Most people have heard of Crazy Horse, the Lakota Sioux Indian who has been memorialized in the Black Hills. Most of us know that Crazy Horse was a great warrior, but I did not know much about his upbringing. Crazy Horse was born on the Republican River about 1845. Crazy Horse was an uncommonly handsome man, and a man of refinement and grace. He was as modest and courteous as Chief Joseph, but unlike Chief Joseph, Crazy Horse was a born warrior, but a gentle warrior, a true brave, who stood for the highest ideal of the Lakota Sioux people. Of course, you would never hear these things from his enemies, but history should probably judge him more by the accounts of those who knew him…his own people.
No matter what Crazy Horse the man was or was thought to be, Crazy Horse, the boy showed great bravery a number of times. In those days, the Sioux prided themselves on the training and development of their sons and daughters, and not a step in that development was overlooked as an excuse to bring the child before the public by giving a feast in its honor. At such times the parents often gave so generously to the needy that they almost impoverished themselves, thus setting an example to the child of self-denial for the general good. His first step alone, the first word spoken, first game killed, the attainment of manhood or womanhood, each was the occasion of a feast and dance in his honor, at which the poor always benefited to the full extent of the parents’ ability. He was carefully brought up according to the tribal customs. I suppose it would have put him in the Indian version of today’s high society.
He was about five years old when the tribe was snowed in one severe winter. They were very short of food, but his father tirelessly hunted for food. The buffalo, their main dependence, were not to be found, but he was out in the storm and cold every day and finally brought in two antelopes. Young Crazy Horse got on his pet pony and rode through the camp, telling the old folks to come to his mother’s teepee for meat. Neither his father nor mother had authorized him to do this, and before they knew it, old men and women were lined up before the teepee home, to receive the meat, in answer to his invitation. As a result, the mother had to distribute nearly all of it, keeping only enough for two meals. On the following day he asked for food. His mother told him that the old folks had taken it all, and added: “Remember, my son, they went home singing praises in your name, not my name or your father’s. You must be brave. You must live up to your reputation.” And so he did.
When he was about twelve he went to look for the ponies with his little brother, whom he loved much, and took a great deal of pains to teach what he had already learned. They came to some wild cherry trees full of ripe fruit. Suddenly, the brothers were startled by the growl and sudden rush of a bear. Young Crazy Horse pushed his brother up into the nearest tree and then jumped upon the back of one of the horses, which was frightened and ran some distance before he could control him. As soon as he could, he turned him about and came back, yelling and swinging his lariat over his head. The bear at first showed fight but finally turned and ran. The old man who told me this story added that young as he was, he had some power, so that even a grizzly did not care to tackle him. I believe it is a fact that a grizzly will dare anything except a bell or a lasso line, so he accidentally hit upon the very thing which would drive him off.
At this period of his life, as was customary with the best young men, he spent much time in prayer and solitude. Just what happened in these days of his fasting in the wilderness and upon the crown of bald buttes, no one will ever know. These things may only be known when one has lived through the battles of life to an honored old age. He was much sought after by his youthful associates, but was noticeably reserved and modest. Yet, in the moment of danger he at once rose above them all…a natural leader! Crazy Horse was a typical Sioux brave, and from the point of view of the white man, an ideal hero.
At the age of sixteen he joined a war party against the Gros Ventres. He was well in the front of the charge, and at once established his bravery by following closely one of the foremost Sioux warriors, by the name of Hump, drawing the enemy’s fire and circling around their advance guard. Suddenly Hump’s horse was shot from under him, and there was a rush of warriors to kill or capture him while he was down. Amidst a shower of arrows Crazy Horse jumped from his pony, helped his friend into his own saddle, sprang up behind him, and carried him off to safety, although they were hotly pursued by the enemy. Thus, in his first battle he associated himself with the wizard of Indian warfare, and Hump, who was then at the height of his own career. Hump pronounced Crazy Horse the coming warrior of the Teton Sioux. He was killed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, in 1877, so that he lived barely thirty-three years.
When I was a little girl, we had a rocking pony. Most families with little ones did. It was a great entertainment item. I don’t know how my sisters felt about that pony, or if they ever had a chance to ride it if I was around, because I loved that pony!! According to my mom, it was the most important toy I had. I rode it everyday…sometimes all day…or at lease until my mom said I had to take a nap, eat dinner, or go somewhere. Otherwise, that pony was my baby. I might have agreed to leave the pony if we could play with kittens or something like that, because I loved kittens too. You see, there were important things in life, but some things are just more important. That pony and kittens…in my life, those things were just more important.
