SHARING THE PRAIRIE WITH FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS

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by Orv Alveshere

        RAISING, RACING AND REMINISCING
An old adage claims we can enjoy incidents again through memories and written narratives.  A privilege we relished was combination horse breaking/trail riding after supper.  Dad thought the offspring and horses he raised needed that experience.  We marveled at the depth of his equine and animal husbandry knowledge, from our observations and his myriad tales.  Perhaps we were learning from his mistakes, or more properly stated, his overcoming adversities.
“A fine gait and a good partner” was his version of a great horse.  Riding a horse plow at age ten until Nov 5, a threshing bundle pitcher and water monkey at 14, shoeing horses at 16, then plowing ditches with multi-teams for taxes, were related.        Experimenting beyond trainer training, he and Uncle Clarence successfully schemed and drove 19 horses on three plows (two plowboys) with a ‘phantom’ (not OSHA approved).young girl 3 mules plowing
Sixth through 8th grade were winter concerns while functioning as janitor.  Riding a horse to fire up the pot-bellied stove at the one-room school, he sent the horse home.  At the homestead approach his anxious brother tried mounting that tall, circling horse.  Eventually he needed to be led to the barn, where the horse had been trained to ‘stand.’
Teaching us baseball, he claimed the game required sportsmanship, timing and a sense of humor, as in their team name, “Barnyard Scrubs.”  “Sweat Pads,” an opposing team, used horse collar sweat pads for catchers and umpires protection, while the catcher used a mitt handmade from a sweat pad.
        WHO TRAINED THE HORSE TRAINER?
Self-educated, Dad amazed us with his favorite subjects, horse breaking, baseball, Bible and violins.  His summer retirement job was rising before sun-up to drive a blind pastor to vacation pulpit fill-in jobs.
The sight of 23 project horses cresting the hill to slake their thirst at the stock tank, was scaled down to one horse.  He donated that paint mare to his 6-year-old great-granddaughter as a fitting, full-circle finale.
At the nursing home he perked up the residents by his quote. “I’m riding my horse,” rolling his wheelchair through the halls.
One ironic difference, he became reluctant to share what we perceived to be some painful memories, such as, runaways.  We were successful with ‘the drill,’  ‘MT mustang,’ and ‘baseball gripes’ by using speculative questions and receiving a grinning “Yes” or nod.
The ‘last ride’ for Mom and Dad to cemetery hill was on a horse-drawn wagon followed by trail riders.  We stated at church, “With all the horses he’d trained and driven, he gave us the impression he expected the Angel to allow him to drive the Chariot.”
Our ‘library’ went to his reward,  the four brothers now phone to ask, did you ask Dad about thus and so?  Aha, more information becomes available.
        GRANDMOTHERS, BROTHERS AND OTHERS
Both Grandmothers received Fjord horse and cart rides to the high mountain ‘seters’ or summer pastures.  Young Norwegian girls stayed, tending and milking cows and goats.
In the USA, Grandma had a sheep buck powered washing machine (on a treadmill).  Her neighbor tried to pet him through the fence but he stepped back.  Mr. Sheep aimed well and rear-ended the neighbor as he turned away.
        CRITTER LITTER HITS THE FAN
We reminisce about previous plans and practice to become rodeo riders suffered parental intervention when critter litter was noticed on the knees of our blue denims.  We experienced a shocking response when Dad discovered we had tried to train horses to jump.  An emotional pain set in when I had to settle for the second fastest horse in the township.
Frustration arose as we were unable to counter or defend when a family of skunks moved under our grainery.  We couldn’t ‘negotiate’ with them.  Uff-da, the education continued!
Patience was learned snaring pasture-hole-digging gophers and sending tails to Wells Co. for bounty (hope the statute of limitations has run out).
Everything I learned in the hayfield, I needed to know.  Pitch, pitch, pitch described the never-ending effort to put hay in the hayrack and haymow.
Raising horses now, my brothers consider ‘getting up in the world’ as moving cattle to summer pastures nearly 6,000 feet in the Montana Little Belt Mountains.

PIONEERS AND NEIGHBORS PROVIDED LEARNING SERVICE

      A homesteader related covered wagon trips, horse plows, seeding and harvesting by hand.  He told of reading his newspaper during the bright lightning.  A neighbor who raised registered quarter horses thought training six mules would be a lark.  A large man who thought he could stop a train could also stop any equine with bridle bits in their mouths.  Parade goers barely had a brief look as there were independent brains between 12 long ears.  A wagon-splintering, driver dragging, runaway exhibition ensued.
A rare privilege of riding the National Pole Bending Champion horse received a repayment.  My poem, “Adios Pony Express Rider” assisted his induction to ND Cowboy Hall of Fame.  He claimed life was the ‘ride’ not the trophies (hardware) or the destination.
Another benefit was watching rodeos that a neighbor produced and provided talented trick roping and riding.  Nearby riders honed skills to bring them into national prominence.

      HOGGING THE HEADLINES IN THE END/HOGWASH?
Horse races settled arguments of who was fastest.  Hanging onto a racing hog was a lesson in tenacity.  Brother Dew wishes the picture of him on a large pig would disappear as moments after camera clicks, the sow bolted, upending him in less than 8 seconds!
Hog racing was organized.  One oversaw the finish line at the end of the pen while we jumped around the corner of the hog barn with best ghastly “Boo!” or tossing a bucket of water. Grunting, squealing pigs sprinted for the far end.  Racing ‘ended’ by parental decree after Dew was uncomfortably seated at the supper table.  A large wooden sliver had accompanied him while shinnying his posterior over the hog gate, needing extrication that disrupted mealtime.
            KEEPERS OF THE SHEEP
An older neighbor lad showed off his trick of teasing a sheep buck who charged with lowered head!  The lad stepped aside and the sheep hit the barn!  Alone later, I tried that ruse.  At age six, I froze, my legs refused to move.  A painful lesson was administered by a genuine ‘butthead’!
Returning from Heidelberg, Germany, I watched Brother Jim perfectly imitate his bottle lambs with b-a-a-a-a.  They came running.  Later, with perfection, I imitated their b-a-a-a-a.  They put me in my place as lambs looked up, ignored, then returned to grazing.
Assisting with moving sheep flocks from pasture to pasture, they acted like sheep, attempting to enter the gate simultaneously.  My vantage point and my track team speed rerouted an obstinate bunch attempting to backtrack.  I was inches from the fastest woolly as he glanced off the fence, motivated by escape.  I tried to attribute that failure to wearing cowboy boots.
They claimed I was fleeced.
An Uncle requested a poem about him.  He chuckled when I asked if a title, “Country Gentleman with a Sheepish Attitude” was acceptable?  Mixing humor with the multiple awards of that accomplished producer and National Sheep Judge, that poem became the highlight of his 80th celebration.
WHO IS WATCHING THE SHEEP?
The assignment was to explain donkeys amid sheep flocks.  Asking experts, we learned a donkey or a llama seem to naturally and expertly watch, guard and protect mules protectors of livestock croppedflocks of sheep.  Noisily frightening off predators, they also bite and stomp predators to death using front feet.  A surprising fact surfaced, coming from deductive reasoning that two donkeys should better protect large flocks.  That came to a resounding “No” as two donkeys paid attention to each other, not to the sheep, who grazed off.  Several lambs were lost in that experiment.
Painful and/or humorous predicaments with livestock culture generate our yarn spinnings.
Orv Alveshere makes few claims: cowboy poet (with awards), husband, grandfather, veteran and snowbird.

© Copyright March, 2009, all rights reserved.