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Horsing around with Tony

It’s fairly busy this time of year. What with the Boone, Polk and Story county fairs all taking place recently, this entire area has been alive with activity. You might say it’s the Olympics with an agricultural touch.

Area young people enter everything from clothing styles to jam recipes at the fairs. Everyone seems to enjoy the judging – especially the judges.

Probably the main attraction for spectators is the livestock competition. Featured are some of the nicest-looking, cleanest-cut, sweetest-smelling and best-behaved animals in the Midwest.

Having worked with various varieties of livestock in my youth, it’s easy to understand how the young handlers and their living projects form a mutual bond.

Being a “city slicker,” I never did actually show any of my livestock friends in competition. I did, however, work with a wide variety, from rabbits, pigeons, chickens all the way up to horses.

Most of “my” horses belonged to my father, but I claimed them anyway. Dad allowed me to ride them anytime I so desired, but, of course, there were strings attached. I was expected to clean the barn, feed them when necessary and move them from pasture to pasture as the seasons progressed.

Of all the horses we had over the years, my favorite was a big white gelding called Tony. He was half American Saddle Horse and half Arabian. He could run like the wind.

The night Dad bought him at the Ankeny Sales Barn was one of the most exciting times of my then 14 years. He was just about everything a kid could want in a horse: big, beautiful and, seemingly well-behaved. The fact that he looked just like the Lone Ranger’s horse didn’t hurt.

We soon discovered that Tony had a bad habit. He would explode into a gallop when touched in the flanks. That was the opposite of my other horse, old Babe, who had to be nudged in the flanks to move. I soon discovered that if you even touched Tony in the flanks you were in for the ride of a lifetime.

For an entire summer we rode Tony in our big pasture before graduating to the streets of town. Traffic didn’t seem to bother him, except for motorcycles.

One afternoon, my friend, Lars, and I were riding Tony double when the new kid in town spotted us. This particular kid was a real pain. He bragged about being better at everything.

Lars and I listened to him brag for several minutes about how great a jockey he used to be. When he grew too big to be a jockey, he became a rodeo star. Quite impressive for someone who was just 14 years old.

I’m sure he gained confidence because the whole time he was bragging, Tony stood there like an old draft horse.

Finally he asked if he could take Tony for a ride. Lars and I dismounted and handed him the reins. We did warn him not to touch Tony’s flanks, figuring that’s exactly what he would do as soon as he got out of our eyesight.

He and Tony slowly headed toward the town park. A few minutes later, we heard Lilypad Lilland come driving by on his old Harley motorcycle. A few seconds after that, Tony flew around the corner and came to a screeching halt. Trouble was, his saddle was empty.

Lars and I got back up on Tony and retraced the route we figured they had taken. We found the new kid still sitting in the yard where Tony had deposited him. He seemed confused over what had just happened.

That was a long time ago. As I remember, the new kid didn’t brag nearly as much afterwards as he did before. I guess Tony taught him a lesson.

Gee, I miss Tony.

(Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.)

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