Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Family Trouble |

Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Family Trouble

Uncle Willmer had a team of Clydesdales that was his pride and joy. He worked his little farm with them whenever he could, plowing, mowing, picking corn, hauling hay and any other chore he could do with them. The mare had a colt the fall of 1968, and Willmer doted over the youngster. That fall, he pastured them during the day across the county road east of his place, leading the team over in the morning and back in the evening, with the colt following along. One evening while leading the team to the pasture gate, the colt was cavorting around, running back and forth behind and in front of Willmer and the team. One time, as he was passing in front, he kicked, and hit Willmer in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. He had a hard time breathing, and it was impossible for him to stand up. He ended up crawling up the long, long, driveway to the house before he collapsed in pain. Aunt Ella called for an ambulance and finally got him to the hospital.

He was in constant pain. X-rays showed the colt’s kick had collapsed a portion of his intestine causing a blockage. That was the bad news. The doctor said that if Willmer hadn’t been so physically strong, the kick would have probably killed him. That was the good news. He struggled with tubes down his nose for several weeks, trying to clear the blockage before it finally opened up. He was lucky to be alive.

The same day that Willmer was kicked, my dad was riding his buckskin south of town in the big pasture along the creek that runs from the Ree Hills to the Missouri. We would ride there quite often, hills, draws, and stock dams dotting the acres of pasture. Dad was on his way back towards town, enjoying the easy lope of the gelding when suddenly the horse hit a hole, went down end over end, throwing Dad over his head and landing him on the rocky prairie. Dad remembered the saddle horn sliding by his head as the horse slid to a stop. The horse struggled to his feet and tried to run but stumbled and fell again. His front leg was broken. Dad grabbed the reins and quieted the scared animal down and led him hopping and limping to the gate post leading to the road back to town. Dad then walked back to town, called me and we hitched the trailer up and went to pick up the injured horse. We got him back to town and had the vet from Highmore look at him. The small bones that sit between the two leg bones were all scattered and out of place. We had to go to the vet in Huron Monday to see if anything could be done. Meanwhile, Dad went bowling that night.

The next morning, he woke up with a blazing headache. Mom took him to the doctor who said he had a severe concussion and needed to be hospitalized for a few days for observation. They put him in a room with a curtain separating the two occupants, and it wasn’t until later in the day Dad realized he was in the room with Willmer.

Dad went home in a day, Willmer was in the hospital for almost a month. The story of the two brothers injured in horse accidents made it into the Huron paper that week. Willmer healed up, but sadly we had to put the horse down, the damage was too much to be repaired to the point he could ever put weight on it. The pasture was still our favorite place to ride and was the first place we would head to in the spring. The photo of Dad on that buckskin horse hung in his office for years after that, always a reminder of one of his favorite horses.


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