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The Horses - Seven Persons

Seven Persons - Once Hundred Sixty Acres and a Dream

Chapter 33

Horses were conspicuous in Seven Persons from its inception until the "thirties" when motor cars became the mode of travel for most people. There were a few cars about, as early as 1914; the doctor had a car; some of the businessmen drove cars. For many years there were horses. They were ridden bareback, or under saddle, or driven singly on a buggy or a cutter, or as a team of two on democrat, wagon, cart and sleigh, or as a team of four or six on heavily loaded wagons. They took children to school.

It may be hard to imagine now, that as many as seventy horses could be seen at one time, attached to hitching rails about the places of business of the village. These rails were lengths of two inch pipe put through upright wooden posts, raised about three feet above the ground. At times frightened steeds tore them down.

Harnesses had to be well made and put on horses correctly. Carelessness and mistakes, along with many other factors of horse management, caused horses to become unmanageable and to break away. There were many "run aways"in Seven Persons. In fact, for some years, there was on an average, a "run away" a day. Horses broke loose and ran uncontrolled and blindly down the street and across the land. They damaged vehicles, harnesses and themselves, and they tore down fences.

Charlie Willis, a local farmer, came into town one day. A team broke free and came galloping down the street. He stepped out to stop them but they ran right over him. He was killed instantly. There were others who were badly injured in similar run aways.

There is a hill known as Charlie Willis' Hill south of town. It was named for the deceased and is near his homestead.

There were three livery barns and often they were filled to capacity. Drivers, who had come for many miles, had to go from barn to barn to find stall room and feed.

Mr. Sam Carlson kept a stallion in a corral at the back of his stable. The neigh of this animal would ring across the village, announcing his whereabouts. He'd be answered by horses being driven by. These stallions were beautiful animals for Sam was a good judge of horse flesh. Adolf Sureman was the horse wrangler on Carlson's ranch for a number of years.

When depression years caused farmers to move to other regions they took what possessions they could. Horses that couldn't be loaded in boxcars were left behind to survive as well as they were able. Some died for lack of food and water, some from extreme winter conditions and some from imprisonment in abandoned buildings. Others lived to multiply. It was not unusual to see over a hundred head of these unclaimed, untamed horses going in single file to a creek for water, or to an open plain for grazing. Their value was so low they were not often stolen. However, horse hair brought ready cash so spring round ups and trimming of manes and tails was lucrative. The cropped ponies were then referred to as "Broomtails" and were set free to grow more hair and pitifully fend for themselves against flies and mosquitoes.

Heavy horses were in demand on the farms and for draying work in the cities so breeds of big types, Clydesdale, Percheron and Belgian, were raised. The ranchers brought in their own stallions and ranch bred their mares. A farmer with perhaps only two mares depended on the "travelling stud" in which he might have a share. Many a classy stallion travelled the dirt roads from prairie farm to prairie farm to mate with the farmer's nondescript mares. It was quite a procession to see a groom riding in a sulky or a cart drawn by a pony mare and leading a prancing stallion, and all escorted by a barking mongrel dog.

Every family had a special horse of which they boasted. A few well thought-of animals might have been: Nesting's Fanny mare, Tonberg's Star, Mundie's black stallion that was too often getting out upon the road to worry teamsters, Ed Anderson's Prince and Colonel, Carl Sederberg's Billy and Brownie, Harm Bruin's Bob and Topsy, Prince - the Bruin children's pony, Mrs. Alf Worral's Old Molly, Art Sweet's school horse Bill, Eskestrand's pony Butch, Carl Torgerson's King and Colonel, Olander Ost's Tony, and Jesse Hoblet's Cigarette and Alice.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup