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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Livestock

By Jane Thibodeau Martin, daughter of the Old-Timer

I grew up on an old farmstead of 40 acres. My Mother grew up on a cheese factory, so she had a rural upbringing. And Dad lived in town, but in a time when farm animals were a part of the small towns - his Grandfather had kept a horse, and many houses had a few chickens or a pigpen. So from time to time, experiments in livestock keeping were conducted at our house.

I recently wrote about our chickens. We named them all, and felt badly when they ended up on the dinner table. We had to get someone to care for them if we were away for a weekend, and by the time you bought feed, oyster shell and other supplies for them you could probably buy eggs and butchered chickens for about the same price we spent to raise our own.

Then we had a few rabbits. We were fond of a dish called, I think, Hasenpfeffer, rabbit marinated in wine. However, while we loved the rabbit dish, seeing the cute furry bunnies with long ears was also off-putting. Keeping the rabbits safely caged and preventing the local predators from enjoying rare rabbit was also a challenge, so this experiment was also short-lived.

Then there was “Nippy.” My sister and I clamored for a horse continually, and eventually a neighbor offered us a Shetland pony. He was little and cute as a button. My parents, bless their hearts, wanted to grant us our wish. We could have taken a clue from his name - “Nippy” was a nasty biter. We renamed him something more glamorous - “Phantom.” We prepared a place for him in our shed and the plan was to tie him out for grazing, since we had no fence. None of us knew enough about horses then, to know that even a tiny stud horse is very likely to be difficult to handle, and that we were woefully inexperienced with horses to take on a renegade like this one. And trying to keep a stud home without a really secure fence was a fool’s errand.

All went well the first night, but in the morning, Phantom was gone. It appeared he went out the large opening in the side of the shed which served as a sort of coverless “window,” jumping over the top of the bottom lip, which was probably 30 inches high. After a frantic search we found him, and returned him home. He took a couple of chunks out of our arms on the way back. He was tied out for the afternoon to graze and around dinnertime, was missing again. Phantom was a very accurate name for the pony, it would seem. We rounded him up, and it was harder to catch him this time. While the situation was not the dream we’d had, we did not give up. The window was boarded up higher, and knots tied in the ropes he had broken.

The next day we conducted several more round-ups, and the next day, again. A few more chunks were bitten out of our arms and legs. At this point, my parents suggested we return the pony to his former home down the road, and we didn’t resist.

My sister and I are both horse owners now. Nippy may have been the pony from hell, but he didn’t kill our love for horses. My sister and I converse about conformation, hay quality, the merits of various fences and bedding. We commiserate about horse vets and farriers. But I still don’t think, to this day, that either one of us could handle “Nippy.”


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