My sisters and I had lived on the farm for two or three years when Dora decided she would like a saddle horse. She bought a thin, dark colored horse from Jonas Parmeter, one that he had been riding for some time. He had ridden Jenny all over, even as far away as Sylvan Beach. Jenny was gentle and well behaved having been trained to neck-rein and to travel the highways without fear of cars. The horse was so docile Dora renamed Jenny "Cyclone". Dora didn't ride her on the highways but she and I bought a pair of cheap saddles from Mr. Varley's harness shop in Sherrill, and we rode occasionally around the farm. I put my saddle on Chub [see story "Horse Tales"] We enjoyed riding where other forms of transportation could not take us, through woods, swamps, etc.
On the west side of our house in the corner of the "ell" was a concrete cistern about ten feet long, four or five feet wide, and six feet deep. It was made to catch soft rainwater from the eaves. It hadn't been used for years and had been roofed over with a wooden cover. One rainy day we returned home from grocery shopping and noticed the horses were still in the pasture where we had left them, except that Cyclone was missing.
We looked all over and finally found her behind the house. Yes, she had climbed onto the cistern cover, which collapsed, leaving her standing in cold water up over her back and halfway up her neck. That was a sight! She must have been in there a couple hours and when we arrived on the scene she was shivering and shaking from the cold, and was stretching her neck up to keep her head out of the water. It was a serious situation, but her confused expression was comical. She seemed to be saying, "Now what do I do?"
We knew we had to get her out soon or there would be hypothermia and severe health problems. But how to do that!
We pulled on her halter and she tried to rear up to get her front end out, but she couldn't make it. We thought of trying some way to pull her out with the tractor, but there was no way to do that without seriously hurting her. Finally, as a last try, we collected four or five heavy planks, fastened them together by nailing cross slats across them. This was to make a sort of ramp, which she might be able to climb up. Then the main difficulty was getting the ramp into a usable position. We slid one end down into the tank in front of her, but of course it stood almost straight up even though we had backed her as far as she could go. The plan was to get her to rear up on her hind legs and then slid the ramp as far under her as possible. This would make a ramp on a slant that she could possibly climb up, the cross pieces would help keep her from slipping on the wet wood.
Well, we worked a long time on that, pulling and hauling, and gradually working the ramp farther and farther under her. As we poked her feet with the end of the ramp, she would keep raising them up out of the way. That darn ramp was heavy and hard to maneuver down in the water. A couple times we were tempted to give up. In that case we would have had to shoot the horse and drag her body out with the tractor. But that was an unacceptable last resort.
We kept at it, and finally the end of the ramp began to touch her hind feet. It was as far back as it was possible to get it. It still seemed impossibly steep.
Well, two of us pulled on her halter rope and the third switched her back end, and we all yelled and pulled. She made a tremendous effort and scrambled her way to the top. She was out at last!
Dora rubbed her off thoroughly and walked her around until she warmed up. I was late doing the milking and other chores that night. Cyclone recovered without any serious effects.
Charles E. Page February 2003