Monday, August 27, 2012

Jobs required for pony and mule

Last week my son wrote me an e-mail and asked if I had pictures of Homer.  I told him I was sure I did, but did not know where they were. Homer was a miniature mule.

This morning I decided to tackle the horrible task of cleaning out the closet under the steps. In that odd-shaped space were crammed Christmas ornaments, blankets, boxes of unknown items, and a box that held Jason's 4-H record.  He did one on Dog Care when his grandaddy let him supervise the pregnancy and delivery of a litter of red Australian Shepherds.

In that file was the picture of Homer.

Bubba Rhodes (left) and Jason Gibert driving Homer in the Senatobia Christmas Parade.
On the back of the cart is the sign, "Dandridge Leather Shop."
When the kids were little and thought they needed a pony, my daddy—the ultimate trader—swapped a green-broken, non-colored Appaloosa mare for Homer the miniature mule, and Nugget, a paint-colored, chestnut and white, Shetland pony.

Daddy thought animals needed jobs, so he made sure Homer and Nugget could earn their keep.  Nugget could be ridden, but barely. When we first got him, he would let you ride awhile and then go to the nearest post and scrape his bridle off.  The girls put a stop to that.  Before long Hayley could ride him around our backyard pasture bareback.

Hayley and Nugget get in an afternoon ride in the pasture at Westwood. 
Daddy made Nugget and Homer a cart and made sure both could safely pull it before loading it with kids.  I walked beside Jason and Bubba at the Christmas parade, holding on to Homer's harness every time we stopped. He would walk forever with that cart but was not so good at stopping.

We soon found out that Homer could not be ridden. He would upset the rider and then look down on him or her with his sad-looking, big-eared face.  But he was great at halter breaking colts.  Remember I said he usually got his way. If Homer wanted to go one way, the colt had no choice but to follow.

See what I mean?
I guess Homer and Nugget were about five or six when we got them. Their hair was long, they needed clipping and worming.

In time they turned into respectable-looking guys. Nugget was our pride and joy in local shows and 4-H.  Both girls showed him in pony pleasure, they ran him in barrels and poles (he couldn't go very fast), and he even captured a Reserve Grand Champion Pony Gelding award in 4-H.

We had birthday parties and Nugget was the entertainment—pulling the cart or letting kids take turns riding while I led him. We took Nugget and another pony Ace to the Very Special Arts Festival at Northwest and let children with disabilities take turns in the saddle. You should have seen their smiles!

Jason and friend John Alexander took a turn in the cart one July 4th.
Homer was sold to a man down the road from our farm.  We were sad to learn later that he had died. We sold Nugget to a little girl who wanted a beginner barrel pony after Olivia was too old to show him.  I remember Daddy saying, "This pony may not be the sharpest one in the ring, but you'll never have to worry about your little girl on or around him."

I've been known to say that horses don't love people—not like dogs do. But when Hayley and I saw Nugget at a barrel race years later, I had to rethink that statement. He was standing tied to a trailer, beginning to show his age and taking a little nap.  She walked up to him from the side and ran her hand down from his ears over his nose. He opened his brown eyes and inhaled deeply. I watched as he nestled his head into the pit of her stomach. He took another breath and the sighed loudly.

Olivia lets her favorite cat Patches take a ride on Nugget.  


  1. This is so cute. Your children were so fortunate to have grown up with horses and dogs and you.

  2. He, Nugget, was a great pony to learn from. I had totally forgotten about him rubbing his bridle off...tickled me to peices.