By Norris Chambers


            I had access to two saddle horses, old Alec and Min. These saddle horses were not exactly like the fancy ponies the daring cowboys rode in the movies, but they were dependable and usually managed to take us where we waned to go. Some of the old timers said. “Riding a horse is not much but it beats walking.”  Clifton and I rode horses frequently because we thought it was fun and we enjoyed it.

Clifton was about twelve years old when his dad bought a horse for him. The horse was presented in exchange for a promise by Clifton to quit smoking. Clifton readily agreed and he was soon the proud owner of a young, spirited pony.

One of the first things to be done when a new horse appeared on the place was to provide it with a suitable name. An unnamed saddle horse was unheard of in the late twenties. After considerable thinking, cogitation and careful consideration the name “Cougar” was chosen.

My nephew, Clifton, lived about four miles from our place as the crow flies. The winding road increased the distance to about six miles. Clifton was the oldest of five brothers. They lived on a sandy land farm about a mile from the little town where my brother operated a service station and garage. The family did not farm the land on a large scale but cultivated a large garden every year. They also kept two or three cows to provide plenty of milk and butter. Clifton’s mother helped in the service station and the older boys took good care of the younger ones.

Clifton and Cougar visited us almost every day. Sometimes Clifton’s brother, Clyde, was riding behind the saddle. He gripped the leather straps on each side as Cougar showed his speed and ditch-jumping ability. Clyde was about two years younger than Clifton and already he considered himself a good horseman. The brother just younger than Clyde, Carl, was also acquiring considerable skill in the art of horsemanship!

Cougar had not been in the family long when Clyde was presented a horse as a birthday gift. This horse was older than Cougar and was considerably slower. He was gentle and dependable and we were all waiting to hear what Clyde would name him. It was a short waiting period. His name was to be “Badger”.

Badger was a safe and dependable saddle horse and along with the other horses was required to perform his duty as a farm work animal.

We had a project underway in our sandy north forty. A levy needed some repair and my dad harnessed Badger, Stranger and Alec and hitched them to our fresno. A fresno is a dirt moving metal box about four feet wide with a sharp blade on the front bottom. A long handle on the back allows the operator to tilt the box forward and fill it with dirt. It can then be dragged to an area where the dirt is needed and when the rear lever is raised the dirt is dumped and the box returns empty for another load. Three horses were required to pull this dirt mover. Clifton, Clyde and I followed the fresno around and examined the different worms and underground wildlife that it unearthed as it scooped up the dirt.

The project was progressing normally when suddenly a large “spreading adder” snake arose in front of the horses and began hissing so loudly that we could hear it several feet away. A spreading adder, although non-poisonous and considered harmless, is very belligerent and by using its imitation of a cobra can scare just about any creature. The fresno team reacted quickly and each horse tried to run in a different direction. The harness restrained them and as they pulled against each other they became frightened and began jumping and kicking. This wild panic seemed to continue for an eternity as the horses attempted to break away from the fresno.

Eventually the team managed to separate and run toward the other side of the field. But Badger was limping badly and was lagging far behind Alec and Stranger. He quit running and turned around, looking at us as we ran toward him. Clyde was the first to reach the injured horse.

When we got there he was examining Badger’s left rear leg. There was a deep cut just above the hoof and it was bleeding profusely. When he attempted to walk the foot dangled helplessly and he tried to walk on three legs. It was evident that he had kicked the blade of the fresno and seriously injured his leg.

            It was the decision of the elders that the leg could not be healed and that poor old Badger would have to be killed. We were all sad to hear the verdict and tears were shed as the execution was performed.

            Was there any fun in this tragedy? There might have been a little when we found the spreading adder that caused the trouble. The snake had been tromped into the dirt and torn apart so severely that it couldn’t even have been used as a jig saw puzzle!