I walked out to the barn for night chores, the heat hit me the second I stepped out the door. The wind picked up and it was hot, the heat made my skin burn and I was instantly brought back to my childhood, I could close my eyes and feel the Oklahoma wind on my skin, hear the cattle out in the feedlot, and smell the scent of the farm. It’s all right there in my memory, in fact the memories of my youth almost seem clearer than the memories from yesterday. I breathe in the hot air, and I smile, the memories from the farm are priceless to me.
I go on with the evening chores, mix up the grain for Sisco, Ditto, Frank, Piper and Trinity, I look down at my dogs, Lainey and Boomer, and we head out back to get Ditto. The hot wind hits me again, I close my eyes, I hear the horses stomping their feet and swishing their tails, I stand still, cock my head because I hear it, the mourning doves. With that I am totally transported back in time. I am on the farm, I hear the mourning doves, listen to the horses and the memories flood back into my soul……
Mr. Ed was a horse that my Uncle Ed owned. He was humungous, at least that what he seemed to me as I couldn’t have been much older than 7 or 8 when I met him. He was beautiful, he had a light brown coat, with a black mane and tail and a little white star on his forehead and one of his feet had white on it too. My first memory of riding a horse, and of going out and getting a horse all by myself was with him. I would walk out of Grandma and Grandpa’s house through the back door just off the porch, but first I would stop in the porch and grab a handful of dog food because whichever dog was on the farm at the time would usually be sleeping under one of the big bushes at the back door. They would wake up and give a big stretch and yawn, and lazily able over to me for a little treat, sometimes they would decide to follow me out to the horses, other times they would go back to their hole under the bushes and fall asleep. I would duck under the clothesline as the full strength of the sun would hit me and the heat of the day would suck the air right out of my lungs. It didn’t matter to me though; I was heading out to the corral. I shrugged off the heat and kept on going, passing under the big trees, making a right turn before I ran into the machine shed where a tractor or two would be parked. It seemed like Uncle Ed or Grandpa were always working on some piece of machinery that had broken down. I might step into the cool shade of the machine shed, just to see what was happening, especially if Uncle Ed was welding something. I liked watching the sparks jump around on the floor, even though all the grown-ups told me not to watch, it would hurt my eyes, (sorry, Aunt Marilyn, Mom, and Dad, sometimes I didn’t mind very well).
Retracing my steps out of the machine shed, I would go out the door again and turn left, with a smile on my face and my stomach feeling like I had butterflies jumping around in it. I was heading out to the horses! A quick turn to the left and I was back on track. I walked a little further down the road, the big hen house on my right. Grandma had lots of hens and a rooster. I always watched out for the rooster. One time one of them chased my cousin, Tiffany, legend has it that he was invited for dinner that night as the guest of honor! The road came to a v right after the hen house, I could either go straight for a very long walk to the hay shed or turn left go past the little grain barns to the corrals, the cattle chute, the scale house, and the barn where the saddles were kept. I would step into the little barn; it was always dark and cooler in there and had a comforting smell of hay, and leather. I never saw a horse or cow, or any other animal kept there, but sometimes the barn cats had kittens; so of course, I had to step through the doorway and investigate the hay bales to see if there were any kittens. Today, no luck!
I returned to the front of the barn and found Mr. Ed’s bridle. His bridle was funny looking, it didn’t have a bit, but it had this band that went over his nose that moved, and the reins were attached to pieces of metal that came down from the nose band, Uncle Ed called it a hackamore, but all I just knew it to be Mr Ed’s bridle.
The horses were in the corral just off the cattle chute I opened the gate and it quickly slammed shut behind me, it had a spring on it and would slam back so fast that you had to quickly get through it or get slapped on the butt or your fingers pinched! The horse’s corral was off to the left, and I shimmied over the rails and there he was! The most beautiful horse in the world. I slipped down from the fence and walked over to him. I could smell his wonderful horse scent before I even touched him. I stepped close, right in front of him with my back against his front legs, I reached up and put my hand gently on his muzzle, he lowered his head down and I put the reins over his neck, then held the bridle up to his face, he lowered his head more and I slipped the top part over his ears and buckled the piece that needed to be buckled, at the time I didn’t know what that was called, but now my grown up self knows it’s the throat latch.
