RIDING HORSES

By Dottie Maxey Dewberry, March 30, 2015

I can't remember not ever have ridden a horse; I don't remember the first time to ride or for that matter the last time to ride but I do remember riding many out on the farm at Artesia, MS.

The first horse that I remember riding was a palomino called Philly. She was beautiful and very tame, almost a family pet. We used her to go drive the cows back to the barn. For that matter, she was used to drive cows, calves, bulls, and steers to whatever pasture they needed to be, plus give kids rides whenever we wanted to ride.

Our farm measured right at one mile long and probably one-half mile wide at places. So if the cows walked and ate all the way to the north end of the place, they might meander back by milking time in the afternoon or not. So if we milked at four o'clock, somebody had to go get them. (gogetum). Philly was our horse of choice: kind, gentle, easy to catch, and not bucking. As the years went by, we got other horses. We got Buttermilk, who was a dappled gray gelding. Most of our horses were gelding; they were easier to deal with. They did not incite riots among the ranks as one old mare that we had did. Her name was Hattie; she was a bay red color. I'm not sure why we even had her, no one ever rode her. Anyway, she was always enticing the male horses to run from us when we tried to catch them. I've called her many ugly names. She was not exactly mean; she didn't try to bite or anything like that, but she would run over you if you didn't watch out. Like other horses we had, they moved on to live somewhere else or maybe they went to the glue factory.

Buttermilk, the gray horse, Lucky, a black gelding, and Tony, a tall, tall bay worked well together, so we usually rode them. One day, Whodo, Tinybit, and Tuffy were out riding from one plum thicket to the other, goofing off till time to get up the cows. Since MS Highway 45 Alt ran down through one side of our property, we spotted a convoy of Army jeeps and other kinds of Army transport trucks going by. Usually, it takes a while for them to pass, so we headed out at a full gallop toward the highway. As we got closer, we heard: "Hi Yo Silver, Away". This came from the Long Ranger movie and television series. This may not seem much, but it made our day. We tried to keep up with them; there was waving and yelling on our part and theirs too. It probably reminded those young boys of their growing up days.

I will say this about our horses being competitive: when we were racing each other, don't try to pass Buttermilk because he would reach out and try to bite your horse. Our Uncle Peck was horse trader; which means by time we got to like a horse pretty good, he would trade him or her. Anyway, we had one named Lucky, who we got from some man near Sessums, not far up the road from Artesia, just a few miles. Anyway, when we got Lucky, we loved him dearly, but he wanted to go back home. If he came up missing, we know he had walked the cattle gap with his big old horse feet and was headed north on Hwy 45 Alt. headed to Sessums. Uncle Peck would have to go get him. Eventually, he quit running away. Don't you know he was sad and home sick?

Now Tony was built like a race horse: tall, slick, bay colored, fast, pretty, and he was mine. He had a problem or two. He was bad to stumble. We did not have saddles so we always rode bareback like Indians (with a feather). Anyway, one afternoon I had swung up on his back, which is quite a feat of agility and was moving on out at a fast trot. As I was trotting off across the pasture, he fell over his two left feet!! Down we went, well, I just stepped off out of the way, but he was getting up and knocked me down and I wound up between his front feet. Yikes, but he did not move or step on me. Now some of the folks at the barn could only see part of what was happening. All they thought was "Tuffy is smashed flat". Everyone came running to see what was left of me. Everything was cool. It was just Tony falling over his feet again. Probably this is why he was traded. I loved him anyway. Sadly enough he stretched his long neck into the dairy barn window one night and ate too much hard feed from the feed cart. He developed gas colic in the night and died.

Larry had a stud (stallion) horse named Lightning. He was black, pretty, and fast as lightning, hence the name. He was also mean as a snake, so we always stayed away from him. Nobody rode him but Larry. Who would want too?

