The Horses that Never Stopped Running
By Linda C Butler
told by Charlie Vance (1909-1989)
My father, Allen Vance, received a letter from his brother Will, asking if we would visit as there were wild horses on open rangeland and he wanted to catch a couple for a buggy team.
We lived at Spy Hill SK and Uncle Will lived 14 miles north of Raymore SK. Steve, my brother, and I had never seen open rangeland or wild horses and we were thrilled with the invitation. We started packing that very night and were anxious to go, but Dad said that we had to send a telegram first so Uncle Will would meet our train.
The next morning Dad went to town, sent the telegram, and bought a ticket for himself and paid half fare for me as I was 9 or 10. Steve, who was about 8, did not need a ticket. We arrived at Raymore and Uncle Will met us with a buggy and took us to his farm. His team of horses were just old farm plugs.
Once we got to Uncle Will’s, we wanted to see the rangeland and catch the wild horses, but wishing didn’t do us any good because Dad refused to take us. He said we might get hurt and we had to stay with our cousins. The country was hilly and there were interesting areas to explore. We had a rope and threw lassos at imaginary horses, but in reality, we only saw gophers and a few badgers.
We were surprised one morning when we got up to see two wild horses in the corral. We watched through the fence with our cousins as Uncle Will roped one of the horses and tied it to a post.
Uncle Will snugged the line close to the post, so there was not a lot of slack. He spoke gently to the animal and tried to pat him on the neck. We watched as the horse struck out with its front feet. After awhile, that horse was exchanged for the other horse and the procedure repeated. The men made numerous attempts to tame the horses.
I don’t remember how long we stayed at Uncle Will’s but one day, when the men thought that the horses were ready, they told us to put our suitcases into the wagon and jump in as we were going home. The wagon had a high box with high wheels, and a spring seat in the front.
The men put gunny sacks over the horses’ heads as the horses were quiet when they couldn’t see what was happening. Underneath, in front of the bridle, the men tied gunny sacks in place with binder twine. They positioned the two horses near two posts with a board across and tied the horses to the board. While the horses were still blindfolded, they put harnesses on them. Dad held the lines, and Uncle Will pulled the team away from the posts so they faced south. Uncle Will pulled the gunny sacks from the horses’ heads and jumped onto the seat beside Dad. Once the horses could see, they ran south in the direction of Raymore.
There were no restraining devices to hold Steve and me in the wagon and only the high boards on the side kept us from falling out. We bounced around until our bums were sore, then we stood up and hung onto the sides of the wagon, but that was worse as we kept falling down. In the meantime Dad and Uncle Will yelled “Hip, Hip Hooray” the entire trip, to keep the horses running hard. They never thought to look back to see how we were doing in the empty wagon.
It was fourteen miles to Raymore and the horses ran the entire distance. We watched the sun set and twilight descend. Finally we arrived in town and Dad pulled our suitcases from the wagon and told us to jump down. We could hardly move we were so sore, but Dad grabbed both of us and pulled us from the wagon. Once we were safely out, the men turned the horses around and pointed them towards Uncle Will’s place. The horses were still restless but Uncle Will expected them to quieten long before they got home.
The train arrived about midnight and the three of us made the long trip home, happy to sit on the hard train seats, a luxury in comparison to the wagon.
Uncle Will’s next letter said that the horses ran a couple miles before they stopped running. He arrived home safely and he was training the horses to pull the buggy.
The fourteen-mile buggy ride with the wild horses that would not stop running was an adventure I never forgot.