February 20, 2007

At Codding's Place

At Codding's Place is an intensely personal piece about how my father handed down his knowledge of horses to me. Although Codding's farm no longer has horses on it, my father now 85 years old, still keeps two head of horses alternating between Colorado and Idaho.

The passage of time plays funny tricks on your mind. I have three brothers and three sisters. With just a couple of exceptions - the older ones, who were off chasing their own dreams at the time - it seems that the others remember actually being there at the very moment when Dad lost his thumb. Now, that couldn't have been the case, but it was such a traumatic incident in our family, that we have all chosen to remember it in our own way.

My recollection is that he was having trouble getting Slippers, our American Saddler (they call 'em Saddlebred nowadays) into the horse trailer. So, he put on what is known as a war bridle to overcome her resistance. A war bridle is really nothing more than a loop of rope run over the horses nose and then back around the poll of the neck - behind the ears. Both areas are very sensitive to the horse, and when pressure is applied, through the tightening of the rope, they usually cooperate without much of an argument. In this case there was an argument and the rope flipped out and around Dad's thumb and took off the tip as Slippers reared up and then threw herself backwards. The thumb didn't really heal up for years afterwards.

Still the same, my memories of Codding's place are pleasent childhood memories. I still own the old saddle I used as a kid. It's worn how, but it brings to mind many of the trails of that dim long ago.

I hope you enjoy this poem. It was awarded the Laraiat Laureate Runner-up (one of eight second places) on www.CowboyPoetry.com few years back. The recording varies slightly from the text. It is a recitation done from memory with no reference being made to the actual written verse. Hmm . . . that does seem to happen in Cowboy Poetry.

At Codding's Place
by Paul Kern

For just a moment I thought I saw,
Our brood mare lying in the straw,
Foaling a colt in the early morn.
Now the weeds grow tall where he was born.

The tack shed with the sagging gate,
Is where I learned to sit and wait,
As my father caught his horses at dawn.
It's quiet now - the horses are gone.

For just a moment I could smell it again,
That good horse smell in the old catch pen,
Same warm smell on both young and old.
You can't go back - the horses are sold.

It was the scene of a trailer fight,
Between Dad and Slippers - oh what a sight,
The rope took off part of his thumb.
Just maybe now, I should not have come.

At Codding's place was my first ride,
My father walking close beside,
He carved out memories for me his son.
Where he kept horses now there are none.

Those boyhood horses each had a hole,
That left a mark upon my soul.
At Codding's Place was my first ride,
My father walking close beside.

In another place and another time,
On a different farm that I call mine,
We keep horses on that place,
A paint, a pinto and a bally face.

At Codding's Place

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