Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Monday, April 26, 2010

Of Brothers and Horses

My elder siblings.
Before they were elder.

I was witnessing a miracle.
My brother, George, was on a horse.
The professed hater of horses was astride one.
I was so proud of him.
And excited.
A whole new world was opening up for me. I could picture long rides together, exploring the ranch, picnics in our saddlebags.
Okay, so neither of us actually had saddlebags, but we did know how to tie a bread bag of food behind our saddles.
That was almost as good.
I have to admit that we never had quite acquired the knack of packing said food so that it didn’t mix together.
Once we had chocolate cake and cheese, that . . . but that is (shudder) another story.
Moving on . . .
George was riding.
He was on his little pony, Star, doing circuits of the barnyard.
A slow start, but a start nonetheless.
I was on my way to the corral for my horse, Pinto. This amazing event simply had to be shared. I couldn’t pass up such an incredible opportunity.
Even as I approached the corral, however, I could see that destiny was working against us.
Destiny in the form of Ken, one of the hired men.
He was standing, motionless, next to the gate of said corral. In his posture I could detect . . . malevolence? Cunning? Creepy-ness?
No, just stupidity.
He reached out and . . . opened the gate.
Now the horses imprisoned there had been standing around for hours, heads hanging, trying their horsey best to look as unenergetic as possible. The hope being that, through their posture alone, they could discourage any potential slave drivers from inflicting them with our frivolous plans for . . . work.
Or anything work-y.
Dynamite couldn’t have moved them.
Only one thing could send the electric shock that would awaken them from their comatose state.
The promise of freedom.
Through that open gate, they could glimpse . . . far away-edness. And they made a straight line for it.
Right through my brother, George.
He was calm. He didn’t panic.
He had me for that.
I watched in horror as his little horse was scooped up by the rest and whisked off towards . . . wherever they were going.
With horses, you never know.
They don’t even know.
The entire group galloped as one, down the hill, along the river.
My brother’s blue coat was clearly visible in the melee as he clung desperately to the smallest horse.
Now one can only imagine the deadly possibilities.
The churning hoofs, flint hard and razor sharp.
Okay, I’m exaggerating.
But they still could cause some rather serious damage.
Even at four I knew that.
I spun around and headed for the house screaming at the top of my lungs, “My brother! My brother!”
Not really original, I’ll admit, but it achieved the desired effect.
My Mom came on the run, white faced and breathless.
I pointed at the cloud of dust rapidly moving towards the nearest far-away place and jumped around a bit. The two of us stared at it.
And at the little cloud that was rapidly losing ground against the larger horses.
Star was falling behind.
It was then that we saw pony and blue jacket part company.
Sensing a safer moment, still not too far from the ranch buildings, George had decided to cut his losses, discard dignity, and bail off.
As his tiny figure began the long trek home, the two of us raced to meet him.
It was a joyous reunion.
George was bruised, both physically and spiritually.
And mad.
And no one can get mad like George.
Picture Dad.
But smaller and more concentrated.
Fortunately, he wasn’t mad at us.
Just at Ken.
And every horse in the world.
A fact that remains to this day.

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