It appears to me the Good Lord must be planning a Heavenly Horse Expo in the near future — and needs some experts to help pull it off — because he has recently called home two of the best horsemen that were good friends of mine.
The first was Bud from Villisca, Iowa. Now, the second is Jim from Heavener, Okla. Both were lifelong enthusiasts of the American Quarter Horse and conscientious breeders of good performance and good conformation Quarter Horses.
I didn’t find out about Jim’s passing until after his funeral. But, after I heard, the good memories started flooding in. I first met him when I was a neophyte aggie writer at Bea Wilder U II in Oklahoma and Jim wuz an ag research editor.
Nevah and I were newlyweds and we both chafed at living in town. Jim wuz quick to notice and soon began to invite us out to the small horse and cattle farm he and his wife owned. It wuz on those farm visits that the good memories began.
I’ll recount a few of my favorites. Two of the Quarter Horses Jim owned were cutting horses in training — Money McCue and Iris. I remember that back in my callow youth I fancied myself a pretty good rider, and, I guess I was, but I don’t think I ever rode Money or Iris through an entire training session that I didn’t have to grab for the saddle horn.
One weekend I wuz helping Jim chainsaw some green blackjack oak posts so we could expand his horse/cattle corral. Those green posts were heavy and it didn’t take many to overload a pickup bed. Well, we had a load of those posts and Jim instructed me to get in the pickup bed, while he stayed on the ground, and we’d “ooch” those posts out one at a time. Each time for the final “ooch” that would let a post fall to the ground, Jim would say “on three.” Sadly, on the final post, when he said “three” and I made the final “ooch,” poor Jim caught the heel of his cowboy boot on a weed in the corral and the heavy end of the post fell squarely on top of one of his big toes and squashed it into a bloody pulp.
When we arrived at the rural country doctor for emergency treatment on Jim’s pulverized toe, the elderly doc cut off Jim blood-filled boot and said matter-of-factly, “I’m just gonna hafta bunch up what left into something that resembles a toe and trim off all the excess that doesn’t fit and see how it turns out.”
I can tell you “what turned out” wuz that Jim wore a toeless tennis shoe for months and ended up with a big toe that never grew a normal toenail again.
Another time, Jim had an elderly neighbor named Oscar who had a year-round calving program on his cow herd. Jim invited me to help at Oscar’s semi-annual calf roundup. Oscar had 30 or 40 Hereford cows and what I’d call a “makeshift corral.” Well, we finally got the calves separated from the cows in the corral and started to manhandle the calves with ropes and brute strength. The calf sizes ranged from 600 pounds to sixty pounds.
We worked from the biggest calf down to the littlest and by the grace of the Cow Gods no one had been injured. The last calf wuz a little feller still attached to a dried-navel. Trying to be a showboat, I pushed the calf into a corner, grabbed him by the flank, and announced to the crew “Here’s the one we’ve been lookin’ for boys!”
That’s precisely when that little newborn calf jumped straight up on his hind legs, drove the poll of his head into my chin and snapped my bragging mouth shut so hard I bit through the tip of my tongue and cracked an upper front tooth. That tooth is still chipped off to this day as a reminder that it’s usually best to humbly stay in the background with your mouth shut.
Jim went on to make a career around the horse bizness. He became editor of the American Quarter Horse Journal for many years and tuned me toward a few good freelance QH stories that he bought. He also managed a Quarter Horse stud farm in Kentucky for a few years before heading back to Little Dixie in Oklahoma to spend the rest of his life.
Jim grew up around Wilburton and told me stories from his youth about trapping feral pigs for spending money and about once roping a mature feral hog with a buddy that they soon regretted.
Up until near the end of his life, Jim hauled one of his Quarter Horses to a cattle sale barn across the line in Arkansas and penned cattle a horseback. He and his wife, Billie, raised three wonderful children, who produced a host of grandkids. It’s too bad Jim and I didn’t get to spend more time together. I think that’s a message to us all about our friends.
An anonymous post card arrived with a Des Moines, Iowa, post mark that is from someone who thinks he/she knows chickens, but is actually quite ignorant about them. The post card asked: “Where do you find a chicken with no legs?” And the answer: “Right where you left it!”
This anonymous “postcarder” clearly doesn’t realize that chickens have two wings, too, and can move around easily, but not gracefully, with wings alone. Like I said above, sometimes its wisest to stand back humbly with your mouth closed.
Well, our Congresspersons pulled a snafu on the health bill. That warrants this column-ending political limerick:
The Congress, despite puffed-up oration,
Failed to pass a health bill for our nation.
Both sides postured and posed,
While us common folks got hosed,
And, it rewarded itself with a vacation.
Have a good ‘un.