Jimmie Allen - The Magnificent Horse


A rainy June rolled into a hot and dry July. Jimmie was as wild as ever. Despite Mike's daily attempts to bribe him with oats and apples, he was still unapproachable.

In late July Aunt Anna brought us the good news that her brother Peter was returning from the west and would stay with her for 6 weeks.

Peter was 23 years old. He had run away from home when he was 14 years old and had spent the last 5 years in Montana where he ram-rodded cattle to market and trained horses.

He was tall and lanky with reddish blond hair and a bronzed, freckled face lined by a few premature wrinkles -caused by years of exposure to the sun and wind.

Peter loved to tell stories, and he had many stories to tell. Most were not fit for young ears. He was unschooled and his stories were peppered with forbidden words. When he visited, the younger children were banished to the second floor.

I do remember Margaret and I sitting at the top of the stairs straining to hear, and periodically covering our mouths as we attempted to choke down laughter and at the same time keep our secret.

Peter agreed to help train Jimmie Allen -"Hell, there ain't a darn horse you can't train”.

After work, Peter, Mike and Marty went to the enclosure. First they chained Jimmie to a post and then they gently teased the bridle over his unwilling head as he bucked and kicked. It wasn't easy!

Margaret and I watched from the back porch. Margaret's legs would shake, and I invariably developed severe stomach cramps and had to rush to the out house. And that didn't help since I had to pass the enclosure and shanty to get there.

Ma, shielding the younger children, at a still safer distance remained visibly shaken wringing her hands and repeating, "Jesus, Maria -save them. They will be killed''.

Grannie, as usual was the calm one, She would go to her small altar, bless herself and read from her big black prayer book. When she returned she would say: "God will protect them", and somehow, he did.

The enclosure was not large enough for training purposes. Once they were able to get Jimmie use to the bridle and then a harness, the three of them would lead him out on to Main Street.

All onlookers and passers-by would scatter to higher grounds. Traces were then attached to both sides of the harness and to these they tied heavy long wooden railroad ties.

Our grandstand for the "Main Street Event” was our front porch. Ma and Pa remained inside with the other children.

Jimmie continued to buck and would attempt to run but the railroad ties offered too much resistance. They would work him until he was dead tired and approachable, Then they would pet him and give him treats.

With these tactical maneuvers, they were able to train him in six weeks - none too soon for my and Pa. They were very reserved and wished to stay on good terms with their neighbors. The neighbors were not happy and Ma and Pa knew it. It would be several more weeks before all the whispering, side glances and complaints were resolved.

Once trained Jimmie was magnificent. He always held his head high and this was particularly attractive. Mike was proud and frequently boasted to the naysayers, ''Well what do you think of my horse now?"

Since the loss of his eye in a mining accident, Mike has been working part time for a huckster. On weekends he and Marty helped a cousin who owned a pool room and gambling house in Mahanoy City.

Mike saved enough money to buy a second hand wagon and eventually went into the huckstering business for himself. On week ends he and Marty drove the horse and buggy to Mahanoy City. There would be no further need to walk the 4 difficult and oft times treacherous miles up and down the steep mountain leading into the city.

Alex, at first, would not ride with them preferring to trust his own two legs over Jimmies four. He still wasn't convinced that Jimmie could handle the steep hills.

After several weeks even he had to admit that Jimmie was special. Jimmie had gained his confidence. My three older brothers were quite different. Despite their differences of opinion, they remained close. Felix and Marty, being younger, admired Mike and vied tor his attention. Mike would always be pivotal to all our existence.

In the evenings, when baths and chores were completed, Mike or Marty would take us for a short ride around Morea. We loved it.. This was the highlight of our day.