Saturday, December 2

Saturday's Old Photo

I promised no more picture of my sister and me for a while, and today, I'm going back on that promise. The point of this photo, however, is not to show you my sister or me, but our horse, and unfortunately, the best photo with our horse in it has the whole family in it with him.

That's my dad on Zero. The corn in the background is growing in our garden behind the parsonage (where my family lived) at Northern Bible Chapel in the little community of Northern, which was 4 miles north of Bemidji, Minnesota. (You saw another photo of my sister and me at Northern a couple of weeks ago.)

We kept our horse corraled or staked on the church property. His job was to keep the grass on the softball field short. At this point, my sister and I didn't ride him much on our own, since he was still a little unpredictable, needing my father's firmer hand to keep him under control. Eventually we got bigger and he got easier to control, and then it was often our chore to exercise him.

My father bought our horse as a mostly unbroken 4-year-old from a man named Tom Duvall. My dad had been searching for a while for a horse to buy. (Horses had once been his passion--he'd been a cowboy, remember--and he thought he missed them; although when he'd had one for a while, I think he realized that his interest in them had waned from what it was.) We had little money, and my dad wanted a quality horse. Minnesota wasn't ranch country, and the horses for sale weren't worth owning, he thought, until he saw Tom Duvall's ad in the paper.

We went to see the horse for sale, and here, finally, was a horse that satisfied my dad quality-wise--a palomino gelding quarter horse--and the price was right, too--$125 dollars, which was something we could swing. I remember that Tom Duvall, who owned the horse (or so he said), talked a lot and pushed for a quick deal. My dad was not one who could be rushed into making a decision, so he took a couple of days, thought things over carefully, and decided this was the horse and the deal for him. My dad paid Tom Duvall, and Zero came home with us.

My dad worked with his horse daily, training him to walk, trot, gallop, stop and turn to voice commands. We'd had him for several months when a man stopped by and introduced himself as Harold Clemenson, a teacher at the local high school. He'd owned a horse, he said, that he'd boarded with a man named Tom Duvall while he was gone on vacation. When he returned from his trip, both Tom and the horse were gone, Tom leaving a trial of unpaid bills and shady dealings behind him. Mr. Clemenson had searched for Tom Duvall, but had eventually given up and resigned himself to the loss of his horse, until that day when he drove by our house and recognized the palomino staked out on the church softball field.

That night, at our kitchen table, Harold Clemenson and my dad made a gentlemen's agreement. Mr. Clemenson could have just taken the horse--Tom Duvall had no right to sell it, and the horse still rightfully belonged to him--but I suppose he recognized that the horse was worth more trained as it was than it had been when he'd had it boarded, and he was not the sort of man to let good work go unrewarded. So that night, Mr. Clemenson and my dad decided to split their losses. My dad paid Mr. Clemenson $62.50, and they signed a bill of sale for the horse. Zero stayed with us and that was that.