I quickly led him out of the corral, and over by the barn again where there was baling wire hooked over nails, I wrapped the reins over the bailing wire and went into the barn for a curry comb. I quickly ran the comb over his body and looked around to see if any of the hired hands were around. I was hoping I would find Daniel; he would almost always saddle up a horse for me and he was always nice. Unfortunately, on this day he wasn’t there, so I knew I had to ride bareback. Riding bareback was hard, but I knew I could eventually get on with the help of the cattle chute, it was one of the big ones that allowed the cattle to get loaded and unloaded from the big cattle trucks that came and went to the feedlot. I positioned Mr. Ed to the side and slowly climbed up along the rail on the outside of the cute. When I got to the top, Mr. Ed was standing directly below me in the perfect position, and I would drop down. I don’t know why I wouldn’t have just used the corral fence, why did I choose that leap from so high up? It’s a little weird, but that was my favorite way to get on bare back. I remember my mom used to tell me she would shimmy up the horse’s front leg and get on, but I could never figure that out. Mr. Ed’s head always snapped up quickly when I jumped on. Looking back on that, I’m sure I either surprised him or it might have hurt a little bit, or both! Man, he was such a good horse.
As soon as I got settled on his back. I would lean forward and wrap my arms around his neck and just lay there, I could feel his heart beating under mine, I could feel each inhale and exhale, and smell his wonderful scent. Right here, right now was heaven on earth. The 106 degree heat didn’t touch me, the worries of my young life would disappear. it was just me and my horse. I would have him to walk off and we would head up the road, past the big hay shed, past the feed lot and lowing cattle on our left, and into the field straight ahead. I could ride for quite a while up that way, the tree row on my right. At the end of the tree row, I would turn into it, we would step into the shade and enter a muted world of shadows and birds, at this point I would turn back towards the home place and walk for as long as I could in the tree row, soon the carcasses of cattle would come into view. I was intrigued by them, and their different stages of decay. It was interesting to see all the bones that made up a cow, the way their bodies changed as the earth reclaimed them. I know it sounds so weird, but I always have been interested in how animals and people are made, how our bodies fit together and how they work. Mr. Ed wouldn’t shy away; he just would walk through like it wasn’t a big deal as I satisfied my curiosity from his back. Then we would come out of the tree row, back onto the road and I would ask him to trot. He had the bounciest tot ever! I would sing this song and when I got to the end, he would stop and walk again. I don’t know if he walked because the song was over, or if it was because I was about to fall off!
Trot, Trot to Boston Town to get a loaf of bread.
Trot, Trot home again, the old trot’s dead!
Pretty soon we would be back at the barn, I would turn Mr. Ed so we passed the barn and scale house and continue on until we hit the public road. I would turn him to the right, and we would head on over to the silage pit. While out on the main road I loved to turn him into ditches and have him go up and down them. There was such a sense of power as he launched himself up but going down again could be painful because I would land on that bone in the front! Ouch, I hated that part and would scoot my bottom back where it belonged again. Once at the silage pit, I would go up and down the small mounds, it was fun to feel him slide down a little bit, there were little hills here that I could go up and down too. When we were tired of that playground, I would turn and look out at the pasture, Uncle Ed and Grandpa sometimes had a few head of cattle on pasture, and Uncle Ed had his broodmare, Dixie out there. She was also a kind soul, another bay horse that I would try to ride around. I don’t believe she ever was “broke”, but she let me be with her, and ride her just free out in the pasture. I never put a saddle or bridle on her. I would just wait until she was by a rock or something, then I would slide on. But of course, not when I was with Mr. Ed. Sometimes I would ride Mr. Ed into the pasture, but only if I had found someone to help me put a saddle on. I couldn’t figure out how to get back on otherwise, which is funny because I could do it with Dixie.
When Mr. Ed and I would get tired of hanging out by the silage pit, we would head home. Pretty soon I would start up with
“Trot, trot to Boston town to get a loaf of bread.
Trot, trot home again the old trot is dead.”
he would break into the trot, and then down to the walk at the end, but now his walk was faster since we were going home. I would start up the song again, and again up to the trot, me bouncing all over the place, then back down to the walk again. We would do this all the way home. Once home I knew it was time to stop, I was hot and wanted to see what the grown-ups were doing. I took Mr. Ed back to his corral, took off his special bridle, hung it up and headed back into the house. I came through the back porch, kicking off my boots and at the same time my stomach rumbled. “I hope Grandma has cookies” I thought to myself, I called out for her and headed into the kitchen where I knew I would be met with a hug and a smile….and yes, a cookie from her cookie jar. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes, I miss her so much, my grandma, the farm, my family, and the horses that touched me. I was a girl that was truly blessed.