The Farm Chronicles—Nightmare adventure

A couple of times a year, my dad would plan a trip to Oscar McWilliam’s ranch just outside of Sedalia, Missouri to buy horses. Oscar was an old time cowboy, the Jack Palance type, tall, a little bent over, beat up old cowboy hat, he talks but his lips don’t move, and he’s honest as the day is long. I loved going with my dad on these adventures. I was a freshman in high school and I talked my dad into letting me go with him and Wayne Doss, another one of my dad’s cowboy friends from Pennsylvania, to buy horses. Wayne was a pilot, a horseman, an all around good guy. They wanted to buy 16 to 20 horses, and that’s where this adventure begins. We borrowed a large box truck from a friend of dad’s. Big mistake.

This truck was probably about 20 years old. It made the empty trip to Sedalia fine. We made the rounds over several days. Rode a bunch of horses. Selected the ones we wanted. And loaded them up for the long trip home. When we pulled out of the ranch, the truck just quit moving. We backed it down the hill and unloaded the horses. The transmission went out. Another two days to fix it. Great for me. I got to ride the 800 acre ranch and round up some cattle for another two days. They finally got the truck fixed and the 16 horses loaded up and we were on our way. Along about Indianapolis, it got pretty cold (It was March) and the heater in the truck went out. We were freezing and dad got really sick.

By the time we were at Grove City, Ohio, it was really cold and dark…My dad had been shivering and had a fever. Then the engine froze on the truck. We were in Amish country and we knocked on a farmer’s door and told him what had happened. He offered to put the horses in his barn until we got things figured out. His wife had us in to warm up, and they made popcorn for us in this really huge metal bowl. It was about 2 in the morning when my brother Larry brought our horse trailer and another friend with his trailer. We loaded up and got home early in the morning before sunrise. Dad was so sick we carried him into the house. My brother left. Wayne left. I had 16 more horses to deal with in addition to the 15 we already had. And my mom was insisting I get back to school.

Then the pump froze up in the milk house and I couldn’t get the horses watered. With an axe, I made a hole in the ice at the pond and began carrying water two buckets at a time. 31 horses drink a lot. They eat a lot, too. And, well, you know. We had such a cold streak that the horses were in the barn for about a week. I was getting up about 4 each morning, and going to bed after 11 at night. Dad had pneumonia. So this routine lasted several weeks, although it did warm up and I didn’t have to carry so much water. Galatians 6:8 says, “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap also.” I ended up getting pneumonia, too—hmmm. But many of those horses went on to win championships, and many made a lot of youngsters happy. So it was good seed, but the soil was a bit rocky.

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Bill Wilson