There are some stories, some special stories that just grab my interest and tug at my heart. Stories about dogs that understand the French language, tales about elephants who win the tug-of-war against the tractor at the fair and those yarns about my grandfather, grandmother or great-aunt are must write stories. Well, this story isn't about any of those things. It's about a boy named Terry and his not-so-tame horse, Dolly.
No, this is not a boy and his horse story like the late '50s' television show, "My Friend Flicka." In this story, the boy, Terry, grew up in the Southwest Missouri town of Southwest City and his horse was not amiable. On the other hand, the chestnut-colored filly, Dolly, was a little ornery.
Southwest City was a quiet town with a population of around 500 or so hard-working folks. The outskirts of the town offered picturesque views of grass-covered rolling meadows where farmers and ranchers struggled to provide for their families. Some of the Ozark born and raised townsfolk shopped at the Nichols Brothers store for overalls, shoes and food, while others patronized Claude Queen's grocery or the IGA store.
Bob Tebow's Rexall Drug Store was a place where many could be found on one of those typical steamy hot summer afternoons. Men in coveralls and women wearing gingham patterned dresses sat on stools enjoying syrupy cherry-flavored cokes. Some with an appetite for ice cream laid out 35 cents for a banana split, while others preferred a thick and creamy milkshake. Milkshakes would set one back a quarter but the more adventurous spent an extra 10 cents for an added tablespoon or two of malt.
Terry, his brother Kenneth and sisters Chrissie and Kay were the offspring of landowner and cattle rancher James Everet Clark and his wife Fannie Marie Eaton Clark. James raised beef cattle which were sold each fall, and he also kept two or three dairy cows on the ranch. James and the kids were kept busy with chores but Fannie worked in town.
Fannie was a school teacher. She began her teaching career in the year 1949 and taught at the Southwest City School for another 26 years. Most of those years were devoted to developing the minds and characters of young fourth graders.
Now that I have laid the foundation for this tale, let's get back to the issue at hand, Terry and his horse Dolly. It was somewhere around 1958 when Terry first became acquainted with Dolly. Terry's father bought two horses from local livestock trader, Claude Price. The second, and yet unmentioned dapple grey quarter horse was to be named Blaze by Terry's brother Kenneth, Blaze's future passenger.
The two horses called the corral home on the family's ranch. The 80 acres of what was mostly pasture was not far from the intersection of roads 90 and MM. It was only when Kenneth and Terry took a notion to ride the pair of four-legged sources of fun that the horses were taken in hand. At least, that is, if you might consider the sight of two teenage boys chasing after the horses "taken in hand."
Much like people, horses have distinct personalities. Some, much like Blaze, are affable, while others much like Dolly are cantankerous. While attempts to corral Blaze were met with little difficulty, catching Dolly, on the other hand, was always a challenge. However, when thoughts of riding Dolly bareback filled Terry's youthful mind, the effort seemed well worth the potential reward.
The rambunctious filly seemed to harbor a distinct distaste for the feel of blue jeans pressing against her horsehide back. It appeared as though she wallowed in the pleasure derived from tossing Terry off her unsaddled back and onto the hard ground below. But Terry was young and discretion was something better left to the old of years. As Terry now admits, those scrapes and bruises seemed to be less painful back then and they certainly healed more rapidly. But then, many of us who have seen far too many years pass by feel that way.
Terry worked part-time bagging groceries at the Nichols Brothers store. He and Glen Carpenter, known to his friends as "forklift" because of his tremendous strength, spent the better part of Saturdays at the store but Sundays were all theirs. As Terry recalls it was a cool Fall Sunday afternoon when he and Kenneth made the decision that would create a lasting memory in Terry's mind.
After arriving home on that weekend afternoon he and Kenneth decided to ride their unsaddled steeds into town. As the two came to a paved side street, Kenneth threw out the challenge. "Let's see whose horse is faster."
Terry knew from previous races that Dolly was a quick starter but Blaze always overtook her before the two reached the finish line, but a challenge could not be overlooked. "Just say go."
It was neck and neck for a short distance, but Terry heard that all too familiar sound. It was the sound of Blaze quickly gaining on Dolly, but maybe that time the outcome would be different. The end of the street was near and Dolly was still slightly in the lead when Terry said to himself, "oh, no!"
There on the left was a small road, maybe only a driveway, but Dolly had one glaring idiosyncrasy. She loved to turn sharply onto any side road. Terry knew he couldn't stop the filly and shouting "whoa" would be a waste of good breath. Before he could brace himself, prepare for the inevitable, you might say, the pony with a mind of her own took a sharp left turn.
Lacking needed traction on the gravel-covered pavement, both Dolly and Terry fell to the ground. Terry knew immediately that something was amiss. It was his leg which was sandwiched between Dolly and the ground. Kenneth turned Blaze around and dismounted near his brother. "Are you okay?"
"My leg really hurts. Maybe it's even broken."
As Terry lay on the hard pavement, a voice resonated from across the street. It originated from a man known to the brothers, local optometrist Dewey "Doc" Collingsworth. "Are you hurt?"
"My leg is really hurting."
"Let me take a look." After what seemed like forever Doc Collingsworth rendered his professional opinion.
"It's not broken. It's probably just a sprain."
Collingsworth offered to drive Terry home, an offer that was appreciated and readily accepted. Terry's parents asked for details of the incident which Doc provided. It seemed that he was sitting on the front porch of his house and witnessed the whole thing. Fannie Clark thanked Collingsworth and had only one comment for Terry.
"That wasn't very smart now, was it? You know, racing Dolly on a paved street?"
Hang on a second. It seems like I forgot to mention something. Now let me think. Oh yeah. Dolly was not injured during the fall. She quickly got to her feet and as might be expected, she ran off. Kenneth jumped on Blaze and following a short chase, caught her.
Terry was not one to be deterred and, after some well-deserved recuperating time, he continued to ride Dolly, you guessed it, bareback. Terry's father sold the ornery Dolly in 1960 to a horse handler residing in Fairland, Okla. Terry recalls that as he waved goodbye to Dolly, he hoped the gentleman would teach her to refrain from making those abrupt turns.
Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.