All My Ancestors

15 August 2009

Ponies of my Past

written for the 78th Carnival of Genealogy

Despite having grown up in a rural community, and in a family that had nothing but farmers, which inevitably included some livestock, I didn’t do lots of horseback riding. This is undoubtedly due at least in part to my own terror of most four-legged creatures–dogs, cattle, horses, you name it, with the exception of cats. I managed to negotiate the farm life without too much interaction with horses, except that the excitement and appeal of riding them sometimes overtook me and I had to try to ride. My aunt, only 4 years older than me, spent hours riding through the pastures. I wanted to be able to do that, but what if the horse saw a snake? or bucked me off? or saw a snake AND bucked me off? or was charged by a crazed bull? or stepped in a hole? or ran away with me, dragging me hanging from one stirrup and bumping me along the ground where I’d hit my head on a rock? or lightening struck me while I was out there all alone? The terrifying possibilities were endless.

My granddad religiously read the American Quarter Horse and could recite horse genealogies like I can recite my own family members. He talked of sires and dams and which horse was “out of” which–following these bloodlines and their accomplishments was his passion. Once when I was taking him to visit what was then the National Cowboy Hall of Fame here in Oklahoma City, a college friend asked me if he knew any of the cowboys enshrined there. I answered that he probably knew some of them, but he was more likely to know their horses. Sure ’nuff, he recited the names of their steeds, along with their “out of’s”.

This picture is undoubtedly from one of the traveling carnivals that came to town each year. That’s my brother in front of me, in the hat. He was considered “good” with horses. and cattle. and various other four-legged critters. Still is. Note my moccasins. I was never able to wrangle a pair of boots from anyone, but I did have several pair of moccasins.


My maternal grandparents lived on a ranch in South Dakota. They had an old gray mare called Sedan, named for her original home in Sedan, New Mexico, as I recall. She was gentle when everyone else rode her but she knew my terror and managed to act up every time I was on her. When we were young teens, Granddad bought my brother and I a paint pony–he was brown and white and part shetland. My whole life I’d heard how onery and sometimes just plain mean shetland ponies were. Ours certainly lived up to that reputation, at least when I was aboard. My grandmother named him “Flip” because I was always getting flipped off, so to speak. He managed to trot hard enough to bounce me off when he saw the barn OR he would ride close enough to the fence to brush me off. He only behaved that way when I was riding him. Or at least my brother managed to get his bluff in on him so that he would behave when Thad was riding him.

Here’s Flip behaving beautifully with my brother aboard–my brother in his hat and boots, once again.

And here’s an older picture in my collection. I don’t know the name of the horse in this picture, but I do know the kids aboard. They are my uncle Pete and his cousin Winifred. This photo must have been taken about 1922, probably near Pampa, Gray County, Texas. It could have been at either of their homes or the home of their grandparents–at this time, they all lived northeast of Pampa, if I’m correctly remembering my dates.

So there were always horses around. But it was better for me to not be around horses. They just weren’t my friends despite my wanting to be a good rider. I can tell you how to do it, but I can’t actually do it.

Sort of like dieting.


4 Responses to “Ponies of my Past”

  1. I was never really afraid of our animals but I think that they could sense that I was a clueless city kid. The pony went where she wanted, the horse wouldn’t go faster than a trot and the milk cow kicked. I wouldn’t trade any of my farm memories for anything…….but I have no desire to ever ride again or take care of anything larger than a small dog.

    “sort of like dieting” LOL Me too!

  2. Well written…sorta the way I feel about horses…just can’t say it as well.

  3. I feel better. I thought I was the only one Flip took to the fence!!! He would act so nice walking along and then bam….he would run straight at the fence on a dead run and then stop throwing me over the top right at the barbed wire…..I complained to Grandad and he said “Jr just stay on him” thanks Deb for the story.

  4. …and I’m relieved to know I wasn’t the only one. :-) We shoulda compared notes sooner. And I can just hear Granddad saying that.

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