Mom liked to take pictures of her girls, especially when we were all dressed up in the frilly dresses she liked to dress us in. Usually this was not a problem. Like most kids, we liked having our picture taken, but if we were very near my pony…I could be easily distracted. The lure of a ride on my pony was so strong. The pony was so much fun. I rode it hard. I never rocked the horse, I galloped. The pony and I rode so hard that the base came off the floor and eventually put ruts in the wood. How could pictures possibly live up to that? They couldn’t in my book. That pony was the coolest toy ever!!
I don’t recall my thoughts from those rides, but I have a pretty good idea that I was thinking of galloping along the prairie in the wind…or maybe all I thought of was how it felt while I was riding that horse…as fast as I could go. Whenever I was on that pony, speed was all that mattered. It made riding hard to resist. It was also hard to think about silly things like getting a picture taken. I have to wonder if my parents got frustrated with me sometimes, or if they simply understood.
Sometimes, Mom and Dad lost the battle for the photo, where I was concerned, because while my sister, Cheryl Masterson always posed nicely for the pictures they wanted to taken, sometimes, I just couldn’t be bothered, because my pony and I had places to go, people to see, and things to do. As I said, some things are just more important that other things. That was my pony…the most important thing in my little world, so Cheryl was in the picture and I was in the background.
My grand nephew, James has become quite the ladies’ man, and now that he is turning 16, I’m sure that will only get worse…for his mom, my niece, Toni, who would much rather have her young man stay a boy for a while longer, I’m sure. Unfortunately for Toni, there just isn’t anything you can do about your kids growing up, and James is one of those men who would have to be classified as tall, dark, and handsome, and we have always thought he looked a little bit like Elvis, so most likely that is what always catches the eye of the girls in the area. It is a fact of life.
It seems like just yesterday that James was born. He was such a cute little boy, with lots of dark hair. He was a quiet boy, but that didn’t mean that his sense of humor didn’t shine forth. James likes being funny, in a subtle way. He’s not like the class clown or anything, but instead, his antics are designed to make people notice that he is goofy and then laugh with him. Although, every once in a while, James will go on a streak, and do something totally crazy, like ride on a pony ride…I didn’t think those even existed anymore…did you?
It seems like with every baby that was due in June, my mom would hope for them to arrive on her dad’s birthday…June 15th. While some have come close, none actually made Mom’s perfect arrival date, until James came on the scene. I wish he could have known his great great grandpa, but that was not to be, since he would have been 104 at the time James was born. Nevertheless, James reminds me a little bit of my Grandpa…mostly in the way he is built…tall and slender, and maybe in his personality…both of them being quiet men and all. So my mom finally got her wish for the June babies in our family. One finally arrived on the right day…June 15th, the birthday that James shares with his great great grandpa. Today is James’ 16th birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
A number of years ago, the local paper in Casper, Wyoming ran an article about my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. The article was about his hobby turned business, and was entitled, “Another Kind of Chairman”. My father-in-law took old lawn chairs that had damaged seats, and used cord to re-weave them into new chairs. The seats and seat backs of his chairs had designs in them for football team logos to musical notes. He also made tin men that hang from a hook and wind decorations for fences. He was known throughout Casper, and everyone knew his house, because of all the yard decorations he had up. It looked really cool.
Recently, my father-in-law was in the hospital for several days. At 83 years of age, this is a periodic occurrence. After a few days, he was released, and when we got home, he checked the messages at the house, and found that a woman had called about having him make some chairs for her. He told me that he couldn’t do them anymore. He had some to do already that he couldn’t get finished. You see, his vision isn’t so good right now, and he is weaker than he has been in the past. He had known this was coming for a while, but I hadn’t realized it. I take care of my in-laws, but I was too focused on health care issues to notice the unfinished chair in the living room hadn’t really changed over the past few months. And, since I’m not there every minute of the day, I was unaware that he was no longer making tin men, and in fact had given the last one he made to his sister, Esther…something she was very thankful for, because it is a treasure to her.
As I called the woman back to tell her that my father-in-law wouldn’t be able to make the chairs she wanted, I decided that we needed to take down the sign he has on the outside of his house, advertising the chairs. Later, when I mentioned to Bob that we needed to down the sign, it occurred to me that this was the end of an era. He had been making those different things for so long that I couldn’t really recall just when he started. I do remember him making a stick pony for my girls when they were little. That would have to be more than 30 years ago. So many people have been thrilled with their chairs, but sadly, as people age there are things they can’t do anymore, I know that, but this didn’t seem like something that he wouldn’t be able to do, and the fact that it is makes me very sad. Sad for him, and for the people who will not get to enjoy the things he made. Sad that this is the end of an era.
