The Farm Chronicles: Speckles and Deedra

Along about 1962, Dad and my brother Chuck got into the horse and cattle business a little bigger and more seriously. They experimented with the types of horses they bought and tried to find out exactly what niche they wanted to occupy. Chuck wanted fast horses for timed events. He and Dad went out to Missouri on a horse buying mission and came back with a handful of horses. One was a mare named Ricochet. She was Missouri State Champion in the pole bends—a timed event where horse and rider weave in and out of six vertical poles set in a straight line 21 feet apart. She was speed to breed and to boost the Wilson reputation at the horse shows. But then there was Speckles.

Speckles was an Appaloosa stallion. He must have been a cross between a draft horse and an Appaloosa. Back then, breeders were trying to perfect the Appaloosa breed. They wanted height. They bred the shorter spotted Nez Perce-type ponies with the bigger, taller draft horses. Then they wanted agility. They bred the taller offspring with stockier cow-pony horses. Then they wanted speed, so there was once again an evolution to cross these larger, agile horses with Quarter Horses. Well, Speckles was somewhere on the spectrum of all that 1950s-1960s Appaloosa genetic engineering. I think my Dad was fascinated with the Appaloosa variety—he took great delight in seeing the colors and patterns of the new born foals. Speckles was a blue roan color with swaths of black, white and grey mixed in. I think that’s why Dad liked him.

Now Speckles was pretty special. He was a really gentile and calm horse for a stallion. He stood a tall, lanky 16-2 hands (66 inches). And one of the traits of those early Appaloosa was their big heads—something they acquired from cross breeding with the draft horses, but an undesirable trait. Speckles was blessed with the biggest head I have ever seen on a horse. No kidding. We could not find a bridle to fit him. We ended up using a breast collar—a strap of leather that goes across the chest of a horse connecting to each side of the saddle—and making it into a bridle. Speckles was fast. He was smart. He could be trusted for anyone to ride. Chuck decided to get his classy and proper recently-wed wife, Deedra, to ride Speckles one crisp morning. Deedra was not so enthusiastic about riding horses.

This particular morning Chuck talked her into “just taking a short ride down the driveway on Speckles.” It was no small sales job, but she finally agreed. Chuck carefully lifted Deedra up into the saddle and instructed her on what to do. Soon Speckles and Deedra were walking down the driveway. When they reached the end of the driveway, Chuck whistled. Speckles spun around on a dime and galloped full speed back to Chuck, Deedra screaming all the way! Everybody got a good laugh that morning, and Deedra, after changing her jeans and calming down, sort of saw the humor in it—I think. Proverbs 12:31 says, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord.” I imagine that among her screams, Deedra called on the Lord that morning. And I bet it was nothing like the battle Chuck faced on the way home. And that’s the story of Speckles and Deedra.

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Bill Wilson