Friday, 15 July 2011

Remembering - a horse called Lady

Skylar has a very similar horse to the horse with which I grew up. Her horse has reddish (“blood”) spots where the Lady of my youth had grey spots. Paradoxically, Skylar's horse is called “Lady Grey” while my horse was simply “Lady”.

On our tour of the countryside last weekend, Allen and Betty (brother-in-law and sister) drove past the place where my horse, Lady, and I went down the West bank of Edwards' Creek (I had erroneously remembered it as the Vermillion River) on one cold winter's ride. The trail, never very good fifty years ago, is all filled in now. Lady's feet went through the ice and I fell into the water (not very deep). I was riding bareback as almost always and had to find a “mounting block”, a large rock or a fallen tree trunk.

Even though she was frightened and quivering, the horse stood still and let me haul myself onto her back. Her body felt reassuring and warm between my cold wet legs. Away from her body, my blue jeans and underwear froze solid quickly. My feet were ice cubes in my boots. We rode up the almost non-existent East bank of the creek and onto the road that went past Korchinski's and Duhame's. (Now the access to the Ukrainian and Countryfest Site?)

Lady started running as soon as there was open road. I recall feeling relieved that she wanted to run home because I could no longer direct her. I tried to hunker down next her back but couldn't really get much of my body next her heat. My left and rights hands traded places locking themselves in her mane.. I don't remember reaching home but Mom told the story to her friends so often that it seems as though it is my memory, too.

Apparently the horse went to the house instead of the usual habit of going straight to the barn. She stood outside the kitchen window and uncharacteristically stomped her foot. Mom saw me and rescued me from Lady's back. Someone else took the horse to the barn. She said that I was so cold that I couldn't talk (worrisome indeed!), that she had to lead me to the couch and that she had to undress me. She says that she put towels in the oven and brought me a hot water-bottle. Eventually I fell asleep and she didn't move me to my bed because she wanted to watch me from the kitchen.

Dad read the riot act about telling people where I was going when I went for a ride. He started by saying, “Whatever possessed you to go there in the first place?” He rightly concluded that it would've taken some time to locate me if the horse had galloped into the yard without a rider.

The experience cemented my love and respect for Lady! Without over-dramatizing, she saved my life that day.

Remembering......Aunt Kate

There are too many memories – they make me feel lonely.” Kate Fisher, around 1980.

I understand what she meant now because they make me lonely too. The memories that rattle around in my brain are sometimes simple and untold. Of course, everyone has memories that are theirs alone – and some people think that everyone should know their particular memories. Some people have very different memories of the same event – that is true of every significant event in our family's history, largely because while one person remembers the event as a twelve year old, someone else would've been six!

In Dauphin last weekend, my bro-in-law, my sister and I drove around the countryside immediately West of the homestead where our grandfather, our father and his sisters, our generation and a now a third generation lives.

I remembered bringing the alfalfa hay to the yard from the hayfield on the most Western part of the home half section.

I remember age 2 or 3. running around the moving but empty hayrack until our father turned and told us to sit down. One particular ordinary day of bringing in the hay, I sat high behind our father – alone, I don't recall anyone else in the “nest” that he had made for me, a pocket in the top of the hay. I could see over my father's head because he was sitting with his legs hooked over the front of the rack. Lying on my stomach rocking along on top of the hay, I watched the horses plod along; on the left was the dark brown King, with his blind right eye inwards towards Queen. She was red-brown with a red-brown-coloured mane and tail. They flicked their ears back in forth and their necks swayed back and forth in unison with one another and with their buttocks. They hardly ever turned their heads away from straight ahead. They wore “blinders” on the sides of their bridles.

The reins were loosely held in Dad's hands. There was a line of trees across the field North to South, willows and berry trees mostly to the South and a small bluff of mixed trees at the North. There was a small dry creekbed across the road where Dad slowed the horses and reminded me to sit down. After the dip, the road was hard-packed dirt when it was dry. Sometimes, if it wasn't too hot, he would ask the horses to trot and their harness would clink while the hayrack creaked.

But the trees aren't there anymore, the horses died long ago and I can't remember when Dad started pulling the hay rack with a tractor. No one else shares that memory.

Dad used horses for hauling hay long after he was doing other farm work with a tractor. He could get off the hayrack, pick up a hay-fork, put hay onto the rack and then ask the horses to move forward with a cluck and stop again with a “whoa”. A tractor needed a person!