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Horsing Around with Three Crazy Horses on the Farm March 20, 2013

By Guest blogger Brent Murphree for Julie’s Fresh Air

Duke, My First Horse

 

I got my first horse before I could sit up. Mom claims I was more like three or four years old. Grandpa Howard brought it out to the farm in his Ford Fairlane. It was in the back seat of his car.

Grandpa Howard brought my first horse, Duke, to me in his Ford Fairlane.

 

Duke was a Shetland pony. I really loved him and my memories of him abound even though I have few memories of actually riding him.

 

As with most Shetlands, his gait was not smooth, his disposition was mean and much of my time with him was spent avoiding his bite. He was so short that Grandpa Howard’s legs dragged the ground when he was riding him.

 

Mom and Dad had both grown up on horses so the expectation was that I, as the oldest son, would begin riding at an early age. It was part of our environment and that expectation was met.

 

While I may not have still been in diapers, I do remember riding Duke in my little white undies, that’s all. Dad would bring Duke up from the corrals and lead me around.

 

One day they put me on his back slapped him on his rump. Duke took off around the side of the house into the front yard where Mom was waiting. She caught duke, turned him around and slapped him on the rear which sent him around the house into the backyard where Dad caught him.

 

 

This went on for some time until Duke came around the corner and I was not on his back. I had fallen off out of sight of both Mom and Dad. They both came running around the side of the hose.

 

They brushed me off, put me back on and away I went again. There was never a thought by any of us that I would not get back up on the horse. So it was always confusing to me when someone said, “If you fall of a horse, you need to get right back on.”  Well, ya!  What else are you going to do?

 

At some point Duke went to our cousins’ sheep ranch inNorthern Arizona. Maybe he got too mean.

Aunt Allie holding Julie on Duke

 

One day Dad told me Duke had gotten into some rich feed and had foundered. In my little five-year-old mind the result of foundering was that his hooves grew too fast and were too long. It made me sad and as I played in the empty feedlot corrals I’d hear the doves calling. The cadence and rhythm of theirs calls were saying, “Poor Duke, poor Duke.”  To this day when I hear that sound I always say to myself, “Poor Duke.”

 

Latata, Julie’s Horse …

 

The two years we lived in town we had no horses, but as soon as we moved to the farm in Maricopa Julie leapt head long into her “I love horses” stage.

 

For one of her birthdays all she wanted was “anything horsey.”  This with the understanding that every time she was near a horse, she used to swell up like a blowfish. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xacWyC-aAeM

 

So before her birthday party that year, we went out to the road and collected a box of horse poop. The box has substantial heft, so in her mind it was a significant gift. After she tore away the wrapping paper and opened the box, she was stunned and disappointed.

 

She looked up from the box at us with a look of such desolate disappointment we should have felt ashamed. But, we were too proud of our clever prank.

 

Soon thereafter, Julie bought her own horse from Mom’s cousin Jennifer. Latata was an Arabian/Shetland mix. The horse had the arrogance of an Arabian and the manners of a Shetland – a great combination for young kids.

 

The injuries inflicted by this smallish, white pony are legend within the family. Dislocated shoulders, road rash, rope burns, etc.

 

Once Mom was riding the horse back to the pens with nothing but a halter on the horse. Latata’s lope turned in to a full out run with Mom trying to somehow rein her with the halter. Latata made a four-point, dead stop about a foot from the wooden corral fence.

 

Mom flew over the horse’s head with halter rope in hand. She hit the fence full on. She had raised her arm to protect her head and her forearm took the full force of the hit. The rope pulled through her hand as she flew forward and the horse reared back.

 

Mom stood up brushed herself off, put Latata back in the pen and walked calmly back to the house…in full view of all the guys in the shop who had watched the whole thing take place.

 

When she closed the front door behind her she let out a cry of pain. All of us kids were standing there, not sure what was wrong. She had kept her hand clenched on her way back to the house, and now, back inside, she was afraid to open it.

Our Missour cousins, Julie and myself as we picked up Latada for the first time.

 

“Oh, help me,” she winced. “Latata, I fell.”

 

She was flush from embarrassment and couldn’t stop laughing and crying out in pain. Her forearm was scraped and raw with the imprint of the wood pattern from the board where she had hit the fence.

 

We got her into the kitchen.

 

“Get the alcohol,” I yelled to the boys.

 

“No,” she yelled.

 

Then she slowly opened her hand. When the lead rope pulled through her hand it took several layers of skin.

 

“Get the peroxide,” I yelled to Julie.

 

“No,” she yelled back.

 

All our lives we had lived with the line, “If you’re not bleeding to death, you’re alright.”  We wanted payback. However, compassion prevailed and we helped Mom patch her wounds.

 

We were forever banned from riding Latata with only a halter.

 

Sammy, Patrick’s Crazy Horse

 

Patrick was about eight or nine years old when he bought an Appaloosa/Quarter horse mix.

 

First off, I don’t understand why someone would put their kid on an Appy, they are hyper and jumpy. At gymkhanas, the Appies are the ones spinning in circles with their heads in the air and springing from the ground with all four feet. They are spry and quick, but they are also crazy and unpredictable.

 

Patrick’s horse, Sammy, was, if nothing else, CRAZY. I could ride him in a disked up field for a mile and he’d still hit the hard dirt and spring up like he had pogo sticks for legs.

 

One day we were sitting at dinner and for some reason Sammy was out of the pasture. He came into the front yard, hit the cement sidewalk and went crazy. I’m not sure if he thought his reflection in the front window was an opponent. We stood back in horror as his slick hooves slid on the cement and he seemed determined to come through the front window while skidding and clomping on the front porch.

 

I decided I would break his high spirit and rode the heck out of him for about a week.

 

One day I rode him silly, dropped the saddle off at the house and was leading him back to the pens. As we were passing the pen where the pigs were kept, one of the pigs grunted. Sammy went full out crazy. He reared up and came down on the side of my head. He knocked my glassed off and I hit the ground but kept the rope in my hands.

 

I put my glasses back on and led him back to his pen. It was the last time I rode him and it was the last time I rode an Appaloosa.

 

At some point I believe Patrick got fed up with him too. A buyer was found. The guy who bought Sammy came to the door to pick him up one evening. Dad answered the front door and Patrick was sitting in the dinning room with his back to the front door.

 

I remember Patrick’s response to Sammy’s departure with fine clarity. He refused to look toward the front door.

 

I think Julie said, “He’s here to pick up Sammy.”

 

Patrick sat there with tears in his eyes and did a very weird half laugh/half cry and said, “I know.”

 

Julie asked, “Are you laughing or crying?”

 

Patrick said, “Yep.”

 

Postscript:

We’ll always consider our favorite “horsey” days was when mom rode in the Quadrille de Mujeres. Here, a group of classy women and horses become the best event at the rodeo … in our humble opinions.

 

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