Volume 9 , Number 4 , Summer 1986
from his booklet, "My Teacher, My Coach, My Friend" Contributed by Mildred King Canton, sister of Henry.
Clay and I were both born in the Ozarks in Missouri - Clay in 1904 and me in 1911. Now Clay was always quite a lover of animals and anything that had four legs and stayed on the farm, Clay thought ought to be harnessed and worked or saddled and rode. This included the dog, calf, the mule colts and, of course, the horses. When Clay wasnt hunting or trapping something, he was having his fun with these colts and calves. By the time I got big enough to carry an empty milk bucket to the barn, Clay appointed himself my teacher and coach. He wanted me to share all his fun hed been having. Everybody knows, to be a good coach, you have to be lavish with your praise and encouragement. My brother was always very good at this.
Like the time I was going to the barn where Dad was milking the cows. Clays out in the corral with a rope on a big strong calf - hes struggling to hold this calf - and he yells, "Hey, Hank, come here and Ill help you on, then youll get a nice ride on this calf. You can hang on to the rope around his belly.
Well, I must have looked puzzled because I was getting this sales pitch about how he will hold the calf and Ill get a nice ride. Anyway, before I know it, Im helped on this calf. Clay held the rope all right, but by the end - giving this calf lots of room for action. I last about two jumps and find myself lying face down in the corral. Clay rushes over to help me up and hes really concerned and says, "You did all right, Shorty. You lasted two jumps!"
Now, Im mad. I start to the house crying. Even though Mother is quite strict, I feel that Im safer with her than with this brother of mine. As I go through the gate I look back and Clays having a good laugh.. After a couple of times like this I began to wonder why were trying to break a calf to ride. Ive never seen anyone else riding one for transportation. After that, when I saw Clay out with a rope among the calves, I kept myself pretty well in the background.
I remember one time when Clay and I were going to school. We rode a litile sorrel horse named Red. Going to school, Red was a pleasure. But when school was out, and after standing tied to a tree all day, he was ready to MOVE! I dont know how fast he was when he was let full out but I couldnt count the fence posts going by.
I always got out of school one hour before Clay did and, on this day, I was supposed to walk downtown (Galena) to Aunt Rosies (Rose King Ellsworth) restaurant and have her go across the street with me to get a new pair of overalls at John Craigs store. We got this done and Mr. Craig rolled the overalls up in wrapping paper so all I would have to do was wait for Clay to pick me up.
Clay was about a half hour later than usual and, when he stopped for me, I noticed 01 Red is higher than normal - he really wants to get home to the barn and a couple ears of corn. Well, Clay gets off, ties my overalls behind the saddle, and helps me on behind. Now Im sitting about four inches back from where I usually sit and the saddle strings I generally hang on to have been put to other uses. Clay starts trying to get on but this pony is going around in circles.. hes ready to go. After about four tries, Clay hits the saddle and 01 Red starts throwing gravel as we go off through town like the sheriff was after us. The overall package between me and the saddle shortens my reach and, with the saddle strings tied up, Im trying desperately to hang on to something. Finally, I get hold of Clays jacket and Im hanging on for dear life. I think, "If I can just hang on for three-quarters of a mile, the road starts up a pretty good hill and this old pony will slow down." But no such luck - he comes to the hill and hes still diggin. This puts me in worse shape than I was and every jump almost loses me off the back. We got about another quarter mile uphill and 01 Red finally runs out of wind.., anyway he slows to a walk.
Clay says, "Are you still on, Shorty?" Well, I dont even answer him but Im thinking to myself that nows a fine time for him to be wondering about my wellbeing.
I think I inherited a love of horses from my family and I used to dream of having one of my own someday. I used to love going to town with Mother in our rubber-tired buggy and, when the mare got into a long walk, it was beautiful to sit there and watch. Mother did a real nice job of driving that mare.
Mother and Dad sold out and we moved to Idaho in 1919 or 20.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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