Special Interest Tyrone Daily Herald Archives

Lifes Coloring Book A column by Suzi Walls for The Daily Herald

The tall, spirited racehorse was a loser; but he was a beautiful loser. Standing all of sixteen hands at the withers and brandishing a coat the color of an acorn, he kicked up his heels and pranced into the auction ring. That stallion could run like the wind, but his temperament got his big behind kicked out of Kentucky bluegrass country. Old man Hunter thought he’d be a perfect addition to his herd of riding horses; so he bid and won. A few days later the stallion snorted and chased the mares across the pasture of Mr. Hunter’s Grazierville farm.
The year was 1944. The twins were eighteen and as spirited as that Kentucky stallion. As they leaned on the fence admiring the big racehorse, they smoked the cigarette butt they picked up off the Grazierville road.
“Betch’re scared to ride that big bugger,” Ab blew smoke rings as he dared his brother.
“Betcha I ain’t,” Bob snorted. “I can ride anything. Saddle ‘em up,” he shouted to Mr. Hunter.
The twins had been hanging around Hunter’s boarding stable and smoking discarded butts since they were ten years old. In return for cleaning stalls and brushing the stock, old man Hunter allowed the boys to ride anytime they wanted. Sheep, goats, big old hogs, ponies, horses; whatever needed riding (and even some things that didn’t), got rode. Oh yeah, they’d been thrown many times, but they always got back on the critter and rode until the sweat lathered like seafoam. That was the one thing that riled Mr. Hunter; do not lather up the horses.
Being the size of a jockey, Bob had to climb atop the fence to swing himself onto the stallion. The horse didn’t even flinch. A hundred and twenty pounds was like tossing a fly on an elephant. Bob pulled up the reins and the horse sharply jerked his head.
“Be keerful, there Bobby,” Mr. Hunter warned. “He’s got a snaffle bit in his mouth. We ain’t sure how he’s gonna handle. He ain’t been rid since the derby. I been told that he throwed his jockey and nearly kilt ‘im. That’s how he done got to the auction.”
“Aw, don’t worry none, Mr. Hunter. I can handle this ol’ donkey. T’aint a horse out there that I can’t ride.” Bob was confident. “Ab, you ride along with me. Take that gelding, Fish. He’ll be good competition for this stallion.”
The twins urged the horses down Mr. Hunter’s roadway and onto Grazierville Road. Bob kept a tight rein and the stallion handled just fine. Fish pranced alongside the racehorse. Once they were out of Mr. Hunter’s sight, Bob loosened the reins and dug his heels into the animal’s sides. It was as if the bell rang, the gate opened, and that horse took off like you know what through a goose leaving Fish and Ab in the dust. As they whizzed past the shell banks, the horse’s hooves kicked up stones like a lawnmower does gravel.
The first quarter mile of flat-out speed was thrilling. Bob felt as if he were flying in a biplane, with the wind in his hair and his scarf flying. All that was missing was a leather helmet and goggles. The animal’s power surged. Faster. Farther. Was this animal ever going to tire? Apparently, not. Bob pulled back on the reins. The stallion arched his neck, dropped his chin, and galloped harder.
“Whoa! Whoa! Stop, you crazy bugger. Stop!” Bob shouted. His heart was pounding as hard as the horse’s. They were nearing the macadam of Hoover’s Lane. Iron horseshoes and smooth blacktop go together like bald tires and black ice. If he didn’t slow this animal, they were both doomed. Somehow, Bob had to turn this rocket ship on hooves into the meadow. Ahead was a wooden footbridge that crossed a creek leading to the meadow. Bob pulled hard to the left, the snaffle bit cut into the roof of the stallion’s mouth, he leaped sideways and his front feet hit the wooden bridge. The horse reared and tumbled off the bridge, landing belly-up in the creek. But where was Bob?
Several hundred yards behind them, Fish galloped as hard as he could. He was lathered as if he’d been sprayed with a fire extinguisher. As they approached the footbridge, Ab could see the stallion’s hooves pawing the air like a turtle on its back.
“Brother!” Ab shouted anxiously. “Where are you?”
Amazingly, Bob scrambled, unscathed, from under the big stallion.
“He’s hurt,” Bob shouted. “Ride down to Zack Sprankle’s and get him to come … and bring his gun.”
The horse lay writhing and pawing, upside down in the muddy creek. Bob couldn’t approach the animal for fear of being struck by its flailing hooves. After what seemed like hours, Ab returned with Zack who was the best horseman in the valley.
“You gonna have to shoot him? Is he hurt bad? Ol’ man Hunter’s gonna kill me,” Bob cried.
Zack surveyed the situation. He calmly walked to his truck, instead of a gun, he came back with a rope. “Nothing wrong with this animal,” he spat. “Just stuck in the mud, zats all. Come ‘ere, boys. Help me haul his big butt outta here.”
A few seconds later, the horse was on its feet, no worse for the wear.
“Need a boost up on ‘im, Bobby,” Zack offered.
“Uh, I think we’ll walk. Thanks anyway.”
So Ab and Fish, Bob and the racehorse walked all the way back to Hunter’s. Talk about walking off the lather, those horses were bone dry by the time they reached the barn.
“Well, how did he do?” asked Mr. Hunter.
“Better enter this big boy in the Run for the Roses,” laughed Ab. “And Bobby here will be your jockey.”
“Not on your life,” Bobby piped up. “Find yourself another jockey. I’m joining the Army!”