There are few things in the life of a toddler that they enjoy more than a pony ride on a grandparent’s foot. It is the first type of ride most kids get to take…almost like their first carnival ride. It is amazing that such a simple ride can thoroughly delight a child. It is such a simple thing to do and yet it can give the rider hours of fun…if your leg could hold out that long that is. Nevertheless, the child will continue to as you to “do it again” for hours.
We seem to mimic some of the rides we loved as children in the play with our toddlers a lot. The merry-go-round is done by swinging the child around until they are dizzy and delighted. The airplane is done by lying on the floor and holding the child’s hand while lifting them with your feet into the air. They may not know what we are imitating, because they are too young, but this type of play is passed down from generation to generation.
I remember that JD really loved to get these rides when he was little, and he would ask anyone in the room to give him another ride. Sometimes he would have to go from person to person as one leg or another would get tired, or the adult would get bored with the game. It’s funny how some kids like the pony ride more than others. JD loved his pony rides.
Today, JD rides a different kind of pony…or should I say horse power. JD rides and has raced motorcycles, along with his little brother, Eric. And lets not forget the many cars and pickups that have made their way into JD’s life. He will spend hours working on a vehicle…often into the wee hours of the morning, when he doesn’t have to work the next day. Sometimes, I think he is obsessed with engines, but I suppose that is not all that unusual, given that his dad also loves engines, cars, and motorcycles.
Today, JD has taken on the role of the ride giver with the little ones we have in the family. He is always roughhousing with his cousins, be they little or not. My grandkids have all reaped the benefits of JD’s playful nature…although the adults have wished they would all settle down from time to time. I don’t blame those early rides for all the roughhousing though, because sometimes that is just how a person is. JD is a kid at heart, and I think that as long as there are little ones around him, he will jump right in there and play with them, so…move the furniture back…if you want to keep it in one piece that is.
Few things give as much pleasure as the excitement of a child when they receive a gift that so obviously excites them. And for a toddler, few things are more exciting than receiving a pony. Ponies have changed over the years, but how much kids love them hasn’t. How is it that kids just seem to instinctively know that riding is fun. We don’t even have to tell them. They just know. I suppose they have watched us, or television, or other kids. Whatever it is, they learn the fun of the ride…on whatever form of transportation they can catch a ride on.
Christopher received his pony for his first or second Christmas, and he was so excited. He had big eyes anyway, but when he was excited…well, wow!! His eyes in this picture were so big!! Christopher always had great expressions and this was one of the best. In fact, this is one of his favorite pictures. Those big eyes are such a draw.
Christopher and Shai, his cousin, being born one day apart and Amy babysitting Christopher, made them best friends from the start. Naturally they spent a lot of time together when their mom’s weren’t working too, so Shai had her opportunity to come over and play at Christopher’s house. On this particular day, they were taking turns on the pony, and both were equally excited about it. The adventure was on, and they were going places. No one knew where except them, but they knew.
Ponies just seem to have that effect on kids…or people for that matter. We all take great pleasure in them. Real or toys, they remind us of a simpler time and a bit of freedom. We can imagine the wind in our hair as we ride free across the plains. Sometimes if we try really hard, we can imagine a trip back in time to the days of the old west. Of course, for a two year old, it’s really all about the ride.
When I was a very little girl, my parents bought my sister and me a rocking pony. It wasn’t on rockers though, it was mounted on a frame with springs. You could rock it…if you were of a mind to, but I always felt it was destined to gallop. Most of this story is what I’ve been told, because I was too little to remember, but I have also seen a few movies of me on that horse.
As a little girl, I had a head full of blonde curls, and from what I saw, I really kept them bouncing when I rode my horse. Our house had a wooden floor, and my mom told me that after the damage suffered at the hands of a little girl and her horse, there were ruts on the floor. Since I have seen myself in action in those movies, I can totally understand why that floor had ruts. As I would gallop, the horse would come off of the ground, come back down, and slide back to the starting position, where it would once again come off the floor.
Yes, that horse was for my sister and me, but it was my horse. I totally loved it. After I grew up, that horse was transportation to many other kids, but none of them ever rode it as long and hard as I did. We had many an adventure together, and I will always love that horse. It was so much mine, in fact, that when my mom decided that it was time to thin out the toys, since the grandchildren were growing up, that horse came to live at my house. It is a little worse for wear, but it had a good life. Now it is out to pasture, where maybe it will get a fresh coat of paint, a new saddle…or maybe not. The way it is shows that it was very loved. No, I don’t ride it, but a girl can still have her dreams…right.