I am not a horseman. I have never claimed to be. I grew up on a farm with cattle and hogs, cats and dogs. The only horse I vividly remember was ‘Ol’ Charlie, a big, black, work horse.
By the time I was old enough to be around him, he had been replaced with a Super A Farmall tractor. He was turned out to pasture, so to speak, and lived out the rest of his days in Brim Hollow. He had earned the rest.
My grandfather, D.T. McCall, had a love for Tennessee Walking Horses. At one time, he owned daughters of the a world champion walking horse named Midnight Sun. Pa Dave, as we called him, and his walkers were a feature at the Saturday night walking horse show at the Smith County Fair for many years.
To be honest, his horses were not of the highest quality. But what his horses lacked in quality, he made up for with his enthusiasm. He loved to show them off.
One summer, a week or so after the fair, our family stopped by to visit with my Granny Amy and Pa Dave. As we entered the house, Pa Dave, holding up a big yellow ribbon, met us at the door.
“Look here, Johnnie,” he said to my brother. “I won third place at the horse show at the fair last Saturday night.”
My brother, John, who was always quick to size up a situation, asked with a sneer, “How many were in the class, Pa?”
Pa Dave dropped his head and lowered his voice, as he humbly admitted, “Huh, huh … three.”
In later years, Pa Dave thought it was a good idea to give each of his children a horse — at least those families who had a place to keep one. We got ours. We called him Major for as long as we kept him.
The day we hauled him home was unforgettable. We loaded him in our pickup truck. My father’s pickups always featured wooden stock racks. Not being familiar with transporting horses, we tied the colt too loosely in the front of the truck bed.
As we pulled out on to Highway 70 to make the two-mile trip home, that colt reared up and managed to get both legs over the front of the truck rack. He then began to pound his hooves on the roof of truck cab. He was relentless. The sound was deafening. You’ve heard the expression, “like the sound of a jackass kicking in a tin barn?” This was worse. I literally thought he was coming through the roof. My earliest experiences with horses were not so good.
About a dozen years ago, our son, Joseph, spent the better part of two years in Southwest Kansas working in feedlot country. He quickly worked up to the position of pen rider at a mammoth cattle feed yard called the Cattle Empire. At full capacity, the yard accommodated 140,000 head of cattle. While there, he was required to own two horses. That’s how “we” got in the horse business.
His first horse trading didn’t go so well. He purchased a mare that was represented to be 12 years old and two months in foal. She turned out to be 15 years and seven months in foal. So, he had to send her home early to foal.
The old mare turned out to be sweetheart. She foaled a filly that year without incident. It was very exciting. So, we decided to give her another chance. The next year, she brought another filly into the world. Time passed quickly.
It was the fall of the year when that second filly was approaching eight months old. I remember a particular fall morning like it was yesterday.
As I approached the horse lot to feed, she met me at the gate. In an unusual move, she stuck her face right up into mine. It was a little annoying, so I took my right hand and pushed her head out of the way. She retreated. I opened the gate and turned to pick the feed bucket. When I turned back, there she was again, right up in my face. As I pushed her head out of the way the second time, she taught me a lesson about quarter horses I will never forget. They are really fast. Suddenly, she spun around and kicked me for all she was worth. The blow landed squarely on the inside of my left groin. It brought me to my knees. The pain was so intense for a minute that I thought I would pass out. My head was spinning.
I finally managed to get back on my feet. Then I did what any sensible, grown man would do. I ran her down and kicked her back … twice. She would not so much as look at me for the next week.
Well, two weeks ago, I got kicked again — different circumstances — different horse. Obviously, I lived to tell about it … details to come.