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SPOTLIGHT
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Growing up around horses

Published on -7/17/2013, 8:08 AM

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My dad was raised around horses and used them for work and enjoyment until he was approximately 70 years old. He loved horses -- big draft horses, particularly Belgians and Percherons and, of course, quarter horses. He always was looking for the perfect pair of work horses. He bought lots of beautiful draft horses through the years, but the perfect pair always eluded him.

He didn't worry about getting kicked when he walked behind them or hitched them. He spent considerable time feeding and brushing them and taking care of their hooves.

When my dad was courting my mother, who lived near Hyacinth, about 20 miles from Munjor, he did on numerous occasions ride a horse to her house. He didn't get to use the Model T every time he went somewhere. He would beg his mother for 10 cents so he could buy my mom two packages of gum.

When I was about 3 years old, my older brother tied the horse he was riding to the front porch rail of our house and he went into the house. Unnoticed, I went outside by the horse. No one really knows what happened, but my parents surmised the horse swung his head to chase flies and the bit of the bridle caught my cheek and ripped my face open. The cut was moon-shaped and 3 inches long. They heard my screams and came running, then immediately took me to the hospital.

When I was young, my dad used the horses with an old horse rake to gather the hay on piles. Then he loaded the hay on the horse-driven hay wagon to the areas where he made haystacks, plus threw some hay in the barn loft for the cattle and horses for the winter.

Each spring, my dad used a horse when he worked the potato patch in March. I remember the one-horse plow he used to furrow the rows for the potatoes. Mom and we kids would drop the seed potatoes into the furrows in a potato patch that was probably 50 feet square. When the potatoes were ready to be picked in August, Dad hitched up a horse to the plow to dig up the rows of potatoes. Once again, this was a family activity, but usually it was hot this time of year. One time, I got faint from the heat and got to go into the house to cool off. My brothers probably thought I was faking. Maybe I was. We then put the potatoes in the cellar. We ate a lot of potatoes throughout the year, and Mom fixed potatoes different ways -- fried, mashed, baked, scalloped and boiled with fried cream poured over the top. We enjoyed them all, and they filled our bellies.

I remember one winter when Dad hitched his horses to a wagon, then came to school in Antonino in a blizzard to pick up my brothers and me. It was mighty cold on that wagon going home 2.5 miles from school.

He did, on one occasion, take his wagon driven by his team of horses to Hays for a parade, but he was concerned about the horses being spooked because they were not used to being around crowds. He used his best harness with brass decorations and red tassels.

Because of my dad, I love horses, as well. I used to ride the quarter horses. We owned a beautiful white horse called Trixie. It seemed she went as fast as the wind. I would ride her to our mailbox, which was a third of a mile from our farm. On the way to the mailbox, Trixie would have to be prodded to get there, but once I got the mail and we were on our way home, she would run like a bat out of hell. That was my thrill for the day, holding on for dear life.

One time, my dad bought an old horse to sell at a sale in Hutchinson. The horse was in the corral, so I decided to ride him. I was barely on his back when he headed for the fence. It was either get clawed by the barbed wire fence or jump off the horse. He knew how to throw a rider without even having to buck.

Another time, we owned a beautiful brown quarter horse. One day, I was riding her, and she headed straight for the washlines. That gets your blood to pumping knowing that you are going to ride into that wire and bite the dust -- but just as we were approaching the wire, the horse turned away.

I learned how to respect and care for horses. When riding a horse, I've been heard to say "Gitti up, go, slow and whoa."

Alberta Klaus is a contributor to The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.

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