February 15, 2009

A Little Perspective on Losing Target

The following narrative is taken from my great-aunt Ida Kern Schaub's personal history. Her lines have given me some perspective on the loss of my prized saddle horse Target. Our vet once said that there are not enough numbers to count the ways a horse can hurt himself. I would add there are not enough words to describe the shock and disbelief at losing a horse in his prime. Aunt Ida's writing has helped me through this past couple of weeks. In the photo above, my grandfather Alfred Kern is driving the span of horses mentioned below that was struck by lightning. The work being performed is in a wheat field. Notice that the horses are pushing, not pulling the header that my grandfather is driving.

From Ida Schaubs' Personal History:

It was before my high school days or so that our family experienced what could have been a great tragedy. As I was on my way home from school one evening, I met Lucille Ballif and she said, "Ida, do you know what happened to your brother? He got struck by lightning." I started to cry and ran the two miles home as fast as I could.

Upon my arrival home I found Alf in bed. Mother and Father, of course, were very much upset. It was in the spring of the year. Alf had been taken out of high school to go out to the dry farm to do the spring work, which consisted of plowing the land and preparing it for the planting of spring grain. All work on farms in those days was done with horses. Tractors hadn't been thought of. Alf was plowing with three head of horses this particular day, when a squall of wind and hail came up. Alf stopped the plowing, took his overcoat and sheltered himself beneath the horses. They were so gentle and knew their master so well. As the storm cleared, Alf got up and looked skyward to see if the clouds had passed, and that is the last he remembered until hours later, according to his watch. His first feeling was that he was in bed just awakening from his sleep. Then he realized that he was numb and couldn't move or swallow. Gradually his senses came back and he realized where he was and that all three horses were dead and that his head was just an inch or two away from the plow shears, and that he felt sick and sore. He managed to get up and hobble over to a neighbor, Jack Bosworth, who then brought him home. They found that the lightning had struck the top of his head and just as a streak of lightning there was a burned streak down the side of Alf's face, singeing his hair, eyebrows and lashes, passing down his left shoulder on to his left arm and glanced off at the elbow. Had the lightning gone down his chest, it would have been instant death, or had his head hit the sharp plow shears, it would also have proven fatal. We were all so very thankful to our Father in Heaven for sparing his life at this time.

The foregoing experience seemed to trigger a year of unusual happenings and accidents with the horses and animals that Father owned. It was thrashing time and Dad brought home from the thrasher a very beautiful mare we called Pearl. She had pneumonia. We called the vet. He prescribed treatment every two hours of mustard plasters and medicine forced down her throat with a long syringe, so Mother and I did the doctoring because Father had to go back to the dry farm. Every two hours Mother and I went to work night and day, trying to save Pearl, but she died after a week or so. Then there was old Jock, a long-legged clumsy critter who was tied to a plow for the night, on a side hill by the barnyard. Who tied Jock to this place no one seemed to confess. Anyway, morning found him dead. As he slept he slid down hill and the rope around his neck choked him to death. That summer we had a lovely little colt about six months old. He contracted distemper and Mother and I tried to nurse him back to health, but he died.

Old Chub, our old faithful horse whom we all loved and who had given the farm so much service, got so lame with what they called "ring bones"" (which I now realize must have been arthritis, because my fingers today remind me of Old Chub's feet), that he could hardly walk anymore, so Father had to shoot him. We all felt so sad about Chub. Coally, a black buggy horse, who used to take us flying in the buggy, really was a has-been racehorse when Dad bought him. He really was a high-spirited and high-strung piece of horseflesh, but a fine buggy horse. Going to Church we'd pass all of our neighbors on the road. Well, that winter, Coally was performing in the barnyard, slipped on the ice, broke his leg, and he had to be shot. We all missed our fast buggy rides.

Father had a fine span of horses that he had replaced for the three the lightning had killed. Alf was working with them at home in Preston, preparing the ground where we planted our vegetable garden. As the horses crossed an irrigation ditch, the harrow they were pulling flipped up out of control. One of the sharp teeth of the harrow struck one horse in one of his hind legs, penetrating deep into the knee joint. Father and the family doctored him for weeks, but they finally had to shoot him. This was a terrible blow to Dad, but I recall hearing him say to Mother one day as they were in the kitchen, "Well Mother, as long as the trouble stays in the barnyard, I won't complain." I really didn't get the full impact of his statement at that time, but I have thought about it many times since.

These foregoing instances practically wiped out all of Father's horses. He didn't have enough to run the farm work with. His good neighbors and friends came to his rescue and gathered up a collection so Dad could purchase some fine new horses.

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