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Writins of Weakeyes Cody

                                  Talented and witty writings

Once Upon A Horse There Was a Time  @2003

My mother uttered "Oh my Lord!" as she stood looking out the window of our home in the rolling hill country of Oklahoma. I ran to her side to see what had provoked her dismay and saw my step-father passing leading a very ugly horse. He was somewhat of a horse trader and maybe he would have been a fairly good one if he had ever had any significant material to trade. But since he had very little to begin with he seldom brought home very much. This horse was semi living proof of that. The old gelding was a deep sorrel with a blaze face and two stockings, one fore and one aft. His hip bones protruded far too much as did his pommel and withers. He limped slightly and his jug head hung down like a depiction of the end of the trail. My mother loved horses and her eyes welled tearfully as she gazed upon this specimen of old horseflesh.

 

Running out for a first hand inspection of the situation, I approached my Step dad with a volley of questions. "He's an old race horse." Came his only answer to my medley. "He's crippled." I exclaimed, bending down to run my hand along his leg noting the sore on his hock. "I can cure that." came his confident reply as he slipped the halter from the old bag of bones and watched as he slowly made his way to the water trough. "He'll make a good ridin' horse when I fatten him up and that hock heals. I make 'im to be around fourteen years old and maybe a couple more useful years in 'im." I stood pondering the old jughead and my wisdom of nine years told me that this animal would be lucky to make it till fall. Still, I had seen my step dad do a lot with livestock so maybe, just maybe, he had a point?

 

My mother, never a woman to leave a word unsaid about a subject, opened up on Pa at the supper table that night. Pa forked in the potatoes and pork and never raised his voice. He made a good trade and that was that. Finally, after a long pause in Mom's declarations, and since she was always the namer of all our animals, I asked her what we were going to name the old horse. Her eyes locked onto mine like pivot guns as she stood and threw down her napkin and untied her apron, "Soapy!" she declared. "That old horse will be hauled away for soap before spring."

 

Well January came and went. February and March rolled by and by early April with the help of a lot of bran and corn, old Soapy looked a little better. At least his color was sharper and he carried his head higher. I had slipped a rope in his mouth and had rode him a little out in the pasture and he had a nice easy gait. This prodded my idea of riding him to school. A few boys rode horses to school and I wanted to join that select group. Well it took several days of sniveling and whining before Mom gave in and Pa gave his nod of confirmation, but one morning in late April, I slipped a bit between Soapy's aged teeth and lit out along the dirt road to school, proud as could be because I was the only fourth grader to be riding to school. The other boys were sixth to eighth graders.

 

But my moment of glory was short lived. For as I rode into the school yard and slid from Soapy's boney bare back, the other boys formed a line of Persecution and laughter that brought the teacher to the door of the school. "Does that bag of bones hurt your crotch when he trots, Cody?" - "I bet not! He can't trot can he?" "Does he still have his teeth or do you feed 'im chicken mash?" "Hey lookit that sore on his hock! I bet he's got screw worms in that." I was too old to cry or I would've. So I stood head down holding the reins waiting for the insults to stop. Finally I threw a half hitch on a rein and walked inside to face a day of glances and giggles from my classmates.

 

Riding home at the end of the school day wasn't any better. Richard Brewster, rode a long legged black that frisked and high stepped all around me as he begged and wheedled me to race him. I told him I didn't have a saddle and when I pulled on the reins I slid forward and might fall off. He laughed at my excuse and he laughed at Soapy. Calling him all the usual remarks made about such nags. And what was hurtful, to me, was that they were all true. Soapy, wasn't a pretty horse. I didn't ride Soapy the following day. And the rest of the week. Finally Mom asked me one evening at supper why I wasn't riding to school. I told her what had happened. She cleared the table making no further comment. Pa, wiped his mouth and asked me about the boy who wanted to race. I looked him in the face and explained why I didn't. The part about falling off without a saddle and even more importantly, Soapy was just too old and stiff to run. Pa nodded and the subject ended.

