When I was young, Dad made sure that we had plenty of domestic animals around including dogs, chickens, ducks, peacocks, quail and sheep, to name a few. But, we never had a horse. I was around horses from time to time and learned to ride, but it would have been nice to have one of our own. When I was almost grown, Dad finally broke down and bought a horse for his kids.
Dad bought Homer from the feed store on Hempstead Highway and it always fascinated me that this horse was the only creature I ever met that was as stubborn or maybe even more stubborn than my dad. Homer was a middle aged, retired cutting horse that was certainly used to being ridden, so he seemed like a good choice for Dad’s large family.
However, it seems that Homer had a different view of the situation. If I could sum up Homer’s philosophy of life, it would go something like this; “Hey, I spent more than 15 years of my life carrying a cowboy around and cutting cattle. I’ve done my share of work, now I’d just like to take it easy and graze out in the pasture. However, if you really want to ride, lets go, but you better hold on, because I still remember a trick or two”.
And those tricks included running straight toward a fence at full gallop, then cutting to the left a few feet from the fence, resulting in the rider landing on the other side of the fence. Then Homer would stop and look back with a puzzled look on his face like he was asking you what happened. Another trick was galloping full speed back to the barn when he decided that the ride should be over.
The problem with controlling Homer was that we rode him without a saddle or bridle. The bareback thing was more of a preference for me, but the lack of a bridle was Homer’s idea. Dad had bought a saddle and bridle for Homer and Homer didn’t mind the saddle so much, but he wasn’t about to wear a bridle. If you’ve ever been around a good riding horse, you know that they pretty much open their mouth for the bit when you come near them with a bridle. Homer was just the opposite, he would clamp his jaw shut, set his legs and dare you to try and stuff that bit in his mouth.
We tried all kinds of things and got advice from different horse people, but we could never get Homer to open his mouth for the bit. And don’t think we didn’t try, we tried forcing his mount open with two people, one on the top of his jaw and the other on the bottom and we tried to pry his mouth open with sticks. No matter what we tried, that stubborn horse always won the battle.
We had Homer pastured at the farm in Waller and one day Dad and I and Joe and a couple of the other boys went to the farm. Dad decided that he had had enough of that stubborn horse and today we were going to get that bit in his mouth. Dad’s idea was to tie Homer to a post in the coral behind the barn and we would all gang up on him and force the bit in his mouth. One thing Dad learned from years of hoisting buckets of tools and melted lead up a 30 foot pole or down a 20 foot manhole was how to tie a knot. I don’t know if he actually knew the names of the knots, but he had one for every occasion and when Dad tied one of his Southwestern Bell knots, it always did the job it was designed for. Well, this time Dad chose a slip knot. His theory was that Homer would fight less when he realized that the more he pulled, the tighter the rope would get around his neck.
Well, the battle began and we went to work on the horse, pulling and prying on his mouth with all of our strength. Homer kept to his stubborn disposition and steadily pulled back on the rope. As the rope tightened around his neck, Homer just dug in and kept his mouth closed. After about 20 minutes, Dad had about all he could take of that stubborn horse and he picked up a piece of scrap lumber and whopped Homer on the top of his head. From the surprised look on Homer’s face, I guess that nobody had ever actually hit him before. He jumped back with all of his weight and the slip knot tightened around his throat, preventing him from breathing at all. And then our worst nightmare happened, Homer’s eyes bulged out, he dropped to the ground and quit moving, with the rope still fast around his neck. We all stood around in shock for a few seconds, thinking that we had surely killed our horse. Then we all started frantically trying to get the rope off of Homer. The rope was just long enough for the horse to lie on the ground, but it was stretched way too tight to untie it from the pole.
Quick, who’s got a pocket knife? We started frantically going through our pockets and for some reason, not one of us had a knife in our pockets. It was a long run back to the house for a knife and Homer would surely be dead by the time we got back. If you’ve ever been around any Bell cable splicers, linemen or installers, you may have noticed that they all carry a pair of small scissors in their pocket or in a sheath on their belt. It doesn’t matter if they are active duty or been retired for years, they pretty much all have those scissors, Dad used those little scissors for everything, from dressing game to cutting barb wire fencing.
Well, naturally, Dad has his scissors and he hurriedly cut the rope from around Homer’s neck. When the rope popped loose, Homer took a great big breath of air, jumped to his feet and stood perfectly still with his mouth wide open, waiting for the bit. After that day, Homer always opened up wide for the bit. I guess he figured that wearing a bridle was better than dying at the hands of a bunch of crazy people.