Birdie – Riding a Horse to School

Riding a horse to school in Nebraska.\

Well, I was 3, Marian was 6 and Bobby was 8. We lived in pheasant hunting country, the Sand Hills of Nebraska, Ringgold. This was my dad’s first pastorate (FM Church, very small, very poor). I remember once while we were driving home on our two-rut road our dad stopped the car, jumped out and whipped out his rifle to rest it atop his car door and shoot a pheasant. Which we then took home and had for supper. We lived ooooout in the country in a tar-paper covered box house with an out house. There was a pump on the kitchen sink, which drained into the yard. Lots of chickens in the yard. And lots of cow pies in the pasture. My bare feet stepped in a few. These were what we burned for fuel. And had great fun collecting in our two-wheeled cart which we also rode to school in. (No worries, dried cow pies have no odor.) Our nearest neighbors were the Kuglers, who lived in a long train car (Pullman? It had windows along both sides.) which butted up against a soddie, which together formed their home. Wonderful, hard working, kind people. But you want to hear about the horse. Because it was a one-room school house and the teacher was also young and agreeable, she allowed me (age 3) to accompany my brother and sister to school. I remember one day I stood beside the teacher’s desk waiting to be noticed so I could ask to go to the out house. She failed to notice me in time and a puddle formed around my feet. Sooooo embarrasing to my big brother. He wouldn’t speak to me all the way home that day. Now, the way we got to school in the summer was by horse — Bobby in the front holding the reins, then Marian, then me on the caboose. We must have enjoyed it and thought it to be normal because that’s all we knew. Hay was kept in the schoolhouse barn for the horses to eat during the school day. Then we all got back on the horse and rode home. In the winter our horse pulled a two-wheeled cart which was filled with straw, then kids, then a fur of some kind that covered us completely and kept us warm. My brother Bobby probably held the reins but kept under the cover. Nebraska winters were very cold. The horse was mild-mannered and knew where he was headed. Now, that’s about all I can remember about riding a horse to school, but I was young. Probably Bobby and Marian, being older, could give you more detailed and interesting accounts of our horse getting us to and from school. One last memory. On Saturdays one of the church men brought a cardboard box filled with groceries and set it on our stoop. Sometimes it had a pack of Wrigley’s spearmint gum in it. Big smiles for us kids on those days. I think that may have been the sum total of the preacher’s pay back then. I remember eating a lot of potatoes. That’s really the end now.

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