 

But along in May, I began riding Soapy again. The haranguing never ceased and Richard Brewster's barbs and arrows never stopped each day as he rode around me astride his slick black. Then came the last day of school, a grand and glorious day to every boy in the entire comminity. Mom handed me my sack lunch and as I walked to the barn to slip the bridle on Soapy, I met Pa walking out of the stall leading the old horse fully saddled and ready to go. "Oh, I didn't know you were using old Soapy today Pa." He handed me the reins and replied, "I'm not, you are." Then he walked away.

 

It was great riding with a saddle. I nudged the old horse along with my heels and he switched his tail and struck a neat gallop. It was like a rocking chair. He held this pace all the way and I unsaddled him at school and tied him alongside the others. The day went by so slowly. I joined the others at noon and watered Soapy while they shot their usual comments at me. "Maybe yuh oughta pour some laxative in his feed, Cody. Give 'im some more propulsion." Richard Brewster, was always the instigator. I had to ride with him on the way home and he never let up. He enjoyed showing off for the girls along the way. Finally four o'clock came and I threw the saddle on old Soapy and swung on the leather cinching it as tight as I could. Dropping my books in the saddle bags, Then leading him around to the steps of the schoolhouse, I mounted him and nudged him along. Out in the dusty road Richard Brewster was already pointing and doing his routine for benefit of the others. I hoped he would be gone, but not so. "C'mon coyote, whip that old nag up and lets hear his bones crack!" He would look at his audience with each remark to see how they laughed. Then as Soapy and I walked Peacefully along he came up beside us and gave old Soapy a hard warp on the rump with his leather quirt. Soapy's head shot up with a snort, as Richard spurred his black into action.

 

He was about fifty yards ahead and showing everyone how his hourse could run. Then as was his routine, he would yank back on the reins sitting his horse on his haunches, wheel and come back to taunt me some more. But this time as he pulled ahead old Soapy's legs began to drive me back in the saddle. I leaned forward and screamed out a haaaaa! and he responded. I didn't know much about horses at that age but I know the animal under my butt was doing something unusual. Richard yanked his mount to a halt and looking back saw Soapy and I coming at him like a locomotive. He quickly wheeled and leaned forward whipping his pony to a dead run. We breathed the red dust for only a few seconds longer for with each lunge the distance between us became shorter until old Soapy's stride had us beside the eighth grade tormentor and was driving ahead with the gusto of a grayhound. At this point I was only a passenger aboard a wayward force and I gripped the horn of the saddle and squinted my eyes against the hot blast of onrushing wind which was like thunder passing my ears. As we topped the hill above the house old Soapy was still seemingly gaining speed. The gate was coming up fast and I was puzzling on whether to jump off as he turned into the road up to the house. But Soapy charged past that gate with an agenda of his own and continued on for another quarter mile before pulling up at the crossroads. Richard was so far behind it took him a full minute before he arrived. Not being used to being a victor, I simply leaned down on the pommel and smiled as the braggart approached already mouthing excuses. I listened for a few moments then reined Soapy around him giving him my best imitation of a kiss and rode back toward the house. The kids were all running to meet us as we walked back and smiled at us as we strode by.

 

Pa met me at the corral gate and took the old horse by the reins leading him away. I was full of enthusiasm and my words couldn't escape me fast enough to tell him what had happened. "I saw," He said. "watched the whole thing from the porch." "It was great Pa! Old Soapy left that black horse like a rocket!" Pa eased off the saddle, handed me my books and hung the saddle on the stall partition. Then turning to me he said, "You're a lot lighter than that fat kid, and this old horse is a race horse. Brewster's kid never had a chance." Handing me the curry comb he smiled at me. "Now go walk him till he cools off and curry him down good. He deserves it."

 

 

~ Weakeyes Cody