Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: My Favorite Horse
It’s funny, when you think about it. We never named the best horse we ever had. We just called him “the brown gelding”.
We bought the nine year old gelding as a team roping heading horse. He could really run to the cattle and could pull. He was bomb-proof, never shying or fighting a rope under his tail or around his feet. One night I was late in feeding the horses, and the gelding didn’t come in from the pasture. After a few minutes I walked out, looking for him. I almost ran into him in the dark, my flashlight not picking up his dark brown coat. He was calm, nickering to me, but not moving. I started running my hand over him, looking for some clue to his behavior, when I felt coils of barbed wire wrapped around his front legs. A sinking feeling went through me, visualizing what kind of cuts could happen from barbed wire. His legs were fine, not even a scratch. He had stepped into the wire and instead of fighting it, he just stood there. Dad joked the gelding would have starved to death, waiting for us to rescue him. I sure loved that horse.
I used to ride a big pasture south of Harrold that was cut down the middle by Medicine Creek, a winding stream with bluffs, draws and gravel pits lining its sides. There was one gravel pit that had a high cut bank along one side, so high I couldn’t see over the top when I was horseback. I used to ride by that cut, and wondered if a horse could climb the loose, steep pile of gravel, then jump the last three or so feet to the sod-covered rim. I would ride the gelding up the pile, sit and look at the jump to the top, lose my nerve and ride back down. Finally, one day I rode to the top, felt that strong horse under me, rode back to the bottom, took a deep breath and spurred him back up the pile. He never hesitated, lunging up and over the rim with me hanging on and holding my breath the whole time. I looked back over the edge and shuddered, only then thinking of what would have happened if that brown gelding had hesitated. What a dumb, wonderfully exciting thing to do! I sang all the way home. I loved that horse.
I worked cattle, roped and rode carelessly over rough country on him, and the gelding never faltered or made a misstep. After I moved to Pierre, the gelding spent most of his time in the barn or roaming the pasture, with Dad babying him with grain and good hay. He lived to the ripe old age of 29. Dad found him lying in the snow one cold February morning. He had left the warmth of his open stall and laid down and died. Dad cried when he found him. I cried when he told me the gelding was dead. We loved that horse.
Maybe it’s not funny, maybe it’s fitting that we called him the brown gelding. There are lots of brown geldings, but to me he was THE brown gelding. I loved that horse.