The only saving grace for Hattie was that she produced a pretty little blaze faced baby, appropriately named Blaze. We treated him like our pet, but one day it came time to ride. He wasn't having any of that. Bucking was the name of the game, but eventually he quit bucking. But he did have a few little tricks; he would blow up his stomach when we put the saddle on him. Later he would relax and then the saddle would slip sideways and off you would go. He also liked to ride off with you like nothing was going on and then when he was loping along, all of a sudden he would put his head down and off you would go. He was short from one end to the other so there wasn't much to hold on to. You could scratch his tail and his head at the same time. You always had to beware of his tricks.

One day Doris was riding Blaze from the hay barn back toward the calf barn. Anyway Whodo and Jerry Dove, his cousin, was chasing her and Blaze (just playing). It must have scared Blaze, because the little short Welch looking pony decided he could jump the gate. Well, if it had not had the middle post/wire which caught his leg/hoof, he and Doris would have cleared the fence. As it was they fell with Blaze on part of Doris's leg. She stayed in the bed for a while until her bruises healed up. We still loved Blaze even if he was short and could not jump very high.

Most all of our horses had some tricks that they played on us kids. In the winter, the horses were put in winter pasture. When it started to get warm and the days got longer, we kids would gather up bridles and head to the north end of the place to catch a ride home. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't. The times that we caught them right off was a good sign. Like kids today that like to drive cars fast, we loved to ride our horses fast. Anyway, we would be loping along and all of a sudden one of the horses would come down stiff-legged. If you don't understand momentum, then let me explain. The rider would continue over the horses head, and would continue to fly until he/she hit the ground. Lowndes County is part of the Black Prairie, which has dirt harder that railroad iron. It is a wonder some of us did not have broken bones from all of the times we got thrown off. Remember we had no saddles, nothing to hold on to but the horse's mane and the grip in our legs.

Speaking of saddles, one year one of the Bros. (probably Uncle Peck) bought what looked like a racing pad (looked like a saddle) with stirrups. We thought we were uptown then. YAH HOO! We either grabbed the mane and swung our body up on the horse of someone gave us a foot. What this means; the one needing the lift would face the horse, raise the left foot back-bend at the knee, the helper would take hold of the raised leg/foot and lift. The lifted one would push up with their hands and pull their body over the horse's back, then swing the right leg on over the back. This is really harder to describe than to execute. LOL!!!

Sometimes they would get tired of us riding them for miles and miles, so all they had to do is reach around and try to bite us. Now that would get us off the horses at least for a little while.

We had one horse that was strangely colored, was very tall, and had an unusually shaped neck. It kind of reminded me of a giraffe. Anyway, he was reddish with whitish spots on his hide. His neck was straight-did not have the usual arch like other horses. His name was Smiley; don't ask me who named him. Most of our horses came to us named.

One day my mother decided to ride Smiley to go get the cows; why ever, she was riding him. He too had cute little tricks. He liked to rear-up on his back legs and crow hop around. This is a really good way to shake off a rider. Needless to say, Momma was thrown; she broke her arm near the shoulder and had to wear an upper body cast for a while. It was difficult to pull on clothes with one hand. When we kids were home we could help, but when we were in school, I don't know what she did-wet her pants? As far as I can remember, no one on the farm ever had a broken bone but Momma.

Our horses, which ever ones we had at the time, all got curried, braided, plaited, and sometimes trimmed by us kids. They loved the currying. No comment on the braiding or plaiting, but the cutting of the mane probably angered them because they had no mane to flick off the flies. We never messed with their tails-not that they would kick us. We could climb all over them, under them and behind them, and they never did anything. They were our babysitters. LOL We spoiled them as best we could. Lucky, I think, loved to drink cokes out of our hand. We would stop and let them eat hedge apples-Osage orange, Beau d'arc balls, while we would shoot the bull, just sitting there waiting on them to eat some. They must have tasted good; personally I never tried them. A handful of sweet feed was a treat too. They loved to eat watermelons. I can hear them crunching away right now. We would also take them out in the pond to drink. Not sure if they wanted to go swimming or just cool off like the cows. I remember one day Whodo, Tinybit, and Tuffy rode the horses down to Artesia, which is only a three miles trip. When we got to Lummus's Service Station, we tied the horses' reins to a post-something that was stable. Nevertheless, when we came out one of our horses was fleeing town. He had pulled the bridle off of his head. Of course, we had to catch him, which we did, and put it back on and then ride home.

