For as far back as I can remember, Iíve had a love affair with horses. My first memory of horses was on my grandparentsí farm. Grandpaís horses and mules were used for field work and transportation. Grandpa never did master driving a car --- he left that up to Grandma. He had a buckskin mare named Nance that he drove to a buggy. She was also a good riding horse.
Cousin Marsh and I would watch for the horses and mules to come into the corral to drink from the big wooden stock tank. As they were drinking, we would slip around the corral fence and shut the gate to the pasture. Then we would get a bucket of oats from the grain bin to entice Nance into the barn. We would shut the barn door and get a harness bridle, with blinders, and one of us would climb up on the edge of the manger and put the bridle on her. As soon as she had finished her oats we would snap on some leather guide reins and lead her out beside a big rock beside the corral and climb aboard. What fun we had!
On one occasion, two neighbor boys came over and all four of us climbed on Nance. I was in front guiding her. Marsh was behind me and Carrol was behind him. Last up was little brother Harold. I guided Nance down the lane and across the gravel road and up a steep bank on the other side. As she humped over the ditch Harold slid off the back end. He pulled Carrol off too. Carrol in turn pulled Marsh off and that got me. There we all sat in the middle of the road, accusing each other of pulling the other off Nance's broad back. Because I was driving, it was all my fault.
Grandpa took note of all this and on my next birthday (6 years) I got a big surprise. One day, Grandma took a call from the railroad station agent 3 1/2 miles up the road, that he had a Shetland pony up there with my name on it. I could hardly wait while Grandpa hitched up Nance and we trotted to town. Sure enough, tied to a tree by the depot, was a beautiful little pony just my size. He was mostly white but had a brown head and a big brown spot on his left flank. He had been shipped in a wooden crate in a railroad baggage car. The tag tacked to the crate was addressed to me. The tag also said that the pony's name was King. I was in seventh heaven. I had my own real pony!
We led him home behind the buggy. I wanted to ride him, but we didn't have a bridle or saddle. Grandpa told me to be patient.
The next weekend my dad came from Kansas City to visit me. In the back of his car was a brand new saddle, bridle and Navajo saddle blanket. Dad gave me an extended lesson in the use and care of horses and tack equipment. Now I was really in love with horses.
Marsh came down as soon as school was out and we rode King double most all summer. Now we were mobile and explored every inch of the countryside. Very soon we discovered that several of the neighbor boys also had ponies of one kind or another. Before another season rolled around, Marsh also had a pony. His was a little black one from Colorado, named Billy, that had never been broken to ride. That was an interesting experience. For awhile, we kept count of the times we were bucked off. Finally Billy gave up and allowed either of us to ride him at will.
We became juvenile cowpokes that summer. On Saturday nights, we would attend the local picture show where we watched our heroes --- Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard and Tom Mix riding across the golden West on their trusty steeds. One summer, we organized an amateur rodeo. I think from the time I was six, until I went to high school, I rode horseback more than I walked.
After awhile, I was sort of ashamed to ride King, as my legs nearly touched the ground. On a temporary basis, I swapped him to another cousin for a bigger pinto mare that I broke to ride. Then we traded back again, as I was attached to King.
Finally, I went away to college and I couldn't take King with me. So it was with great reluctance, and some sadness, that I traded King to a neighbor for two Hereford heifers. He had two young boys that promised to take good care of King. I went away to college leaving King, my Grandma and the farm behind.
(Cousin Marsh), the brown and white pony King, Bowser
the dog, and Daddy Bill in the summer of 1922.