When I was Young No. 25 – Riding Lessons

Riding Lessons

One summer I spent some time at a farm several miles away from Van Hook. I saw farming different from our neighbors the Olsons and learned how to ride a horse.

Farmer Johnson was always unshaven, grubby looking and usually grumpy. Mrs. Johnson reminded me of Mrs. Fitzpatrick – mostly because she was skinny and wore flour sack dresses. They had three daughters – one was just a baby.

They grew crops and had a few cows, chickens and pigs. Their garden always needed hoeing. That job fell to the oldest girl and me. I thought she was younger than me because she was considerably shorter than the girls my age in school. We didn’t talk much. No one on the farm talked much.

Johnsons had a team of work horses and two saddle horses. They had an old pickup truck but no car or tractor. All the field work was done with the work horses. Mrs. Johnson rode one of the saddle horses or walked when she took lunch out to the field for Mr. Johnson. She showed me some basics of cinching a saddle and mounting a horse from a wooden fence rail. She sent me to the field a few times after I had practiced riding. I got comfortable riding at lope speed but never worked up the courage to try a gallop.

One day they left me alone and Johnson told me I could ride one of the horses while they were gone. I was firmly told that if the horse got sweaty, it would have to be wiped down before putting it back out to pasture. I was familiar with the procedure because Mrs. Johnson often galloped the horse into a sweat when she returned from the field. She showed me once and it became my chore.

I saw the family return and knew it was time to give up the ride. The towels were in the barn so I rode in without dismounting. I remembered to duck my head going through the open door but I did not know that horses, at least the one I was on, did not like to be ridden inside. Within feet of the door, the horse bucked and my head was slammed against the underside of the haymow floor[1].

Johnson saw me get bucked. Instead of yelling at me as I expected, he just belly laughed and wiped down the horse himself.

[1] Haymow is the second story of a barn used to store hay.