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Duke, part 1

By Gerry Fischer


When we moved to Roach Rd., we discovered what everyone of our older friends had predicted. Our girls, whom we raised-up, educated and married off, went happily on their merry way, multiplied and came back home to live. What can parents do but say “welcome,” and help as best they can. At this time, we were living in a two-bedroom trailer while we were building our cabin. With Fran and me and our daughter and her son, our dog Copper and cat, Mama Cat Elliott, named after Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas, it was more than a little crowded. It was about that time our older daughter began asking us to buy a horse.  When spring came around, Old Joe down the road bought a horse, but for whatever reason tired of it and offered it to me for $500.00. Not convinced the horse would fit in the trailer, and if he did, where it would it sleep, I opted out. Waking up in the middle of the night to find the bathroom, only to trip over a sleeping dog or child was problem enough, but a horse would be something else. Joe kept coming around lowering the horse’s price. The more I refused, the cheaper the horse became. Apparently, I was his only prospect. Joe assured me, Duke, was the best horse in Meade County, and when he reached $75.00 and said he would throw in two square bales of hay to boot, I said yes. The fact I had no fencing, no barn, or shed, didn’t matter. I had the best horse in Meade County and it only cost me $75.00. I was sure I could quickly double my money, and considered becoming a stock dealer. I was wrong.  Joe kept the horse until I could get a lean-to built for a shelter, and I ran some barbed wire fencing stretched between trees on the property line, and then began cutting cedars for a double post and rail fenced area for the horse to roam. All in all, counting steel posts for the fence where trees were unavailable, gas for the chainsaw, several rolls of barbed wire, nails, hinges, roofing and boards for the stall, that horse set me back an additional $500.00. Still, I knew its original price was $500.00 and I needed the fence and lean-to anyway. I was happy, except all work on the cabin stopped.  Joe brought the horse up, and the two square bales of hay. The horse wouldn’t eat the hay. I found out later that the dust that came off when I stacked them, was actually spores from the mold that was in them. I had to buy new hay, oats, and put a smidgen of salt in them. I built a manger to hold the new hay, more boards. Then Joe told me the horse really needed to be shod, another $40.00. I finally got the horse in what I called the corral, when a new neighbor moved in across and down the road from me, hailing from Estill County, Kentucky.  I love Estill County, Kentucky. That is where the Bryant’s, my mother’s family, settled after coming into Kentucky during the pioneer times. They settled about 10 miles north east of Irvine. The closest fort to them was Estill station. These are the foothills on the western side of the eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. My kinfolks were real “hillbillies,” maybe that explains some things about me. There are two kinds of people in the hill country the friendliest and best of the best friends, and the meanest and worst of the worst enemies you can have. And both types of people are inside each hill person you meet. Whichever person, good or bad, you encounter depends entirely on how you treat them. Treated with respect and kindness, they are the most loyal friends and neighbors, but if you slight them, or if they think you did, they can be your worst enemy and they know the feud.  I came home from teaching school one day and found a big German Shepherd dog chasing Duke around and around the corral. I scared the dog away and Duke was in a lather. I brought him over to the water trough I paid another $40.00 for, and got him relaxed, but I had to find out who owned the dog. (Next week I will discuss the Roach Road feud)

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