Part seven of a series
It was “a different approach to torture,” putting the harness on a horse named Lady. It was “a dance to Lady’s tune.” Her front feet were some of the most active I have ever seen,” wrote Warren Lange in the published memories of his boyhood on a 1930s farm on South Ridge in Mound Prairie Township, Houston County.
Lange described Lady as highly intelligent but nothing resembling a lady. The “cantankerous” mare especially enjoyed stepping on human toes. You could walk into the stall carrying the harness, however as soon as the harness was on her back, beware! You either had to jump out in front front of her “friendly fore hooves” or rush to the rear hoping to exit the stall. “If you did neither, you would be pinned against the stall wall by a shiny black fur coat rippling with muscle and supported by 2,000 pounds of flesh to help drive the point home.”
Lange’s solution was to place a piece of wood between Lady’s rib cage and the stall partition. “We both played this game well as I learned Lady’s rules. Never was it played on my terms, but strictly by hers. She didn’t seem to take offense but would lay into my wooden lifeline with gusto, caving in her rib cage to what I thought was a dangerous level.”
Lange thought Lady similar to a Holstein cow when being victimized by her own curiosity. Lady once went to investigate a woodchuck near a fence that ran alongside a deep ditch. The woodchuck had disturbed the turf so that Lady lost her footing and ended up on her back against the amazingly sturdy fence. The horse was flailing with her legs in the air with her eyes showing sheer fright. It was a serious situation. Lange’s father furiously took an axe to the metal wire of the fence, which when completely severed, allowed Lady to slide down the steep embankment to land on her feet uninjured. Ironically, fence-mending tools were then placed a stone boat, which Lady then dragged back to the site of her previous predicament.
Lady was one of the family’s best work horses, but she either did not like other horses or did not like to work with them. But by herself, there was none better. “One of her tasks was to pull the hay into the mow from the wagon. My father would hitch Lady to a rope at the back of the barn and shout directions to her which she obeyed. She just seemed to know what was going on and what was required and enjoyed it.” This saved a lot of human time and effort.
Lady was so good at “pulling well,” another single-horse task, that neighbors borrowed her. Periodically, leathers in the lift pump had to be replaced, which entailed pulling it up maybe 450 to 500 feet from the bottom of the well. There was well pipe and the sucker rod to be pulled up, section by section. “The windmill tower would shake as she plodded along lifting the mass. It was a fascinating and touchy procedure made safer and easier by a very gifted “loner” Lady.”
After a runaway, a team of horses became entangled in a netting fence. Young Warren noticed a remarkable change – seeing “a wild-eyed look of horses in panic and then walking up to the placid animal waiting for rescue.”
Although horses were large, muscularly strong animals, Lange disagreed with the opinion that horses were one of the hardiest farm animals. He felt they were one of the least resilient and required “careful maintenance.” They loaned a mare named Flory to a neighbor for a couple of days. Communication about Flory’s diet was “not well handled,” and Flory was dead the next morning with colic, an abdominal obstruction. The neighbor, intending to pamper Flory, had fed her ground grain instead of whole grain – a fatal mistake. She was one of the boy’s favorites. Disposing of the carcass was a traumatic experience.
Another mare “went down” in her stall and was unable to get up. It took a day to obtain a sling, but she died because she could not urinate while lying down.
Source: “My Boyhood Years on the Farm,” by Warren Lange