The Last of the Great Horse Traders

“Whoa. You son-of-a-bitch,” the large man whispered to his horse.  “Whoa.”

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Over the years, I have heard many stories about my grandfather, Tom Allen, and how he was one of the best horse traders around.  My mom would often tell how she would watch grandpa break his horses.  She would always laugh, “He would swear like a sailor, but he would speak to them in a soft voice, just as if he were speaking to a baby.” 

As kids, we enjoyed talking to him about life on the ranch, and of course, we wanted to know about his horses.  “Never buy a horse with four white socks,” grandpa advised.  “They will have trouble with their feet.”  Funny how, I still remember that advice even though I didn’t follow it.  I wished with all my heart that my grandpa had been around when I had my horse, Beau.  I can just imagine the fun we would have had as he hollered at me over my city girl ways.

Beau was a stubborn mix of Arabian and quarter horse.  He was all all black with a white blaze on his face, and four white socks (sorry grandpa).  And yes, grandpa was right; Beau was a bit of a tenderfoot, and I had to pay special attention to his feet.  I loved that horse, but at times, he acted up, especially around water.  So many times, I wished I had grandpa close by, so I could ask him questions.  I even tried whispering, “Whoa, you son-of-a bitch,” but it didn’t quite work like it did for grandpa.

I know that he would have been tickled that Beau was a cow pony, and sometimes when I helped others round up cows, I wished grandpa could see me fly, well, except for that one time when Beau had a calf cornered.  The calf suddenly turned and so did Beau.  And yes, I found myself sitting in the dust.  I am sure he would have chuckled before telling me to get back on that horse.

I have always remembered grandpa’s saddle.  It was oiled and well taken care of.  I loved the smooth leather, and it’s wonderful smell.  My grandpa also served in WW1, and at one point, he sent home for his saddle because the army wanted him to break horses to ride.  After about six months, he was sent home with a broken ankle and a disability pension for his service.  How awesome was that!  My grandpa broke horses for the military!

According to other family members, my grandpa loved horses since he was a boy.  They stated that he always knew a good horse when he saw one.  Besides raising sheep, grandpa also traded horses for a living.  And from family reports, he always got the best end of the deal.  When my grandpa died, his nephew, Paul Allen, said “Well, the last of the great horse traders is dead.”

How I have missed my grandpa!  An old cowboy saying reminds that “every horse, at least once in it’s life, deserved to be loved by a little girl.”  Well, I believe every little girl should be loved by a grandpa who spoiled his grand children and never missed an opportunity to say how much he loved that damn cute kid.



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