Our Coryell Museum has a photo in the hall from the early 1900’s with many buggies around the square. The women are dressed beautifully in their best clothes and most have on a hat. They are standing on the low rock wall around the Courthouse. Quite a few are holding umbrellas probably to protect them from becoming suntanned. In this picture others are driving buggies with a single horse and from the shadows you know it is high noon. Men are scattered thru the buggies and some are riding astride. The caption below the photograph simply says, “A Busy Day in Gatesville” circa 1900. All the horses appear to be behaving quite well, but, that was apparently not always the case….
In the early 1900’s in downtown Gatesville there were so many run aways, and out of control horses that the local newspaper man wrote an indignant article complaining. In defense of horses in general, I will have to say that their main line protection is to run away from any problems they encounter.
According to the Coryell County Scrapbook, R. W. Martin was editor of the Gatesville Star Forum. He also held office in the legislature from 1895 to 1906 first as a member of the House of Representatives and later as a Senator. He was known for his strong opinions. It was not uncommon for a horse to become frightened on the streets and run away. Mr. Martin declared, in his editorial, that runaway horses were due to complete carelessness on the part of the owner and blasted their inability to control their horses. One day he was at the newspaper office peacefully writing when suddenly a wild-eyed horse hitched to a buggy bolted through the front door, broke the plate glass windows, fell on the floor kicking and rolling and destroying everything it kicked. Mr. Martin was fit to be tied and screamed for the owner to be found immediately and brought to him to pay for all the damages. Finally one of his friends at the newspaper office calmed him down enough to say, “It’s your horse, Mr. Martin”.
In 1897, according to Sears and Roebuck & Co. catalog a Special B Grade buggy was $28.95 and the AA Grade buggy sold for $65.00. Harness for a single horse was $14.60. In Horseshoeing Days by George Wymer he recalls that his Grandmother Bennet ran a hotel about 1900 and room and board (meals) was $4 a week. You could buy a pair of Levi-Strauss “cowboy pants” for $1. Beef steak was two pounds for 25 cents!! The problem was everybody had a terrible time getting even a little cash money.
My grandparents had a small farm and ranch between Arnett and King about 1957. I remember their two coal black horses being hitched up to a cultivator, the kind that has an unforgiving metal seat, shaped like a generous bottom. At the museum, we have one of these old cultivators outside by the windmill at the museum along with many other implements that were once horse drawn. The teams were harnessed to the “tongue” of the cultivator and had a large padded collar around their neck to help them pull the equipment.
One of my grandparents plow horses, Nellie, was gentle for a kid to ride, but the other had once been a cutting horse and if you did not have the correct skills you were quickly bucked sideways out of the saddle. I say bucked because no rider has ever “fallen” out of the saddle but is always bucked off, no matter what circumstances an observer might have seen.