When I became old enough to spend time away from my Grandparents in the summer I would visit my aunt and uncles farm for a few days. Their daughter was around my age and we always had fun together.
Sometimes we would help my aunt with the chickens when it was time to put some in the freezer. That was not my favorite job on the farm. They always ran right for me and would chase me around the yard when she cut the head off.
I wouldn’t try and catch the nasty things, I would wait until they stopped running and flopping around and then pick them up. Our job was to dip them in the hot water and then pluck off all the feathers. What a smelly and nasty job. But there was nothing better than her fried chicken when we were through. There was a strange pleasure in eating one that you had been chased by.
About 4:30 in the afternoon we would go to the barn and put a halter on Old Poncho the palomino. We would climb onto his bare back and head him into the pasture to find the cows and bring them in to be milked.
Most of the time we didn’t even wear shoes because he was so dependable we knew he wouldn’t throw us and we had no fear of having to walk back to the house. Around Medicine Lodge there are lots of hills and the cows could hide almost anywhere, so it usually took about an hour to get them all convinced to come back to the barn.
Old Poncho could have done the job on his own, because he had performed the task so many times, but we enjoyed the ride so we went along with him. Poncho was very patient and would plod around the hills and into the valleys and around bushes and round all the cows up. We would spend the time talking and let him do the work.
On really hot days we would take Old Poncho down to Medicine River that ran through the farm. It was not very deep, but was enough to get two small girls wet and we could float in the deeper pools.
We would just drop Old Poncho’s reins and he would wander around and munch on the grass and sometimes wander out into the river for a drink. But he always stayed close to us. He seemed to enjoy the afternoon by the river as much as we did.
There was a very old cottonwood tree by the river that was probably there when Medicine Lodge was still an Indian Village. It was very large at the base and some of branches were very gnarly looking. There was one large branch that dipped toward the ground and we could climb up the tree easily on it.
The old tree had a branch that was larger around than the two of us put together and it swept out over the river for at least 15 feet. Even though it was about 10 feet off the ground and hanging over the water, it was large enough that I felt safe to sit on it.
My cousin and I would climb the tree and sit and talk on that old branch out over the river and eat the snack that we always brought with us. We were never dressed in anything but our swimming suits, and would spend the afternoon sunning, floating in the deep pools and wading in the shallows of the river.
One day, a very large old bull came wandering down to the river on the other side to get a drink. He was a Brahma bull with very large horns. He gave a couple of bellows and jumped into the river.
We had been floating near the edge of the river and had not seen him until he made the leap into the water. This sent two little girls running and screaming for the river bank and the tree. We managed to make it up on the branch that was hanging down towards the ground and then scrambled onto the one that hung out over the water.
The minute the old bull bellowed and jumped into the river, Old Poncho decided that he didn’t want anything to do with him and our faithful friend turned and ran home to the safety of the barn to hide.
The bull began to circle the tree, looking up at us all the time. Even though we were 10 feet off the ground the horns looked dangerously close to our feet. He stayed under that tree for at least an hour just wandering around, looking up at us as we sat out over the lazily flowing water. He finally began to feed on the grass near the river, but we were still stuck and not able to move.
No one noticed Old Poncho was back in the barn until my uncle came out to see if we would round up the cows. There was Old Poncho standing in the barn munching on some hay, with his halter on and the reins dragging the ground. My uncle knew right away that Poncho had run off and left us alone somewhere. The likely spot was the river where we went often so he decided to come and check on us.
Instead of getting on Poncho he brought the pick-up down to the river to find us and as he drove up he saw us in the old tree. The old bull was still milling around the tree below us.
My uncle honked the horn at the old bull that belonged to the neighbor across the river. The old bull bellowed back at him, glanced up at the two girls in the tree, snorted loudly, shook his head and then slowly plodded across the river and back over the hill to his home.
My uncle stopped the pick-up under the tree and we began to work our way back across the limb and then down to the ground. The back of our legs and the palms of our hands had the imprint of the bark of the old cottonwood tree and we must have looked a site from the back.
I am sure it was all my uncle could do to keep from laughing out loud at us, but he loaded us in the pick-up and took us back to the barn to get Old Poncho so we could get the cows in for milking.
We climbed onto old Poncho and both of us scolded him for running from the old bull and leaving us behind to fend for ourselves. His ears flicked in an attempt to brush off the scolding and then he turned towards the pasture to round up the cows. We thankfully never encountered that old bull at the river and Old Poncho never left us stranded again. To contact Sandy: [email protected]