My childhood was the greatest and it was largely because Daddy has kept us horseback our whole lives. Here’s the first story I was told about being horseback with Daddy. It was best told by my Granny Elma (Daddy’s mother) who was babysitting me this particular day. That’s another reason I had a wonderful childhood – I never had daycare or a babysitter. I had grandparents and my Great Aunt Ruby and Uncle Doyle.
Daddy had this gray mare. She was his own so it’s no wonder she was a bronc. He rode spoiled colts for the public and I suspect she might have been one that was a little too juicy for anyone to want. Back in those days, it would have never occurred to my Daddy that anything was dangerous.
I don’t know if he had taken me to Granny’s horseback in the morning or if he just rode up to get me, but anyway, he came to get me on that gray mare.
Granny said she handed me up with no problem. I was just a few months old, still in diapers, nowhere near old enough to walk. The problems all started when she handed Daddy the diaper bag. Evidently the mare didn’t pay much attention when Daddy reached out to get the bag, but when he started drawing it toward him, the mare decided it was a booger.
“She just jumped straight up and knocked me backwards,” Granny said, “and then she started bucking.” So picture this – Daddy is holding me and a diaper bag, trying to gather his reins.
I guess she bucked around the yard there and Daddy managed to keep hold of it all. He got her calmed down a little and we rode her home.
“It scared me to death,” Granny said, “but all you did was laugh out loud the whole time.”
Many years later I asked Daddy why he didn’t just drop the diaper bag. He said, “well I couldn’t decide – would she get worse if I dropped it under her or if I just tried to hold it still. And besides, we had to get it home.”
Daddy rode colts for the public all the time and a lot of them should have gone to the killers. It was his theory that if he got most of the buck out of them, Keith could get the rest and then I would ride them so many miles they’d just surrender. Mostly that worked. Sometimes we had wrecks. A few were big ones but those are other stories.
When I was in junior high S. T. Boyd came to our country from California and he brought a nice set of real mares and a couple of fine bred studs with him. We ended up breaking all his colts for years and that’s how Keith and I got some really good horses to show. The first real barrel horse I ever had was a filly he raised. I’m sure Daddy broke colts to pay for her because we didn’t have any money.
My mother’s ceiling will fall in some day because all of the trophies and other plunder Keith and I won on those horses is in her attic.
It didn’t occur to me until I was grown what sacrifices Daddy made to keep us horseback. Of course he never thought they were sacrifices. We never had a broke horse bought for us. With his help we broke every one we ever rode. He worked construction all day and drove many miles to and from jobs – but he would get home and shoe horses, ride horses, take us to the club steer ropings or playdays during the week and trail rides, horse shows and junior rodeos on the weekends.
Later, after the bicentennial year when the whole family got into restoring horse drawn vehicles and equipment, he made a good teamster. He’s such a fine carpenter and painter he would restore the wagon, paint and stripe it, and then get a team ready to pull it on the wagon train our Granddad John Shaddox started that continued for 40 years.
I don’t remember when I didn’t ride. I don’t remember the first time I was horseback. Thank you for that and so many more things, Daddy. I got the best draw with you.

This is Daddy on one of the wagon rides we used to have from the cabin he built.

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