The Superior Express -

Editor's Notebook

 

September 10, 2020



Like many people, because of the dangers associated with COVID-19, I’ve been staying close to home. Only go out when absolutely necessary, and so I miss meeting and talking with people.

My grandparents taught me to people watch. On the Blauvelt side, they liked to park in downtown Superior on Saturday night. Grandfather would drive his automobile downtown Saturday afternoon and find a suitable parking place. He would then leave the vehicle and walk home. After supper, he and Grandmother would walk back downtown, sit in their automobile and visit with the friends who walked by.

If I went along, I wasn’t much interested in listening to the “old folks” visit but I learned to enjoy watching the people walking past. As I looked at them, I tried to imagine their life story. For example, I might try to glean clues to their occupation by the kind of clothes they wore.

Saturday night in Superior was the social highlight of the week for many people and it didn’t cost much. Many people did their week’s trading and visiting on the same trip to town.

Yesterday (Wednesday) members of the Superior Chamber of Commerce attempted to rekindle the Saturday night spirit of old. Many businesses remained open until 8 p.m. and had special features.

And in my grade school days Tuesday would have been the first day of the fall term. But we never had a day like we had this week.

Each year on the first day of school, my father took my picture. Most years he posed me with my ride to school which in the grade school years was a horse. Often my mother stood along side and wished for me a good school year.

Not once was I pictured wearing a coat and never did it rain or snow on opening day. Rain and cold weather did spoil some plans for last day of school picnics which usually came near the end of the third week of April.

A social media post shared this week by Ava Pedersen brought back memories of riding a horse named Tony to country school.

Dad bought Tony at the Deshler Sale Barn as an unbroke two-year-old the spring before I started to first grade. I remember going to Deshler in Dad’s old 193? Ford truck to bring Tony home. Found a sad Tony standing all by himself in the far corner of a pen.

Dad wisely decided neither horse nor boy were ready for the daily trips to school that fall and so an old Shetland became my ride. I traveled a lot of miles on that Shetland’s back but we made our last trip in early April. She got sick and took her last breath a week before school was out. Those last days were not pleasant for my four-legged friend struggled mightily to breath. I can still hear her standing by the pasture gate fighting for each breath.

The tears flowed freely as I watched her lifeless carcass winched onto the truck my father called the “dead wagon.” He said her carcass was going to the glue factory and perhaps next year when I started to school with a new bottle of LePage’s glue that glue may have been made from my departed friend. For a little boy, it was a painful lesson about the fragility of life.

Following the horse’s death, I had to learn to ride Tony. By then Tony was a full-of-life three year-old quarterhorse that had been broken to ride and in a year or so would be trained to pull me to school on a cart.

I didn’t appreciate it, but Tony looked after me. Early in our relationship he decided he should only trot and never gallop when carrying a little boy. Oh how my side did ache and my lunch was homoginzed after that nearly two-mile trot to school. He would gallop for other riders but never for me. It was willingness to trot that encouraged my father to build a cart and break him to drive.

Sunday I watched a social media video showing a little boy trying to climb astride a horse like Tony. I marvelled as the youngster tried and tried to pull himself into the saddle only to lose his grip and fall back. After several scuttled tries, he made it. The video reminded me of how hard it was at age 7 to get onto Tony.

I envied my Uncle Glen who could mount Tony in one jump. If I the saddle was cinched up tight, Glen would grap the saddle horn with two hands and leap onto the horse’s back. With my short legs, I would try and try but never made it without a boost.

Near the horse lot there was an overturned stock tank that I routinely used as a mounting stool. By first climbing onto the tank, I got enough height I could reach a stirrup and eventually make it onto the saddle.

Away from home, I had to improvise. I would look for a grader ditch, pasture bank or cow path for a height advantage. I never let my father see me do it for he would have said I was breaking down the fence, but I sometimes used barb-wire fences. If the wire was tight and I got near a post, I could use the wire as a ladder and hopefully get on before the wire broke or a steeple pulled out. I assure you, it was never fun getting that close to a barb wire fence for the barbs were intent on finding an opportunity to snag me.

Over the years the horses changed butthere was one constant. I had trouble getting the lead out of my feet.

One day I was trying to use an old railroad tie for the needed stool while mounting bareback. I had tried and failed several times before the horse grew impatient and decided to help. As I jumped, the horse reached around and nipped me. The nip left an ugly bruise but I didn’t mind that as much as I did what happened next. I was so startled I jumped over the horse and landed in a cow paddy.

The horse only added insult to injury when she looked down at me on the ground. From the look in her eyes I’m sure if the horse could have talked she would have asked, “If you can jump like that, why didn’t you get on a long time ago. We need to be on our way and get this useless trip over with so I can go back to the pasture where I belong.”

 

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