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Duke, Part 3

By Gerry Fischer


 Every now and then I have to think back on this chapter in my life to understand the sequence of events and motivations that led me to not only buy a horse, but also incur by now hundreds of dollars in infrastructure costs just to keep the horse. I suppose it all began when I was a child on Papa’s farm. His mare had a foal, I called my horse. When it was big enough, Mom and Dad sat me on it and I rode around the barn lot. Later, when Papa sold the farm and moved to Bowling Green, the only other times I went riding was at the county fair in Fairdale, Kentucky. Dad led me around the pony ring with me sitting in the saddle in my Roy Roger outfit wearing my Mattel, “Fanner Fifty” revolver, pretending I was hunting for rustlers or bank robbers. That’s as close as I ever came to riding a horse, until we got Duke. My daughter purchased a saddle, blanket, bit and reins, and James Fackler came down and saddled the horse to show me the ropes. I learned, but that was 21 years ago and I doubt I could do it today. Angie hopped right on the horse and before long was riding down logging trails and through the fields. Duke was really a 13-hand pony, that’s supposed to be a large pony, but would hardly qualify as a full-grown horse. She and Fran kept urging me to ride Duke. I kept saying no, until one hot summer day when Mom drove out to visit, and chimed in about me riding Duke. After about an hour of “nagging,” no pun intended, I decided to try.  My first problem was getting my left foot into the stirrup. My foot was willing, but my knee just wouldn’t go up high enough. So, I decided to get my pipe out and “smoke this situation over.” I puffed, and puffed, studying on the matter. I spied a lawn chair setting not far away, and pulled it over to Duke. He shied away from it a bit, but I managed to get it close enough for me to stand in the seat. My foot easily went into the stirrup and clumsily I threw my right leg over the saddle, while I was hugging Duke’s neck. My foot dragged a bit on Dukes back. When I was finally in the saddle. I felt so accomplished. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw Fran with her video camera filming this event. My daughter said kick his sides Dad. I did, but must have done it too hard, because Duke took off in a gallop, throwing me backwards. I grabbed the saddle-horn, dropping the reins in the process. As Uncle Woody would have said, “I was in a mell of a hess.” Duke ran into the field, before I could get the reins back in hand. When I did, I pulled on the reins and got him turned around. I was proud he knew the word “whoa.” That was the first and last time I rode Duke. I got him back to the yard, but could not get him anywhere near the lawn chair, making my dismount ugly. I had one foot in a stirrup the other on the ground and three women holding my back up until I could get my foot loose whereupon I hit the ground.  Anyway, I walked over to the man’s house who found Duke, and there he was. I believe Duke was glad to see me. I took the lead, connected it to the halter ring and began walking home, when the man who found Duke asked if he could make a suggestion. “Of course,” I said. “Why don’t you ride him?” I replied, “It’s a long story.” I suppose I am the only man in Meade County that took his horse for a walk.  To end this story, there was no evidence turned up as to who let our horse out of the corral, but I think I know who did that. A few weeks later he moved away, and someone said his dog went missing. A friend of Joe, told me they got into a heated discussion a second time, and Joe mooned him. The man who told me that, said when it happened, he began jumping up and down and yelling things in some foreign language. That sounded right to me. A friend of Joe’s who lived on the hard road, promised to cut hay on my place and leave me enough to see Duke through the winter, but come December he came by to tell me he didn’t get around to cutting my hay. I thanked him, but told him I kind of figured that out for myself. The next spring, I gave the best horse in Meade County to the first man who showed an interest in the animal. Joe moved away, and with Duke and the Vietnamese pigs only a memory, a colorful part of our little community was no more.

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