gem. She was sorrel with a white blaze & stockings. We weren't allowed to ride with a saddle. I don't know how many times I would have to put a bucket or anything else to climb on to mount Beauty. I'd get her along side the step, and she would move ahead. So over & over until finally, I was able to grab that mane and climb up.

Once, Nolan decided he wanted a turn. Beauty & I headed across the alfalfa field at a gallop. Nolan was hot on our trail. Before I could rein in, we were at the fence. Beauty stopped, I didn't. I sailed over the fence but the barbed wire scratch is the scar I still have on my right leg. When Beauty was with foal, I was told to stay in the house. I waited about as long as I could, then I went to the barn. Inside the barn, near the stanchions & hay mangers for the cows, I rounded the corner at the same time Nolan was coming with the pitchfork to get hay. The pitchfork was down & went through my left leg clear to the hilt of the fork. I was down.

Nolan ran for Mom and she pulled it out real slow. It didn't bleed & had missed the bone. Off to the old Brown County Hospital we went for a tetanus shot. I missed a few days of school & still have a little round scar three inches below my left knee and on the back of my leg. Robin was the colt. He was Pinto. He went to live with friends of my folks & we moved to Long Pine. While I lived at the Redenbaugh place, I would go to visit Doris Johnson & her brother, Gene, on their folks' ranch south of Johnstown. What a holiday. Mrs. Johnson was the best cook ever. I tease Doris that we got to eat wonderful food twelve times a day. They had horses of course. Once, I got to ride a gigantic stallion that might have belonged to their neighbor, Harold Hill.

Tony was the horse of the day in Long Pine. He belonged to Mr. & Mrs. Ozzie Potter. The captain of the basketball team worked for & lived with them. That guy & Tony would come calling at my house in Long Pine. One day, my Dad said, " You know, I don't mind your horse, Tony, mowing my lawn, but I sure don't like his calling cards." Imagine dating on the back of a horse, behind the saddle yet!

During the Blizzard of '49, I lived on the ranch of Eleanor & Lyle Williams south of Johnstown. We were in the hired hands house nearby. They gave us a pair of horses to ride. I was expecting my first baby in the spring. As soon as my folks found out that I was riding the horse, they put a stop to it. When the roads were cleared by the 5th Army, I went to town to live with my folks until Linda Kay was born March 7, at the old Brown County Hospital. There was still five-foot of snow under the trees when we headed northwest for Washington State May 1st in a 1935 Chevrolet with an ironing board strapped to the side, much to the dismay of Mom & Dad. They never forgave me for moving so far away.

Danny Boy was a cutting horse that I bought for my children 6, 8 & 10. It was the first thing I bought after I went to work in town the week after all three kids were in school. I worked in the office at a farmer's co-op. One of the customers had an old cutting horse for sale. That horse was amazing. He would walk down the lane to the mailbox & back with those three kids on his bare back. No matter how they tried, he only walked. But let a man put a foot in the stirrup, he would be rarin' to go. I can still hear my older children singing, "Oh, Danny Boy," to their baby sister, Rebecca when she was born in l961.

Oh, what wonderful memories. How I'd love to once again say, " Come on, Giddy-up, Go."


Now didn't Ginger have some good memories? Here I sit frantically trying to find the dents on the back of my calves from where Dad's saddle horse, Danny, stepped on them, but I fear bragging rights for scars will have to go to Ginger! Well, Let's see what Leroy Wacker can tell us about his cowboy days:
Lee Wacker 

Tony was a lively ole Shetland pony that dad had bought for us 3 boys when we were about school age or before. Tony had a red mane and a coat that was also on the red side. Tony also had a mind of his very own. At times he could be a most loveable little fellow and at other times he could be a 'devil' that his color would indicate.

Tony's primary job was pretty much carrying one of us boys to the bottom pasture where the dairy cattle usually congregated, knowing that we would have to come after them each evening at milking time. We had a spring fed creek that ran thru the pasture. This creek was fed by springs which originated only about 100 yards from the point where we crossed to get the cattle. You are probably way ahead of me but bear with me. This creek was actually quite wide at that point although it wasn't but 6 to 8 inches deep and was beautifully clear and COLD.

We always rode bare-back even in later years when we had larger horses to ride. Most of the time as we came to the creek, Tony would just wade right in and cross the creek but on occasions he would have that ornery streak and as we came trotting up to the edge of the creek he would come to a sudden, dead stop, and at the same time put his head down so that the rider went plunging out into that nice, cold water. Tony had no preference as to which of us boys were riding and he would treat us all equal and also whether it was winter or summer as the spring never froze.

Tony would also take this opportunity to head back home, riderless, probably knowing by the time we walked the cows home we were probably getting dry enough that our anger had subsided enough that he would still get his hay and oats for supper.

Kind of forgot about ole Tony until you made me rattle my brain to come up with a story to tell. You have to also remember that we were 'sod-busters' in that end of the state and we were just starting to make the change from horse farming to tractor farming.


