In one of my earlier posts I expressed my disdain for horses. I mentioned, that after I told Dad to sell that ornery mare I hated so much, I had nothing more to do with horses after that. I have to retract that statement. There was one other instance later in my adult life that I did have to ride a horse. I was reminded of this experience a couple of years ago during a telephone conversation with a long-time friend of mine from Soda Springs, Idaho; the same friend who blew the side out of his shotgun barrel during our duck hunting excursion.
This latest experience with horses started in 1971 when I was coerced into the chairmanship of the Soda Springs, Idaho, first Centennial Celebration. (Soda Springs actually had two centennial celebrations several years apart.) The town was settled twice, but that’s a whole ‘nother story, which I will refrain from getting into at this time. As I was saying, I was General Chairman of this particular celebration, and if my memory serves me correctly, this friend of mine was Publicity Chairman.
We were discussing in a committee meeting one evening, some ideas to generate publicity for our celebration. We wanted it to be the biggest thing in town since the arrival of the railroad, and we were looking for an unusual gig to garner some attention. My friend came up with the idea of a couple of prospectors–with a string of pack mules–making their way to the gold fields near Soda Springs (Soda Springs was also noted for its gold at Cariboo Mountain during the early years). So that’s what we did. He and I became the prospectors.
In anticipation of this event we allowed a couple of weeks to grow scruffy beards. At age 36, albeit I still retained the blonde hew to my regular head of hair, my sideburns and beard were snow white. My friend’s hair and beard had turned white before he was thirty, so with scruffy beards, worn out jeans, faded plaid shirts and tattered felt hats, we pretty much looked the part.
We enlisted the help of a fellow in the area that had access to some mules; borrowed a cattle truck from my uncle, and proceeded with our plan. I don’t remember exactly where we got the horses; maybe we borrowed them from my uncle along with the truck.
We also enlisted the services of the local media (TV and radio) who put the news out to the towns we were to visit, that there were a couple of screwball scruffy lookin’ prospectors headin’ for the Soda Springs centennial celebration ridin’ their horses and leadin’ a string of mules. In reality, we hauled the livestock to the edge of every town we visited, unloaded them and paraded through town putting on our act. Believe it or not, we did draw some fairly good crowds.
We had a couple of guys follow us in a car, and after we unloaded the stock, one of the guys would drive our truck to the opposite edge of town where we loaded up and headed out for the next stop. I’m sure you’ve all seen enough Western movies, to become familiar with the temperament of mules. These critters didn’t disappoint us, or the crowds. They performed many of the antics expected of mules; and that’s all I’ll say about that.
In Pocatello, we paraded down Arthur past the old Bannock Hotel where we were met by a crowd of people led by the president of the city council. After meeting with the crowd, we continued on down the street and across the railroad tracks to 2nd avenue into the warehouse district where we were to meet our driver with the truck and load up for the final leg of the journey back to Soda Springs. It was here that we had a run in with a young would be “horse thief.”
Our truck driver for some reason was late, so we found a vacant lot and proceeded to wait for him. During this time a group of boys came along, and my friend decided it might be good to let these kids have a little horseback ride while we were waiting. All went pretty well with this project until one of the boys climbed aboard my horses and headed out at a dead run for parts unknown. I stayed and tended the mules while my friend mounted the other steed and gave chase to recover our stolen horse. As I remember, the kid led a merry chase before getting caught, but he and the horse were eventually rounded up and brought back. By that time, the truck had arrived. We bid the boys (including our horse thief) good bye, loaded up our livestock, and headed for Soda. All, in all, I would have to say it was an interesting day.
If you’d like to read a few of my childhood memoirs, you can do so, by clicking on the free download button at upper right of this page and receive a free copy of my book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. It’s a book of short stories about a young boy growing up in a small rural American town during the 1940s. Buddy has been described by some as being reminiscent of a twentieth century Tom Sawyer in that he quite often finds himself in hot water for which he must pay the consequences. Unlike Tom, however, Buddy’s misdeeds are without forethought. The happen because Buddy is…well…he’s just Buddy.