Horse Crazy

By Julie Buckles | December 23, 2014


Listen Online

Editor’s Note: Many young kids are crazy for horses. Writer Julie Buckles was no different. Today, she tells us about her family’s horsey history.

As a girl, I was crazy for horses. I painted and collected ceramic horses, read Misty of Chincoteague religiously and galloped around our dairy farm, as if riding the range. Bonanza was my favorite program and for a period, I imagined that I was Little Joe, rounding up cattle and fighting off bad guys.

Every year,  I would take a red pen and circle the gun and holster set in the Sears catalog and send that page off to Santa, but  apparently Santa was a pacifist.

You’d think, having all that desire, space and access to hay, we might have had horses. But my parents were not Horse People. We were practical Dairy People and horses were an afterthought at best.

When I was five, my grandpa Joe got a pony named Rusty for my twin uncles — a dubious deal negotiated over drinks at the DeSoto tavern. The selling point for Grandpa was that Rusty could “single foot.” No one knew what that meant, least of all Grandpa, but he liked to talk about Rusty’s single-footin’ ability.

When my cousin Diane begged her dad for a horse, Grandpa offered Rusty and even delivered him to their farm. Rusty immediately partnered with a black angus heifer and disappeared into a patch of “ditch weed,” or wild marijuana. Rusty’s greatest trick was to find a low hanging branch, run at it at top speed, and knock Diane off as fast as you could say “single foot.” Diane is still fuming.

When I was 10, my dad drove in the driveway with a borrowed trailer containing a pony named Toby. The details are fuzzy but Toby came from the county farm, free and with a saddle.

Circus Peanuts and grooming pleased Toby but having riders on his back did not . His favorite trick was to take Dad and me to the farthest point away on the farm, buck us off and then for good measure, rear up and try to trample us.

I still loved him.

At 15, I lobbied for an Appaloosa named Shasta that came cheap at the end of the season from a riding farm. She had one fantastic quality: she was pregnant.

The family’s one — and possibly only — horsy highlight arrived one Easter morning with the birth of Chesarae, a spindly foal. We’d seen plenty of calves born, but nothing as gorgeous as this. The entire extended family leaned on the wooden fence and watched him weave and wander and eventually suckle.

From that beautiful beginning, there was no direction but down. Shasta bucked Mom onto her head and she refused to ride. Then Shasta rolled with my younger brother attached and he refused to ride. And Chesarae grew into a willful teenager.

After high school. I hopped in a truck with my boyfriend for a summer of camping out west before starting UW-Madison. The horses broke through the fencing and with no one to ride them or even to like them, Dad unilaterally decided to sell.

I cried and I yelled but I knew, it was over.

I went to say goodbye to my horses back at the riding ranch. Tearfully, I stood at the side of the fence, waiting for my Bonanza moment, when Shasta and Chesarae would sense my presence, gallop over to nuzzle me.

But it never came, and I drove to college.

Julie Buckles

Julie Buckles

Julie Buckles is a writer in Ashland and the author of Paddling to Winter. She was born in the driftless region of Wisconsin and raised on a 47-acre dairy farm. She now lives near Washburn with her husband, Charly, two children and a team of Siberian huskies. Buckles has worked as...
2018-01-19T17:52:18-06:00Tags: , , |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.