This is a short story about a young man and two horses, illustrating, among other things, the modesty of a 17-year-old.
The name of the youth was Walter S. Dishon, who lived on a small farm in Carroll County, Indiana. The two horses were both named Fred and were considered a handsome team, as horses go. Their coloration was nearly alike: reddish brown (“bay” in horse language). Each weighed approximately 1,800 pounds, which put them in the heavyweight class. Each was nearly 10 years old—when horses are in their prime of life. The two of them were settled and disciplined in their role as faithful draft horses on the farm.
The season was summertime: long days of warm sunshine and an ideal time for county fairs. So it was in Carroll County, and Walter (well known as “Walt) was aware that at the county fair in Flora a horse-pulling contest was planned. Walt had confidence in his two Freds to compete in such an event. He therefore asked permission from our dad to enter, and received an affirmative answer, despite some negative elements. Flora, for instance, was 8 miles away from where we lived and that constituted a 2-hour constant trot to get there. Also on the 8-miles, roundtrip, there was danger of one horse becoming lame or being hit by an auto. Despite the negatives, Dad and Walt both felt optimistic and so the word was “good luck!”
On the morning of the big event, Walt was up and going early. As he placed the harness on each horse, he made sure that each and every leather strap was strong. Having hitched his beloved team to the rubber-tired wagon, he was ready to roll! He stopped by the house to say goodbye to Mom. She handed him a brown paper bag and said, “Here are a couple sandwiches for you to munch on as you travel. Good luck!” With that, he was off!
The two Freds seemed to anticipate something as they trotted along. The sunshine was bright and warm, obviously enjoyable to Walt. Soon, the outskirts of Flora hove into sight and Walt was glad that the park was on his side of town. As he entered the park, he could see two other teams already there. The officials indicated that the three teams were all that had entered, and one official said, “Let’s get started.”
They drew starting order papers—1-2-3. Walt drew #3. On the first go around, the sled was loaded fairly lightly with concrete blocks and all three teams successfully pulled it the required 30 feet. On the second effort, the sled was loaded with 5,000 lbs. more in blocks. Two teams were successful, and one was not. On the third pull, the sled was loaded with 5,000 lbs. more weight. The remaining team (besides Walt) gave it a try, but because they were not pulling together, they flunked out. That meant that if the two Freds could pull it the distance, they would be the winners.
The two horses showed some nervousness as Walt hitched them to the sled. They could anticipate a very hard pull coming up. Walt walked around to their heads and very gently talked to them and rubbed their foreheads. That seemed to quiet them down. Walt once again walked to the back, picked up the driving lines and said, “Easy, boys.” At that statement the team inched forward, thus evening and tightening the double trees—ready to go. Walt then slapped the lines on their rumps and yelped in a loud voice, “Gidd-up boys.” At that instant, both horses flexed all four leg muscles, leaning forward to one-half their normal height. It was a pretty sight to see such enormous power in such perfect coordination! The sled started to move: 3 ft., 5 ft., 10 ft. Walt slapped the lines on their rumps again. They continued onward 15 ft., 20 ft., 25 ft., 30 ft.—the required distance!
The crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle suddenly cheered and clapped! The governing official announced, “The champions are the bay team driven by Walter Dishon” and the crowd erupted in loud applause.
On the way home, Walt didn’t have to drive the team; they knew they were homeward bound. The team knew the way and it could only be described as an enthusiastic pace. When they entered the driveway at home, they trotted past the house to the barn. There, Walt was unhitching the faithful pair when Mom appeared and asked, “How did you do?” Walt looked up, smiled, and uttered two words while he continued his work: “I won.” Those two words were enough to send Mom scrambling back to the house to prepare supper.
The two faithful steeds were led to the watering tank for a cool, refreshing drink, and then into their stables where Dad had filled their manger with a good dinner of oats and freshly made tender and delectable alfalfa hay.
By that time, Mom was calling, “Supper is ready!” Walt washed the dust off before sitting down, despite the fact that a very delicious aroma of supper was calling otherwise and the air was heavily electrified. The countenance of Mom and Dad was heavy with pride and joy. It was a day of days. Their son had just won the draft horse championship for the entire county of Carroll!
Walt discovered what smelled so delicious. Mom had baked his all-time favorite dessert: black raspberry cobbler with homemade cream for topping! It was a day to be thankful for everything, to appreciate life and especially appreciate the blessing from God!
Remembered by Harry Dishon, brother of Walt.
About the Author
Harry Dishon is a retired veteran living in Howard County. He and his wife Joan recently recorded some of Harry’s recollections as a child and as a soldier, and we are honored to be able to share these memories with you. Periodically, we will post selections from Harry’s writings on our Military Appreciation page, so please come back and share some of Harry’s insights and memories.