Horse Crazy Gal

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Melody Huttinger


My earliest memories are all wrapped up around horses and as an extension of that, my father. He was a true-life horse trader; making his living and feeding his family by trading horses. Not one of those sleazy con artists that popular culture depicts, but a rare horse and people savvy breed, who could match a horse personality to a human personality for a great fit. If, for some reason the person didn’t get along with the selected horse (usually because the person, instead of my father made the selection), my father would happily trade for a different animal. The end result, was a happy customer, but more importantly to my father, a happy horse.

My father was born at the turn of the last century. It was a different world than we know it today. He was born to a ranching family in Oregon, the third of four children, with two much older sisters, and a brother only one year younger.

His authoritarian father was rough on the rowdy boys and easy on the girls. My dad chaffed at the seemingly unfair treatment. Life was hard on the ranch with endless chores, trying to make ends meet raising cattle and farming what arable land was available. It was a narrow existence with little free time for personal pursuits. Even if there was a rare hour or two without a grueling task to perform, the only recreation available was hunting or fishing. My father longed to explore the wider world and meet new people.

Even though he would miss his sweet-tempered mother, my dad left his home for good at the tender age of fourteen. He rode off on his horse, Snip, up a mountain he’d always wanted to explore, and found freedom for the first time. He camped by himself for a few nights, relishing the time alone. Then, continuing on his trek, found work at a large cattle ranch. He punched cows and broke horses for the outfit. As part of his pay, he was allowed to keep one ranch colt from each bunch that he trained. Soon, he was selling horses to nearby ranches and gained a reputation for providing solid cow ponies to those outfits. After a few years of saving money, he left the steady paycheck to strike out on his own. My father still had “itchy feet” for new horizons, and not only left the ranch, but also the whole area. He crossed the Cascade mountains with his string of horses and headed for Eastern Oregon. There, he met many people and started his new career of trading horses.

The Oregon desert, east of the Cascades, is the home to many wild mustangs. My father set out to capture some of these horses, partnering with his new buddy, Al.

To be continued . . .


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Horse Crazy Gal

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