Passing it on

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Robb Barnes

Hunter
Joined
Sep 16, 2007
Messages
3,916
Location
Dallas, OR US
Just giving fair warning, this is a totally non gun related post. It involves two dear friends who are nearly 80 years apart in age but who share the same love for animals. The older gentleman is Francis Baker. He is 90 years old and he is the one who let me ride his best mule on my first hunt off animals in the Hell's Canyon area over a decade ago. I grew up with his kids and while we all rode when we were younger. as I got older the idea of horsepower replaced horse power. Francis went through the 8th grade and started working for local farmers in Idaho when he got out of the 8th grade, often working teams of horses and mules. Over the years his love for riding, animals and especially young folks has never faltered. Francis lost his wife several years ago and as she was one who rode and packed right along with him for years, it definitely left a hole in his heart and life when he lost her. Even at 90 he still cleans stalls and corrals every day, pulls weeds, takes care of the dogs and stays busy. Due to his body simply wearing out he hasn't ridden his old mule hardly at all this last year but he still keeps her feet rimmed, brushed, wormed and well cared for. Katie by the way is 30 years old and she still looks like a 20 year old mule.

Samaria,or Sam, just turned 11 a few weeks ago. I first met Sam when she was a flower girl for the bride at the wedding we had at our house this last summer. When she was here for the rehearsal and wedding she spent as much time as she could at the fence learning about my mule, Copper. She had ridden at a couple of summer camps and her grandma had paid for one set of riding lessons but her and her family live in town and her dream of riding was mostly just that, a dream. While I was sitting watching the reception Sam's mom came up to me and share how it was so nice that I let Sam just hang out in the barn and pet Copper. She shared about Sam's love for horses and her own sadness that she couldn't do anything to really help her little girl realize her dreams of riding. She asked if she could bring Sam over sometime just so she could get to know Copper better and that Sam had told her the night before that she would clean stalls, haul hay, brush her ANYTHING to get to be around an animal. Naturally my reaction was of course she could! She could come over and I'd even let her ride her and let her get used to riding something other than a sleepy camp horse! The nice thing about being retired is the freedom to reach into the lives of others in small ways and this has developed into deep family relationship between our family and Sams.

Each Wednesday Sam has early release from school so her mom or her grandma bring her the 16 miles from Salem to our place and she gets to spend it learning to ride Copper. When we are done riding she comes into the house and works on her homework until we eat dinner then after dinner we take her home back to Salem since we have bible study over there every Wednesday evening. She is a nature horse person and to see that little eleven year old girl crawl up on that 1100# animal and make her mind and do what she is told is a joy to watch. Over the last several weeks I have been expanding what I let her do just to develop her confidence and her relationship with the animal.

Earlier this week I went to get Francis and take him to breakfast since he can no longer drive. When we got back to his place I told him about Samaria and how she just loves riding and Copper and that we had actually been up to see him the week before but he must not have heard us knocking on the door. He asked what saddle she used and I told him she rode my saddle since I just had the one mule now she wold ride on the trails and I would walk or jog along side. I mentioned that I was going to ask his son Jim if I could borrow one of his three John mules once in awhile so we both could ride. I knew Jim would let me do that since I have a standing invite to take any of his animals whenever I want to take others for a ride, I just had not asked yet. As I told Francis this his eyes lit up and his voice got excited and he said "well that little girl needs a saddle so she can have mine!" He said he couldn't ride anymore and it was just setting on the saddle stand and it had been given to him so he could give it to her! The saddle is nothing special or fancy, just an older lightweight with nylon and leather but it is perfectly serviceable and since he had used it for the last eight years or so I knew it would fit Copper since his mule is about the same size. I told him I would check with Sam's mom to make sure that was okay but if it was, he could give it to her tomorrow when we came to pick up the other mule.

When I told Kara, Sam's mom, she was speechless. She actually was in tears when she said of course, Sam could have the saddle. I told her not to tell Sam and I would let Francis give it to her the next day when we went up there. The next day, yesterday, we loaded Copper up and took her up to Francis's to pick up the john I would ride and as soon as we pulled in I heard his door slam and the gravel crunching under the tires of the old electric golf cart he uses to get from the house to the barn. After introducing him to Sam I told Sam that she should get in the cart and ride down to the house because Francis had something to show her. She gave me a kind of bewildered look but I just repeated myself and watched her get into the cart and head back to the house while I was saddling the second mule up. In just a few minutes I heard the cart coming back and when it pulled up there was Sam with the biggest smile I had ever seen on an eleven year old and she was holding that old saddle. She jumped out and was so excited she could hardly get out that it was hers, he had GIVEN HER A SADDLE!

After I finally got her calmed down we were able to load the animals back up and go on a real ride where we both were riding but the whole time she kept exclaiming how she could not believe she had been given a saddle! When we got done and the mules turned back out into the pasture we headed back down the road to our place where I gave her a sponge and saddle soap and she scrubbed that old thing within an inch of its life. When she comes to ride next week I will adjust the cinch to fit Copper and she will get to take her first ride in her own saddle. Oh, and her saddle stand will be finished tomorrow. She doesn't know about that yet either. I wanted her to be able to take it home and have it in her room if she wants it there rather than in the barn here.

Here is the picture of two of the happiest people I have seen in a long time!
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akbluz

Single-Sixer
Joined
Oct 9, 2006
Messages
419
Location
Wasilla, Alaska
What a great story of a neat "old" fellpw and a lovely young lady. Thank you for bringing them together and spending time with both of them.
 

Robb Barnes

Hunter
Joined
Sep 16, 2007
Messages
3,916
Location
Dallas, OR US
I got Sam's saddle stand built this morning with some old barn boards from the farm where she first started riding and some scraps left over from a project I did yesterday for her dad. He is one of the pastors at our church and he needed some Christmas decorations made for the upcoming program so he provided the plywood and I built his parts and used the scraps to help build his daughters saddle stand. I got her saddle all oiled up, at least the leather parts and set it all up in the barn for her mom and dad to come get this weekend while I am gone. She has no idea she is going to be able to have her saddle in her room! I intentionally left it unstained so she could stain or paint it to match her room. The second picture is Samaria on her first ride off the farm last week. We star by mostly riding on closed logging roads then each trip we add a little longer or steeper trail out in the brush. We have miles and miles of trails cut in the area so it gives me lots of options to let her work up her skills and comfort level riding out in the real world. The last thing I want to do is let her get scared or nervous about a trail or riding situation so it is a slow but steady process. She is such a good little rider and Copper is so well mannered I just remind her every once in awhile to trust her mule and enjoy the ride.
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BDM1

Single-Sixer
Joined
Oct 11, 2016
Messages
498
Wow, that is a terrific story, one of the most uplifting things i have read in a while. Thanks so much for sharing that with us!
 

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