“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” ~Abraham Lincoln ~
My Mother hasn’t made the SMUCKERS’ celebration announcement of 100 years old; however, she has reached the delightful age of 85. December 3rd, I traveled to Albia, Iowa to celebrate her birthday. We sang, we danced, we laughed, and we ate cake. What a fun time! My sister, two brothers, and I worked together to host Mother’s party at the Methodist church where she is a member.
I was reminded of my Shetland pony days! Actually, I was on the back of a horse before I could walk. Grandpa Kaster, who lived across from my birthplace, had Shetland ponies. There were Giggles, Twinkle Toes, and Patches. My Mother’s youngest brother was a cowboy, who eventually became a jockey, riding race horses on the east coast for a season in his life. It was this Uncle that got me involved in barrel racing, pole bending and cowboy rescue, all through our local county fairs.
During the years we lived in Melrose, Iowa, there was a moment we didn’t have horses. We lived on a dairy farm, milking Holstein cows twice a day, slopping hogs, gathering eggs from the hen house, and playing with the kittens in the hay loft. One hot Sunday afternoon when the folks were taking a nap, my sister and I decided we would go out and ride the hogs! We got a whipping for that one. For some odd reason, Dad was concerned we were going to kill those sows, riding them like we were on such a hot day. Imagine that.
Dad became aware of a farmer in our area who had gotten a couple of horses for his sons. In time, the horses outwitted the lads. Having some unpleasant encounters with the horses, they refused to get back up on a horse. Dad invited this man to bring out one of the horses and let his girls get the horse back into being ridden. Because horses are herd animals, we asked Grandpa if he would bring one of the Shetland ponies out so we could each have a horse to ride, and Gramps did. I will forever remember the day the “new” pony came. His name was Spotty. Our daily ritual was to ride, ride, ride; day after day; Spotty and Patches. When the farmer returned to pick up Spotty, he came with another pony, Buddy. Buddy was more spirited than Spotty, but that didn’t hinder sister and me from completing our daily ritual. All too soon, it was time for Buddy to go home. Early one September morning, the horse trailer pulled into the farm. To our GREAT surprise, Spotty was in the trailer! We were given our very first own pony! However, this particular Sunday was the annual Williams Reunion. Mother had fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad and cake for our gathering. Darn it! I wanted to stay home! I remember looking out the back window of the car as we pulled out of the drive. Spotty stood at the gate. I think he was as sad as I was. We liked being together.
Then a horse that was being retired from working in the coal mines came to our farm. Ole Bill. Bill was too big for me to jump on his back, so we had an agreement. He would put his head down so I could put the bridle on him. Then he would nibble on a few blades of grass while I straddled his head. He would lift his head and put me on his back. I turned around, took hold of the reins, and off we would go.
In my Junior High years, my Dad took my sister and me to an auction at the sales barn in Albia, Iowa. He bought two yearlings that day; a filly and a colt. My sister claimed the bay mare, and named her Baby Doll. I claimed the ugly, all legs, Appaloosa colt who I named Watoosee. You’ve heard of the ugly duckling story? That would describe my beloved Watoosee.
In Albia, Huber Saddle Shop, (owned by Bill & Opal Huber), made the best saddles around. Mother bought my sister and me each a saddle. I still have that saddle. When I celebrated Mother’s 85th, a girlfriend (Vera) and I drove out to the saddle shop. Their son, Billy Huber, won the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo Championship on March 16th, 2015, after tying his calf in a record breaking 7.4 seconds. Way to go, Billy!
Celebrating Mother’s birthday this December has brought me into an awareness of celebrating my life, which is filled with horses and horse people. May we be truly “CELEBRATING LIFE” as we remember the birth of Christ in a manger. He is the source of life and more abundant life! Merry Christmas, Athens Now “Neigh”bor, Merry Christmas.