His name was General and he was a palomino horse. Not a pretty golden palomino like Trigger, Roy Rogers’ famous horse, but a kind of dull shade of beige.
We paid $125 for him and that included a saddle. We didn’t own a horse trailer and my dad rode him about 15 miles from the place we bought him to the stable where we would board him.
General was dad’s horse and became a companion to Ace, the little black horse that we bought from the Murphree family.
They were racking horses, not the fancy high-stepping kind, but just a good single-foot ride that didn’t bounce you around too much.
Ace and General were the subjects of a lawsuit, which we eventually won, allowing them to live in a barn in our backyard in Social Circle.
Dad and my brother, Dixon, would ride down the road by the cemetery to the place where it turned to dirt. From there, it was down the road to the railroad trestle and then they would turn around and come back.
The week after I joined the church and was to be baptized, Dixon invited me to go for a ride on General. It was the dead of winter and we decided to take a lap around the dirt baseball field behind the school.
Apparently, General wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea, because somewhere in the outfield, he decided to buck me off. I was going to get back on when I found that I couldn’t raise my right arm without excruciating pain.
We went to town and an X-ray revealed that I had broken my collarbone. Dr. Barton strapped me in a harness-like splint that would postpone my immersion baptism for another four weeks.
About a year later, we were back in Dr. Barton’s office when my dad and I fell off of General together and my hard head broke my dad’s nose.
For the last 15 years, that old saddle had been collecting dust in my sister-in-law’s basement. At her behest, I brought the old relic home.
It’s not a pretty saddle. When the saddle is thrown in as a bonus on a $125 horse, you don’t exactly expect a high-dollar seat.
I’ve been pondering what I’m going to do with it and have decided I’m going to clean it up and put it in my office.
Why? Well that’s the second part of this story.
When my collarbone healed, my dad insisted that I get back on the horse.
“You’re in charge and you’ve got to let him (the horse) know that,” my dad said.
It was one of those life lessons that he left me and I heard his words again when I grabbed the old saddle and put it in the truck.
I’ve been figuratively thrown off of a few horses in my life, but getting back on was not always the thing I wanted to do.
I also brought home a case containing the flag that covered Dad’s casket and his Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. Dad took a few Nazi bullets and those medals are a reminder about his determination and love of country.
He got back on a horse called life and because he did, I’m here to tell his story.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.