Life’s not always an easy ride

From this perspective

It does not seem that long ago, but it happened when I was 6 years old. It was a beautiful spring day in early April. The sun rose that morning with a warm beaming brilliance that only a day in spring could bring.

The birds were chirping their springlike calls as they were staking out their nesting territory. I was a first-grader, and it was a Saturday. It was a great day to “help” my Dad on the farm. And fence mending and spring plowing are, as my Dad would say, two of the “first orders of business.” So, my Dad, brother, and I, along with our faithful team of farm horses, began the tasks for the day.

Babe and Jim were the names of our two faithful horses. We hitched them to the wagon, and new fence posts were loaded into the wagon. Fence mending was an important spring-time job. New honed fence posts were needed to replace the posts that were broken by the heavy winter snows. I helped my Dad by helping him hold onto the horse reins when driving through the fields.

Babe and Jim had been a part of the family for as long as I could remember. Occasionally, I would give them an extra measure of oats, or as a special treat, a cube of sugar, that is, if no one was watching. It was a special secret about which only Babe and Jim and myself knew.

The morning hours went by quickly; it was noon, and as the farmers say, “dinner time.” Babe and Jim had their noon time meal while we had ours. Following dinner, the afternoon chores began. This afternoon, my Dad decided that the soil was just right for spring plowing. The team of horses was hitched to the single-bottom plow and the task began.

You know, there is nothing so fragrant as the aroma of new turned spring soil. It was a beautiful afternoon and I loved the open meadow spring breeze. I had always wanted to ride horse back and had often begged my Dad to let me ride on the back of one of the horses. Only after continued asking, did my Dad finally consent to allow me to ride on the back of Babe, as he said ” for just for a few minutes.”.

I was so excited! Dad, somewhat reluctantly, placed me on the back of Babe, bareback that is, and I hung on tightly to the hames on the horse-collar. As the horses started walking, I could feel myself sliding … side to side … on the back of the horse. And then, holding on just became too much … I knew I was slipping, slipping fast! Suddenly, I plunged head first, to the ground between the two walking horses as the heavy iron plow was being pulled behind them. Frantically, my Dad brought the horses to an immediate halt! All I remember, was looking up between two of the most gigantic horses ever. They appeared to be taller and more humongous in size than any skyscraper building ever built!

Almost instinctively, Babe and Jim knew that something had gone terribly wrong!

They did not move a muscle. Even Babe kept her hind leg elevated, so as not come down on my arm and chest. My Dad apprehensively, but most skillfully, separated the team, unhitched them from the plow, and lead them cautiously and carefully to each side.

The terrible frightening ordeal was over! I was unscathed, except for the memory,

That evening, Babe and Jim received an extra measure of oats and dozens and dozen of pats of affection. By the way, no one ever knew … but now you know … each received a special treat of three lumps of sugar.

You know, there are times in life that appear to be bigger than life. This event seems to be just one of those times.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at SUNY Fredonia.


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