Shoot! I was hoping that Leroy would have scars from one end to the other so the cowboys could claim bragging rights on injuries. But nope! Leroy only got wet and he's had a few years to dry out.
 Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

After thinking about it, my horse stories aren't all that remarkable---I have been bucked off, stepped on, scraped off on fences and trees, and had several horses take off running wildly---very scary experiences. For some reason screaming just made them run all the faster.

But the episode I'll relate is about both my sisters and I. We had a normally gentle old horse called "Pet." My older sister and I rode together on her (or him???) to school and on our way home one afternoon when we got to our mail box near our home, we decided to get all three of us on her and give my little sister Cindy a ride. For some reason, our dog got excited and nipped the horse on the heels and old Pet took off running and bucking. Fortunately, Cindy and I immediately slipped off in the soft grass, but my older sister Jo was in the saddle and had her hands wrapped in the reins and just sat glued-on in terror as the dog kept nipping and the horse kept running. She finally decided to let loose when she and Pet got to the corral and was bucked off. The corral ground was hard as rock and she hit on her tail bone. It so upset her that to this day she has never gotten on a horse again to this day.

Cindy and I continued to ride until my Dad sold all of the horses. But I do remember my horse "shied" once in the corral and I too experienced just how hard that ground was and experienced getting the wind knocked out of me.

Annie O. from Rural "Middle of Nowhere" Nebraska

No scars there I guess... at least none the ladies would want to show. But dandy stories Annie Okey! The story about all the sisters on the same horse certainly reminds me of another story that I'm itching to tell. It's a good one complete with a sister and a cousin and an overturned saddle, a foot lodged in a stirrup, a body dragging and bumping across the prairie, people rolling into ravines, a black-eye or two and me and old Buddy, my Shetland, being a catalyst for the calamity that befell the other horse and riders. But I got nary a scar and thus the whole horse tale is not worth telling.

Dick Ellis

A friend of mine told me about the time when his wife was around 18 or 19 and was to take her first ride. She had never been on a horse before but as she settled into the saddle that horse started running and lurching to the point she (even disdaining the Cowboy law to never "pull leather) grabbed the saddle horn with both hands. To her dismay the durn thing came loose. With the horn still firmly in hand she lost her right stirrup and pitched off the left side of that running horse. Her foot was entangled in the left stirrup as she hit the ground with the horse going full tilt. Who knows what might have happened if the manager of K Mart hadn't unplugged the machine. No I don't know her hair color or the horse's either.

Hee... hee... hee... I expect there is about as much truth in that one as some of the bossman's stuff!

Pat Manifold Cerny 

My cow pony was smarter than I. They made me ride bareback and if I got off, I was too short to jump back on. Dad told me to wait until the horse put his head down to eat, then throw my leg over his neck and he would automatically raise his head and I would be on. Of course, I was on backward but as long as he stood still I could swing around. That worked twice. Then, he would raise his head just as my ankle was over the neck and flip me. I walked home, leading him, many a time.

I was riding him out in the oats field - they were picking up bundles to take to threshing machine. There was a huge, beautiful butterfly on one of the shocks and I tried to get my pony close enough to grab the butterfly. He wouldn't do it. So I got off and tried to approach on foot. He pushed himself around and planted a hoof on my foot and refused to move. At that point the wagon arrived and the horse and I moved away. There was a huge rattlesnake in the shock. The horse knew it and was keeping me away. But it is a wonder that I never had any broken bones.
When living next to the Lambley's (Tommy, Herris, Gary and Lolitta Susanne) we had a group that played stage coach. We hooked up their Shetland to a wagon and usually we girls were made to ride the stage coach and the robbers gave chase and usually the wagon upset on the gravel/dirt road. We were nuts!

Lee Wacker

Here is some cowboy logic sent along by Leroy Wacker. You may have seen it before but here it is if you missed it the first time out of the chute:

1. Don't Squat with Yer Spurs on

2. Never kick a fresh cow chip on a hot day.

3. There's two theories to arguin' with a woman. Neither one works.

4. Don't worry about bitin' off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.

5. If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

6. Never ask a man the size of his spread.

7. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

8. If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

9. Never smack a man who's chewin' tobacco.

10. It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

11. Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.

12. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

13. Always drink upstream from the herd.

14. Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly.

15. If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

16. When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

17. When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

18. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back.

19. Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.

20. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

So there is our collection of horse stories. I'll sign off with this quote from one of the real old cowboys from Ainsworth, Nebraska, Doc Micheel. Whenever he drew a nasty bronc at a rodeo, my dad said ol' Doc would sit up there with his Carlsbad hat pulled down over his ears and with hardly any daylight showing between him and the horse, he would yell at the apex of each twisting, violent jump, "What'll I do if he bucks boys? What'll I do if he bucks?" They broke the mold when they made Doc Micheel.

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