Herald-Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 25, 1998

A four-legged friend named Dan

By OPAL "GRANDMA " HABISCH

When I was a young girl, I stayed with my grandparents, who lived on a farm. My grandmother was sick and she could not do all her work, so I stayed to help her.

My grandpa gave me a horse named Dan. He was brown with a white star on his face. He was never ridden; my uncle said he was a wild one.

I said, "I will ride him."

My uncle said, "He will kill you."

But I said, "You just wait and see."

My uncle tried to ride him. When he got on, Dan took off like the wind. He jumped over the gate, but my uncle did not. He was laying on the ground.

"Now you see why you should not try to ride him," he said.

But when I was alone with Dan, he would come to me and I would give him sugar. I would just give him a little bit at a time and walk away. Then he would stand there waiting for me to come back. I would hold out my hand and he would come to me right away. I would rub him down and he would never try to bite me.

After I had done this every day for about two weeks, he started to come to the fence every time he saw me. I would give him something for a treat. He loved apples. He was not afraid of me at all.

So the next thing to try was to put a blanket on him. I let him smell the blanket first. Then I laid it on his back. He didn't like that. He took off and the blanket fell to the ground.

I stood still and held out my hand. He came to me and I gave him a piece of apple. I let him smell the blanket again. I talked to him and put the blanket back on him as I gave him another piece of apple.

Grandpa saw Dan with the blanket on. "I'm going to ride him someday," I said to him. "Maybe not tomorrow, but someday."

The next week I was wearing a coat when I went out to see Dan. I took it off and let him smell it. Then I put the blanket on him and laid my coat on top of it. I held on to his bridle and walked around with him.

I had a pocket full of apple pieces. So I opened the gate and led him out of the fence. I held out my hand with a piece of apple and he followed me.

I led him back to the gate and climbed up on it.

"Well, Dan, this is it," I said.

I carefully put one leg over him. I was very slow so that I wouldn't scare him.

I was sitting on him!

I put my arms around his neck, grabbed the bridle reins, and gave him some apple. Then I said, "Go, Dan."

Boy, did he go. But I stayed behind.

From my place on the ground I watched him run. When he quit running, I held out my hand and he came back to me. He looked at me as if to say, "What are you doing down there?"

So I got up and led him back to the gate. I climbed back on very slowly and carefully. I kept talking to him as he walked slowly around the yard. This time I knew better than to say, "Go, Dan."

The next day we walked slowly around the yard again. On the third day, I said, "Go, Dan," and hung on as he ran. Then I said, "Slow, Dan," and he slowed down. We went out into the yard.

My grandparents were watching me. "I knew you could do it," my grandpa said.

I rode him every day and always remembered to bring him an apple. When I went away to college I was only able to ride him on weekends and if I didn't come, my grandpa said that Dan missed me. I was the only one who could ride him.

Years passed, and it seemed harder and harder to come home to ride Dan. One year at Christmas he had a lame foot. Before the winter was over, he had passed away.

I always felt bad that I wasn't there for him that winter. And I felt so bad that I never rode a horse again.

So, boys and girls, if you have a pet, be sure to spend time with him and take good care of him.


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