MIXING HORSE BREEDS
My grandfather, a horse lover, mixed business with pleasure when it came to gardening and farming back in the Forties. He owned a half-blind pacer named Holly. When hitched to a buggy that pacer was unstoppable except to run her into the barn. Wow! You talk about a ride, racing over the narrow slab into the country and Grandpa sawing back on the reins. That just made her run faster. Then he would turn her around and race the miles back to the barn. We spent every summer at the Williamson County Fair and watched races. Maybe that’s where he got that mare.
He produced two colts from that mare, a sorrel and a black. Now the sorrel was just as hard to stop as her mother. We called her Junie. The black, Dolly, was more manageable due to having a hip out of socket that was never righted. That was okay for us girls since we weren’t too sure about our prowess as riders. One time on the farm after a winter of freedom, Grandpa decided that we should get them used to riding again. I swear that big red was laughing when she looked back at me neighing. I don’t learn fast and she had three turns at me. Grandpa got on her and rode her to the ground until she gentled, but I’d had enough.
The odd thing I beheld when he plowed with that half-blind racer was that Grandpa had to go at a lope to keep up with her as she went at a fast pace down the rows and he hung on for dear life yelling “Whoa, you ——!” He mumbled that last part, being with us ladies and all. My grandparents owned buildings downtown, that garden farm on the slab and a farm down by where Lake of Egypt is now.
But the gardening was done on the lots off a slab road going out of Marion, Illinois toward Pittsburg. All of this was after the tornado, of course. Now new Route 13 takes up that old road and there is new development for miles toward Pittsburg and points north.
Grandpa gardened the lots, raising tomatoes, potatoes, corn, all kinds of vegetables – and guess who had to wash canning jars every season for canning – but that wasn’t the fun part. Whatever was left over on the ground was good for tomato fights. Our red-head mother even joined in one time. Trouble was with that red hair we couldn’t really tell when we had a good hit.
I remember a locust infestation one year and we were all in on that beating them to death, but the garden was lost.
The odd part of the colts were that they were mixtures of plow horse and race horse. Grandpa didn’t have the money or the time to breed to good stock. We knew no different and enjoyed our young life riding.
Then there was the old gray mare who had a lovely colt. When he allowed us to take it to our farm what fun we had playing Hoot Gibson, jumping out of the barn loft onto the colt. How we kept from breaking her back, I don’t know, but we played cowboys until grandpa took her away.
He probably had to train her for plowing, but more likely thought to keep her whole from the wild grandchildren. It was about the time I roped one of our food pigs and it fell to the ground dead. I ran. It came to and got up dragging the rope behind it. Here came Dad.