Penny and I

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In my writings, I’ve mentioned the buckskin mare, Penny, who helped raise me. She and I were foaled on the same year, her in June, me in November, so we literally grew up together. She was orphaned before she was old enough to wean, so was raised around the corrals and was an absolute pet.

When she and I were four and almost four, my brother thought it would be okay to put me on Penny to “help” him and Dad work some cattle. Penny took good care of me and we got along fine until Mom found out, then I was quickly demoted to the hard mouthed, hot headed pony who would run off with me on occasion. It was a poor trade, for sure.

I was the youngest of six kids, and there was quite a gap between me and the others, so I played alone. The barn kitties were all gentle and had names, the old dog Jinx went with me often, and I entertained myself all over the corrals and creeks when I probably wasn’t really old enough to do so. As long as I was back by mealtime, Mom didn’t seem to worry. My gravitation toward horses was strong, so I’d walk out into the horse pasture and find the bunch of saddle horses. In that bunch was the boss, Reno, Dad’s top horse, and his full sister Penny. Also, there would have been others of various dispositions and gentleness in the bunch. I’d approach them and Penny would come to meet me. Her beautiful head and eyes would lower to my height so I could pet her. I’d talk to her a bit then I’d crawl up her leg and sit on her. Around we’d go, me kicking my short legs to make her walk. She wouldn’t leave the bunch and Reno didn’t allow any of the others to pick on Penny, so
really, I was quite safe. The fact that there was just a little tuft of mane on her withers, as roached manes was in vogue back then, didn’t concern me. It was enough and Penny didn’t do anything sudden to threaten my balance on her. If we were moving and I wanted to stop and look at something, I’d lean over a little bit, like I might be falling off, and Penny would freeze in place.
We’d graze all over the pasture, go to a dam for a drink, and stand around napping and fighting flies. I was just part of her and the bunch. I’d slide off and drink from the dam with them, and then pretend I was a horse and “graze” alongside Penny. I’m supposing I picked a lot of grass that would have served the livestock better, but, it grew back. When I got tired of being with them, I’d hug Penny’s neck or leg and head on to my next adventure.
I don’t know if Mom ever knew about my hanging out with the bunch of horses out in the pasture. She was leary of horses and didn’t ride herself, so I imagine she’d have had a fit if she’d known. The one time my sister and I talked her into riding a horse, it was Penny she rode, as she was absolutely trustworthy, but it scared her and we didn’t go far. Ironically, my Mom, though scared of horses, could milk any cow that was every born no matter how rank the cow was. I guess it’s all in what you grew up with. She grew up with cows. I grew up with both.
Penny only ever got to raise two colts, besides me, and they were both outstanding individuals and had special places in my heart. Her daughter, in her time, raised my son when he was very small, with the same attitude and patience as her mother had toward me.
When past 30, Penny’s old legs and body were failing, and she was laid to rest on my brother’s place, after getting his little girls started riding. She was a one in a million horse. I’m sure glad we were born on the same ranch and got to be together all those years.

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About Jan Swan Wood

Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....

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