Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday Memories

Have I ever told you I was horse crazy when I was a little girl?
During 1949 and 1950, when I wasn’t hanging out at the livestock barn owned by father and son, Charlie and Raymond, in our little town, Forreston, IL, I was heading out to a farm of a girl friend to ride her horses. At Charlie’s barn I had to be sort of sober and grown up because there were only adults there and it was a place of business. I could watch them muck the stalls, shoe the horses, and listen as they explained the parts of a saddle and tack. I was allowed to sit on the horses and wash or curry them; and I could ask questions which seemed to cause the men a lot of mirth and red faces, such as, “How do you tell a steer from a bull?”

None of my friends were as interested in horses as I was, so after school I’d go to the barn by myself, within walking distance of our home but outside the town limits. I knew how to open the latches to the doors, so I’d let myself in. When my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I'd climb up on the stall dividers, scoot over and slide onto the horses. If I did take a friend with me, I would show off by walking under the horse. I shudder now to think of the danger I was in. There wasn’t an adult within a half mile. Usually, Charlie and Raymond bought nice, well-trained horses, but they were in the resale business and never kept an animal very long, so who knows what behavior problems they could have had? I probably weighed less than 100 lbs., and the average horse can be over a 1,000 lbs., and really, they aren't very bright.

Charlie and Raymond would take me with them in their stock truck on their buying trips--I remember going with them up to Wisconsin and over to Iowa. Again, I can’t imagine I would have allowed my children to do this, but it was a different time, and my parents knew them, or at least Dad did. I was a reasonably well behaved child, but I do remember wandering around stock barns and county fairs by myself as the men attended to their buying. I can remember being too embarrassed to ask about a rest room or for something to eat. So I wasn't as brave as it might sound. Then the cattle or horses would be loaded into the truck and we’d start for home.

Charlie and me and a gray pony

I don’t remember how I met Marlene and Carol and their large family. At least one was my age, so possibly we met at summer Bible School. They didn’t go to elementary school in our town, but attended a one room rural school. However, for Bible School, the country kids came to town, which was always exciting because it meant some new faces--important in a town of 1,000 or less. Their mother was a jolly farm woman who made beef tongue sandwiches for our lunch (which made me gag and decline her hospitality) and all the children in the family could play the accordion.

For my first visit to their farm, which was on Route 72 between Forreston and Leaf River, my mother probably dropped me off, but after that, I was on my own. So I rode my standard bicycle along a busy highway, with a gravel and dirt berm before the days of helmets and safety concerns. It was years later working in an agriculture library that I learned about the high injury and death rate among farm children because of dangerous machinery, but their townie friends, like 10 year old Norma riding her bike out to see them, were probably at risk too. (We'd also take rides on the tractor driven by a 14 year old, but that's another story.)

This family had two riding horses, one a handsome, fast sorrel mare, and the other a blind, overweight “Indian” pony, named Pinky. Pinky’s eyes were blank and glassy, but one was blue. He was white and his pink skin showed through, which is probably how he got his name. If he wasn’t an albino (who often are blind), he was close to it. The sorrel I would gallop around a pasture where she would attempt to rub me off against the fence while spinning so she could make a break for the barn.

Pinky was a step down in prestige, but was easier to catch. If you’ve never ridden an overweight equine, let me explain. When he galloped, or attempted to, his breath expelled with very loud heaving noises, especially when the three children on his back came down out of the air to make contact in sequence. Because Pinky was so fat, the saddle girth wouldn’t fit, so we rode him bareback. Away we'd go, along busy Route 72, always with two or three children atop, with cars whizzing by, many honking their horns to see if they could startle the horse. As Pinky would hesitate and balk, confused by the noise, the gravel, and holes in the dirt, we kids would slip-slide back and forth on his sweaty back, our thigh muscles burning, hanging on to his mane, the reins, and each other for dear life.

Mother would have had nightmares had she known. It’s a mystery to me that I don’t.

Readers and other Monday Memory contributers: 1. Lady Bug , 2. Katherine 3. Scouser, 4. Lazy Daisy, 5. D, 6. Beckie 7. Rowan, 8. Ocean Lady , 9. Darianna,10. Kdubs 11. Shelli, 12.
Renee,13. Libragirl 14. FrogLegs 15. Jen
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Anonymous said...

Just a quick note to say Hi & thank you for visiting my site. Hope you will come back again.

Ladybug Crossing said...

Love your memory!
It's amazing that any of us are alive today...

Katherine said...

Cool memory! It's amazing what children can do and end up unscathed...I posted a memory today, too.

Lazy Daisy said...

Ahh....those were the good ole days. Love your post. I have one that may make you giggle.

Just D said...

Whoah! Yes, mamma would have nightmares! Geez.. but it sounds fun and sure made for a good memory!

Rowan said...

It's truly amazing that we make it to adulthood. But we do. It sounds like your dangerous memory was worth the risks, though. Thank you for sharing.

Also, thanks for stopping by my memory.

Unknown said...

Great story. I came by early this morning and forgot to comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

That is a cute picture! :) You are lucky that you got to be around the horses so much. That does sound scary riding Pinky when he was all sweaty like that with other kids and on the road with cars.

Anonymous said...

What a great story with beautirul memories. I love the photo of you, that is awesome.

I don't do the MM yet but have been considering it. Time is a problem for me at the moment.

Have a beautiful week Norma!

monica said...

Oh I love this story and I love this photo!

Susan said...

Great story...makes me think a bit about what my mom would write about her horsey days.

City girls have different ways of express their equine enthusiasm. Several of us loved we pretended to "be" horses...running around the playground in a "herd".

At home, my brother and I would "play horse" by getting down on our hands and feet and trot up and down the hallway of our house. When my dad would rant about "Galloping Liberal Democrats", I thought he was talking about us!