My Stallions

Self-portrait as a Comanche Warrior on Stampin Kid or Study of Theodore Gericault's "Officer of the Imperial Guard"oil on panel by JR Lewis 48 x 48"

Charlie Horse was my first stallion. He was a Palomino Pinto, half Thoroughbred and half Quarter horse. The American Paint Horse (APH) Association was started in 1962. I was told that the breeders of Charlie had a Pinto stock horse in mind with his breeding and though he would’ve fit nicely into that breed, I don’t know if his breeders knew anything about the APH breed, which was quite new at that time. I bought him as a two-year-old. I was only 15 when I got him. I remember him as a deep-chested, muscular, powerful horse with a long stride. His gold spots had an iridescent metallic shimmer. I wish I had photograph of him, but I don’t.

As a kid on the farm no one told me that stallions were dangerous. I never thought that his sporadic, odd behavior had anything to do with his being a stallion. A couple of times he would run at me with his ears back and I would scramble under or over the fence or get behind a tree. If I didn’t try to discipline him, he would then act cool as if nothing had happened, look around innocently or even act affectionate. Aside from that quirk, he trained up easy and he didn’t seem to be any different than any other horse.

My mother had a fenced garden in the middle of a paddock in which I kept him sometimes. I was on an important date with the television in the late afternoon watching Gilligan’s Island when I suddenly thought, “What if mom walks to the garden and the stallion tries to run her down?” I was so bothered by the horrible thought that I got up from the television and looked out the window.  Sure enough at that moment,  as mom was innocently carrying a basket full of produce back to the house, the stallion was running  toward her with his ears pasted back. She was walking with no particular hurry and she didn’t seem to pay any attention or even look at him. He had been a ways off and was running fast. When he got about 10 feet from her, he threw his back legs under himself and slid to a beautiful stop, ending up right by her side, his nose touching her shoulder, looking as gentle and placid as a cow eating daisies. Mom never faltered a step or flinched. She just kept on walking. I couldn’t believe that the produce had not bounced out of the basket from his thundering hooves. I ran out and asked amazed if she noticed the onslaught. She said, “Yes, he has done that several times. He acts like a tough guy, but he has a good heart. He is really very gentle.” After that when he performed the violent charade on me a few more times,  I did not run from him as before, though standing there made me jittery all over, I’ll tell you, from my hat right down to my boots!

He needed to know that however nice, well-meaning, and playful he was in his heart, his mocked aggression was inappropriate. It might make some people afraid. I had a bullwhip which I played with sometimes by attempting to snap flies on the barn wall with it or pop it over my head. I began to carry this whip when I was in his paddock. When he put on the show for me, I tried to discipline him with it, but he only got playful and strutted and trotted around me. However, I could make it pop pretty loud and eventually the discipline worked; he stopped the show.

I shared these adventures with Clarence Pal, the man that I had bought him from. He told me another part of the story. Sometime before I came along, Clarence and a potential buyer were standing in the middle of his round pen with the stallion. Clarence was attempting to point out the horse’s finer points. Suddenly the stallion turned on Clarence and ran at him. He dove under the rail fence to get away. The other man standing in the pen stood there laughing at Clarence when Charlie Horse turned on him and chased him through the fence on the other side of the corral. I noted with interest the fact that Clarence had somehow not remembered to tell me this funny story before I bought the horse.

Charlie Horse sired a colt, Little Charley, my second stallion. I don’t remember much about Little Charley. He was not a problem to train. I sold them both at about the same time when I was leaving the farm to start up my life. My theory about stallions for a long time, based on the two Charlies, was that they’re not very different from mares or geldings.

Postscript: Clarence was a fine person.  I didn’t have many mentors or teachers that had time to tell me anything about horses. Clarence (an older man) gave me a lot of good advice and help. By chance I met Clarence, now quite old, a few years ago and thanked him for his help. I had to reintroduce myself. I had grown up and he didn’t recognize me. When he realized who I was, he immediately apologized, saying, “I do not know what I told you before, but it’s a not a value to buck out a colt. You should try to avoid that if you can.” He remembered that I used to like to buck out the wild colts, and was trying to caution me about that now.

Postscript, postscript: It was about 35 years later that I told this story about my mom and the stallion at her funeral. After her funeral a friend of mine took me aside and said, “I think there were some other ‘wild stallions’ (meaning me, I guess) that she quieted with her faith.”

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4 Responses to My Stallions

  1. Treg says:

    Great writing, Joel. I wish I had met your mom.

  2. Jim says:

    I agree. Great writing. What a picture… The epitome of masculinity and power running at the epitome of feminine composure. Thanks, Joel.

  3. Sandy says:

    I love the photo Joel. But, you know, I also like your writing. Maybe you should think of doing a book of your art and writing about horses combined. I bet a lot of people would enjoy it. 🙂

  4. J.R. says:

    Thank you Sandy, I never thought of myself as a writer. However lately I have been working on an art exhibit called “Manifest Destiny” The exhibit includes paintings of the Old West and the expansion of the United States across the American continent. The topic brings up a lot of philosophical questions. The above painting is a part of that show. As the work progresses I have been having fun writing a paragraph or two of explanation of my meditations as I paint them. Some of which are included in my other blog . I’ve only just lately started to think about making a book with my paintings and meditations that that will be available with the exhibit.

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