In the middle of the 1920’s, Dad had raised a little Clydesdale team he called Blanch and Charlie from a brown mare he called Bell. Bell was blind so he attached a bell to her mate and she would follow her mate closely wherever it went. This saved her from running into fences and other objects.
When the little Clyde team grew up, they weighed about 1400 pounds each and were broke to harness. They just loved to run away whenever they had a chance, so you had to stay within grabbing distance of their lines at all times.
One winter day Dad was going to drive to Maple Creek with the grain wagon. He stopped the team and wagon in front of the house and stepped inside to get his winter mittens. Away they went. Gilbert Opsal was there that day with a buggy horse that you could ride but he could nowhere near catch them. They ended up coming back to the barn, so I guess Dad still got to town that day.
Another time Dad was on his way to Maple Creek with those little stinkers and he somehow lost a line. Away they went again! He still had the other line and he steered them into Carl Duffee’s yard and got them stopped.
The only time in my life I ever heard my dad swear was when he had that little team running loose in the corral in front of the barn. He was trying to chase them through the open barn door, but they kept running past until he finally swore, “Damn you!” I guess they thought they had gone far enough so they went into the barn. They were his favourite team and if anyone would ever abuse them, there would have been a fight. I guess that’s why they yielded to my dad’s wishes.
My parents bought a partly spoiled black pony called Tony from Tony Hartman. My sister Elsie and I had ridden him double with our full gallon pails, out to poison gophers. When we got on him double to ride home, the empty pails started to rattle and he bucked us off. I wasn’t hurt but he hurt my sister’s arm and I was pretty mad at him. Elsie says I rode him all the way to Kincorth for the mail, four and a half miles and back on the run to get even.
In the spring of 1930, George Hansen gave me a little Clyde colt that he didn’t want. I took our black horse Tony, and hitched him to the stoneboat to haul my colt home. While we were getting ready to load the colt, Tony got a chance to run away with the stoneboat. There were a number of hills there, and when Tony would come over a hill and drop down to lower ground, I can still see that stoneboat floating on air up as high as his back. He finally came to a corner in the fence and stopped.
Mother was going to school half a mile away to clean the school and mop the floor. With Tony on the stoneboat, I hauled the water in cream cans and other equipment over to the school. When she was finished, I was going to give her a ride and haul the empty cans home, but Mother declined the ride and insisted she’d rather walk. When those empty cans began banging together, away went Tony, cans flying every which way. I was thrown off the stoneboat long before Tony ended up at home.
Another time he tried to run away with me on the single buggy. That time I had a better place to ride and was able to stay with him until he ran out of wind.
When my colt Flyer (his mother’s name was Fly) was three or four months old, I decided to break him to drive on our little steel wagon. I made a little harness for him, bridle, lines and all. Elsie and I were going to drive him out to the field to take dinner to the men. Elsie was leading him; I was driving. When the wagon began to rattle, he took off and jerked away from Elsie. My bridle came apart when I pulled on the lines. Away he went through a fence, leaving the wagon on the other side; he was loose. We don’t remember what happened to the dinners, but you can use your imagination.
A neighbour boy used to come visit me and always teased my colt. He would pinch him in front of his hip bones to make him kick. He came back to visit when the colt was four years old. When he walked into the stall beside the now grown-up Flyer, the horse reached out, mouth wide open and bit him. He had not forgotten and evened up the score.
When I was breaking the now four-year-old Flyer on the plow, he tried to run away while going empty around the end of the field. I managed to get the plow in the ground in the sod where it pulled quite heavy. Flyer got tangled up in the lead eveners, fell down and so couldn’t run away.
A year later while sleeping in bed on the left side of our hired man, Jack Gardie, I dreamed about that runaway. I hollered, “Whoa!”, threw my right arm back and hit Jack square on the nose. He sure talked to me for a little while and not too nice.
I also had a runaway with a binder. Brother Elmer and I were cutting a field crop three miles from home with two binders and had taken our dinner and horse feed along in a wagon. While Elmer was making the last round, I was going to tie the wagon to the rear of binder for the trip home. I had the wagon ready to tie to the binder when a sorrel mare I was breaking kicked over her trace and they were off. I was about one foot from the lines but I could not catch them. The team hit a hole, emptied the tool box and headed for home. On the way there was a field of tall mustard that got caught on the sickle side of the binder. It pulled heavy on that side and ran the horses in a circle until I got there and caught them. I spent two days repairing the binder.
When Pete Moore was living on the Fish farm, he and Ted Anderson were going to break a bronc to drive on a wagon. I don’t know if something happened to their trip rope or what but they had a runaway. There were rut roads then and the prairie was rough. The reach pin bounced out and they lost the rear wheels. The rear end of the box dropped down, dumping both out and away went the horses with the front wheels and the rear end of the box dragging. The box finally bounced off! I don’t remember where the horses went or how they ended up, but their harness was pretty well smashed up, double trees broken and they lost the rest of the wagon.
My two brothers, seven and eight-year-old Elmer and David, were to bring a wagon home a mile from the field where Dad and our uncle were farming. They were told to walk the team, two saddle ponies, Don and Tony, all the way home. That was pretty slow going, so they decided to try trotting the team. Well! They were off on a runaway. Tony liked to run away at any time. The boys managed to get them stopped before they reached home.
Another time the same boys tried to break a calf to pull the little steel wagon. The calf ran away, went through a fence and ended up in our dump yard. The wagon was smashed. Grandpa Forbes from the States was there visiting, and he repaired the little wagon.
Sig Brekhus and Ted Drury were working for Reg Harris during haying time. But it was too wet to hay. There were three or four broncs in the corral being broke to drive. The men decided that to save time, instead of driving each one with a broke horse and making two trips, they would hook together two that had been driven once and go for a drive. They were driving along a corduroy road across a swamp when the two broncs began to run. One ran faster and turned their outfit off the road and into the swamp where they got mired down belly deep. The men were able to unhook the horses and get them out, but had to go back with a broke team and pull the wagon out backwards because the tongue was driven into the mud. So did they didn’t save much time. They didn’t tell their boss until the next day. He just sort of grinned and didn’t say anything.
These are the runaway stories I remember.