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February 2, 1998


A tale of two horses

  Years ago I'd drive by nearby pasture as a man curried and fed his horse. Daily the scene was repeated, and it sort of moved me. A man who loved his horse. One day I stopped and complimented the man for his care and concern for his horse. "What's his name?" I asked. "Plug," came the reply. Boy! What a name for a horse. It wouldn't sit too well if I wrote a story on him and there are many a reader who wouldn't cotton to read about the horse called "Plug." "This horse is registered and on the certificate, you'll see his name is Plug," the man said. I went to his house and sure enough, the horse's name is Plug.
   The fan?
   The night after the article appeared in the newspaper at midnight the phone rang. Awakened, I listened as a lady said what a shame it was that the man had to call his horse Plug. "It's an insult to horsedom and the man should find a new name." I told her that I agreed with her but I had no authority in that matter. She talked on and on. Finally at one a.m., I dozed off, the phone still off the hook. When I awoke at 7:30 a.m., I picked up the phone to hear the now exhausted person still there. I could hear a gasping tone. A couple of good shots of bourbon could take care of that and I hung up the phone. Shucks, I was on her side but it wasn't easy being there.
   Our old horse
   Years ago it wasn't damaging to refer to an aged horse as a Plug. I'd been called that too. Don't care. True. We three kids were down on the edge of the Yakima Indian Reservation, living with the Carolus family. The 1930s Depression was on and we had nothing. No one had anything. One day a milk hauler man said he knew of a horse we could buy if we had five bucks. Daily he'd come out to the sticks and pick up the cow's milk. In cans, of course. We bummed five bucks and the milk hauler said he'd drop off my older brother by the man's place. He lived at Union Gap, near Yakima. Initially I began going to school there in 1924 at age six. Knew the horse owner. Went to school with his kids.
   Climbing aboard our new horse, my brother started on the long haul to our way off home. Afternoon came, disappeared. Evening came. No brother, no horse. Darkness now. At around 10 p.m., we stood in the driveway and finally heard a noise down the road. We then heard another sound like a heavy footstep hitting the ground. More. Then we saw my brother limping heavily pulling the horse behind him. Happily we rushed up to see our new horse.
   We lit a lantern out by the gate to see our horse. Golly, it looked old, thin and ready to call it quits. Quickly we got her some hay, tied her to a post and went inside to go to bed. Our brother refused to say anything, except, "I've had it. I've had it." He meant it. We decided to call our horse "Old Crow." It seems we'd heard that word often used by men who bend their elbows a lot. The next morning, Old Crow was too tired to get up. We became worried. Her health was terrible, heaving and coughing like a burned-out steam engine. When we got up the next morning to see how our horse was doing, she wasn't doing anything. She was dead and gone to horse heaven, the name of the nearby hill, the Horse Heaven Hills.
   Sure we cried. Angry at the fellow selling us a horse near death and he knew it, we conjectured. Wanted our money back. From then no more horses. Somehow Mr. Carolus had gotten two mules and we rode them. But Boy! Are they obstinate creatures. They'll do what they want. Life may be fickle but then it can be fun. Though we had ups and downs, we enjoyed our childhood. Tally ho! Of we three brothers, only I survive and for me it isn't easy doing that. One foot is dragging. But I'm still having fun writing about my past and its ups and downs. Sometimes more downs, than ups