Sometimes our need for a shortcut got us into trouble. We decided to cut through where the Cotton Gin was, heading back south toward home. As we were going down the road, we had to cross a ditch. We didn't realize how deep it was until Whodo guided his horse through the tall grass, weeds and small trees and he fell out of sight. It scared me and Doris spit less. Thankfully, neither of them was hurt.

Our bridles left a lot to be desired; mostly they were metal bits and a piece of rope or sea grass string for the head straps and the reins. Sometimes we had better. We have ridden short distances without anything but a sea grass string tied through the mouth and under their chin-just like the Indians (with a feather). As we got older the Bros. bought some McClellan saddles-like the U.S.Cavalry used. The cavalry were troops trained to fight from horseback. Their saddles were the ones with the divide down the middle. "The McClellan saddle was a riding saddle designed by George B. McClellan, a career Army officer in the U.S. Army. The McClellan saddle was a success and continued in use in various forms until the US Army's last horse cavalry and horse artillery was dismounted in World War II." (Wikipedia)

I don't have a clue where the ones we had were bought nor what happened to them. They are probably worth lots of money now or maybe not!! LOL Not all of our horses were for riding. We had Bob and Dan. Bob was a dappled gray Percheron draft horse. Dan was a bay Clydesdale draft horse, he had the white stocking legs. They both were really big and both had really big feet, bigger than my head. They would be hooked to the hay wagons loaded down with bales of hay to carry back to the barn. They made it look easy. Scott, a black man that worked for us, usually drove them to the barn. We had numerous mules: "A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare)." We did have a jack which my sister Doris called "horsey". Mules are characterized by long ears and a short mane. "It has been claimed that mules are "more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, and they are considered less obstinate, faster, and more intelligent than donkeys." We did not to my knowledge have a hinny. "A hinny, which is the product of a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion)." (Wikipedia)

The family used mules in the garden when they were plowing, etc. We also used them for pulling wagons and other equipment. My Uncle Jim said that a mule rode better than a horse, which may be true but all I can say is that I may have sat on a mule but do not remember riding one per se. Therefore I cannot prove nor disprove his theory.

I do remember my Daddy (Sam) telling that the place (what place he was talking about I do not know) was covered up in mules when they came home from WWII. Uncle Peck and Uncle Bob did not serve in the military.

There were times that we had to ride double because obviously we did not have but two horses. Since William, Doris and Dottie always went everywhere together; somebody had to ride double. It never mattered because we were off on an adventure or just riding. We would trespass occasionally. When Mr. Tom Wilburn had his buffalos, we would figure a way to get from our property to his without riding the roads. We would just ride and ride and finally we would come to his property. Then we would find the buffalos. Yep, they look just like they do in the movies, but bigger, lots bigger.

Since we knew the way through the woods, when Mr. Tom had the exhibition harness races at the track on his place, we would ride our horses over to watch it. There is nothing like a mare to act up and mine did that day. She politely threw me over her head. End of dignity!! I had a rope burn all day because I did not let go of the reins, which was rope. Nothing to do but get back on and ride on. Hold your head up and don't cry. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last time.

Our horses might have been called old plugs, but we loved them. Back in the early 1960s the Maxey Bros decided to dissolve their partnership. Everything on the place was put up for auction; everything BUT THE KIDS' HORSES. They did not sell them. I guess the brothers had a compassionate bone in them after all.