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Riding Horses

This photo was taken in 1920. That's my grandma on the horse with her brother, Dave. The two young kids on the ground are actually her niece and nephew, orphaned when their mother died in her thirties. Grandma (Mabelle) has written the names of all of them on the photo -- and, yes, the horses's name is Ben.

I've written some short stories about kids growing up in the west, since that's where I grew up, and I followed the rule to "write what you know." I once had a critique partner suggest that it was unrealistic for the low-income character in my story to have a horse, since it's expensive to keep horses (or so this person said). This may be true in urban areas, but when I was growing up, it was hard to find a ranch or farm in our area that didn't have horses, ours included.

Horses figure prominently in my grandma's recollections from childhood. I've copied below a couple of paragraphs from her "autobiography," an 11-page document she wrote in 1986. I feel quite fortunate to have received a copy with these memories which would, otherwise, have been lost forever.

"My pal, Dorothy Johnson, had a pony named Pee Wee. We rode him all summer long. We watched the boys ride backwards on their horses, so Dot and I decided to ride Pee Wee backwards. Well, Pee Wee didn't like it, so he started to buck. We didn't have a saddle, so off we flew, landing in a pile of dried thistle the wind had blown against the fence. After bucking us off, Pee Wee stood 'hip shod' and went to sleep while Dot and I picked thistle slivers from ourselves.

Another time, I 'stole' my boyfriend's beautiful black horse. I had ridden him double with my friend, but Satan (as I called this horse thereafter) knew his master wasn't there, so he jumped and ran and I couldn't get his head, as it's called. Over the corral bars we went, down a hill, across the creek. He jumped a barbed wire fence, caught his hind leg in it and away Satan and I went for a spill. Florence came to my rescue. No one else saw it happen. I was knocked cuckoo. Flo put me on Old Blue (our riding horse). We rode up into the hills to Hell Hole and stayed until I came to. Hell Hole is several miles from the farm house. We returned at twilight. Had a good excuse to tell our Ma: We had gone to hunt a team of horses that wandered away from the pasture. From that day on, I've had a bad shoulder. Nowadays an ambulance would be called and the injured person taken to the nearest hospital. We were tough but, I think, not wise in keeping that kind of an accident from our folks."

   --- Autobiography of Mabelle Irene Luthy Larter, 1986


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