SergeantSergeant was my first horse. He was three when I bought him from my mother’s cousin, Ector. It was the summer between the sixth and seventh grade. I paid $110 for him. Gave Ector $18.20 down. Got my horse. Worked off the rest during the next two summers, 35 cents an hour, weeding, hoeing, selling vegetables at a roadside stand.

Sarg lived way past the expected age of horses. Over the years scores of children, including my five sons, got their very first horseback ride sitting on his back. He was gentle. He loved people. But I was the only one he would kiss on the cheek.

He was always well behaved. Except for one time. And that wasn’t his fault.

The Old Hand of Oakdale:

My grandfather had a hobby that a lot of people today have. He brewed beer, and he made wine.

He made a dandelion wine that would take your breath away. One sniff of its bouquet would clear up your sinus congestion. It was definitely a sipping wine. Too big a swallow would be akin to taking a gulp of Tabasco sauce. He also made a more refined rhubarb wine.

I came home from school one day and noticed that my horse, Sergeant, was not in the pasture. I found him in his stall, and he was acting strangely. When I unsnapped the rope from his halter, he backed out of the stall and ran out the barn door. As soon as he was outside, he began to rear up, buck, jackknife — things I had never seen him do except in the early spring. He ran around and around. Finally he stopped on the high hill in the summer pasture. And just stood there. And I could tell he was on shaky legs. I whistled, but he wasn’t coming.

I went back in the barn and could smell a strange tart odor coming from the oats box in the stall. Grandpa walked in, and I found out what the problem was. He had made some wheat wine, and, being one who never wasted anything, had fed the fermented wheat mash to Sarg. My poor horse was drunk.

I didn’t know how to cure a horse of a hangover or a headache. I just left Sarg standing on that hill and let nature take its course. I did make sure that there was plenty of water in the trough, because I knew the horse would be thirsty when he decided to come back to the barnyard.

Actually, the word was that the wheat wine wasn’t too bad. But Grandpa never bothered to make wheat wine again.

Published SPPP Bulletin Board – Pub 6/4/13

Having a horse of one’s own is a dream many kids have. I was fortunate. I had Sergeant. But he was more than just a horse. He was a friend. A confidant. And many times, a baby sitter. We explored the woods and fields. Hot summer days we went into the lake and he was my diving board. Cold winter days, he gave me warmth because I always rode bareback.  We grew up together. A boy and his horse.  

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