The covered wagon

My parents bought an old non working farm in the summer of 1958. This farm consisted of over thirty acres of land, a farm house with an attached garage and off that was an enclosed walk way to the barn. The barn which had partially burned at one time still had one section with a few stanchions for tying up cows There was another section used to house other farm animals such as pigs and sheep plus a large hay mow. At the end of the drive was was a five bay tool shed which ran at a ninety degree angle with the drive way. Then off to one side of the tool shed was a small chicken coop which would probably house fifty or so chickens. This place ended up being home for my parents for more than forty years before they both passed away.

It didn’t take my brother Greg and myself long to make friends with our closest neighbor, Dave. Dave was five years older than I was and it never ceased to amaze me how much knowledge he had acquired in the five years I wasn’t around. In our eyes Dave knew everything. One of the first things Dave taught Greg and me to do was how to fill our cheeks full of air and let little bursts of squeaky air out so we sounded like Donald Duck. This used to irritate my Mom to no end, especially when the three of us came in from playing outside and she asked us if we would like a snack. The three of us would then stand there with our cheeks puffed out talking like Donald and trying to tell her what we wanted. As it turned out almost everything we did sooner or later rubbed Mom the wrong way. I remember one time Mom made the statement that it wouldn’t hurt either one of us boys to get a little religion. Years later when she was reminded of her words she would shake her head and say ” I should have known better.” But that is another story for another time.

Dave lived on the farm that was sandwiched between our house and the village. This farm had a very large field that ran from the edge of town to the valley below. Across the road from about the middle of this field was the farm house and a big three story brown barn along with several old tool and storage sheds. Dave’s farm had a bunch of cows, two huge old work horses and a really big billy goat. I have long forgotten what Dave told me was the breed of his goat but it was huge and tipped the scales a bit more than two hundred fifty pounds.

After school, Greg not yet old enough to go, would wait for my bus to arrive and then both Greg and I would wait for Dave to show up. We had a daily ritual of watching The Three Stooges and after a while each one of us assumed the identity of one of the Stooges. Dave was Moe, Greg was Larry and I was Curly. Moe was the one that was always smacking Larry and Curly in the back of the head and that was pretty much what life was like with Dave. We also watched an western, I think it was Wagon Train. When the show was over all we could talk about was riding in a covered wagon or galloping along on a horse, getting caught in a buffalo stampede or fighting outlaws. Then at the end of the day drinking hot coffee from a tin cup while sitting around an open fire.

Dave’s Dad, Claude, had warned us about how hurt we could get if we ever tried to ride one of his cows and he said that was even before he got his hands on us, so we stayed away from the cows. The two old work horses’s size alone prevented us from even trying to ride them. And then Dave’s billy goat was just plain ugly. I mean whenever we saw Wobbles tongue come out and his ears lay back, all three of us would scatter in different directions and run for our lives. All the time, each of us praying, that Wobbles had chosen one of the other two to run down and thrash .

Then one day Dave found an old wagon in one of the sheds. We dragged it out and by using old burlap grain bags we were able to make the old wagon into our own personal covered wagon and it even looked a little bit like the ones on tv. One Saturday morning Dave showed up with the covered wagon with one of the old work horses hooked to the front of it. Greg and I took no time at all in climbing on board and as we were leaving the dooryard Mom came out with a lunch she had packed for us along with a large thermos of hot chocolate.

We were going to do what we called the Ha Penny loop. Ha Penny connected Penny Street with the Macks Mtn. Road and would loop us through the village and back home. Our plan was to wait until we hit the mile and a quarter long Ha. Penny Road before we dug into the hot chocolate and lunch our mom had made for us. Dave could let go of the reigns and enjoy his lunch while the old work horse plodded along this seldom used road. No sooner had we started to eat our sandwiches when we heard the dreaded whooooooosssh. That miserable old horse waited until we were trying to eat our lunches before he released some gas he had been storing up for an occasion just like this. It seemed like every time we opened our mouths to take a bite the horse would let another blast go. I don’t know if any of you have ever been around an old horse with digestive problems, but it makes eating your lunch all but impossible. It was awful and lasted just as long as our lunch did. I swear at one point that miserable old horse turned his head and gave us a big yellow tooth grin. Dave promised both Greg and me that he would get even with the horse and fix it so that he wouldn’t be able to do that again.

The following Saturday, when Dave arrived, we noticed that he taken a long two inch wide leather strap and fastened it to one side of the harness that ran down the back of the horse. He then continued this strap down around the back of the old horse under his tail and hooked the other end of the strap to the harness that ran down the other side of the horse’s back. This anti gas strap sure did look like it would work. Only later did we find out that we were wrong.

As soon as we hit the Ha Penny Road and reached for our lunch we discovered that all this strap did was give this horse something he could vibrate against his back side. By the time we returned from that trip the horse had convinced the three of us that riding in a covered wagon wasn’t all that much fun after all, so we moved onto the next thing on our list. Goat riding.

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