|Telling It Like It Was|
By E. B. Alston
Collected columns from E. B. Alston's syndicated column in Topsail Island Info Magazine. These columns cover incidents from his childhood, working at the phone company, philosophy and faith, hunting vignettes.
Now Available-Order Yours Today
Available on Amazon Kindle
Telling It Like It Is is a volume of collected columns that originally appeared as a weekly feature in Topsail Magazine.
E. B. Alston’s commentaries cover a wide variety of topics including childhood memories, hunting dogs and political candidates. Alston paints graphic pictures of his grandparent’s farm and his favorite animals. Anyone with a rural background will identify with these anecdotes, and everyone else will be envious of his roots. His disgust with our current political figures is quite evident, and one can easily imagine him shaking his head in repugnance.
Telling It Like It Is is a good photograph of E. B. Alston. That he is a great story teller is self evident. One realizes he is widely read by his casual references to everything from former prime ministers to Greek mythology. His sense of humor is well developed, and he quite often pokes fun at himself. He is a man of good character and his opinions are delivered in a straightforward, no-nonsense style that is never offensive.
This volume represents E. B. Alston at his very best.
St. Joseph MO.
December 12, 2006
A Horse Named Flash
My whole extended family loved horses. From all I heard, grandpa loved horses, too. I never knew my grandfather (Father’s dad) because he died before I was born.
Anyway, when I was about eight years old my father came home from the livestock sale one day with the prettiest plow horse anybody had ever seen. He weighed about fifteen hundred pounds, not huge like dad’s big draft horses, but certainly not a small horse. He had a shiny black coat, a blaze face and four white stocking feet, a long mane and full tail. He looked classy grazing or eating hay. He’d hold his head up in a proud way and look you in the eye like the whole world was his. He was as proud a horse as Secretariat. People driving by would slow down to look at him when he was in the pasture beside the road.
Mom asked dad why he bought him. We already had three horses: two big plow horses and a smaller horse that was a combination work and riding horse. Dad told mom he bought the new horse to use plowing the garden. He said he told the man selling the horse that he was looking for a horse for plowing the garden and the owner said that this horse was the best “garden horse” he’d ever seen.
You couldn’t plow the garden with just any horse because most horses would step on the vegetable plants. Pop said that Bob, the biggest horse we had at the time, could step on six cabbage plants in two steps. “Garden” horses watched where they put their feet and didn’t step on cultivated plants. I know this sounds farfetched, but there were such horses back then. However, most of them were mares. Actually, dad already had a good garden horse, but she was also his favorite fox hunting horse, (the horse pictured above), and, at the time, he told folks he hated to waste her energy pulling a plow. All this was just an excuse to justify buying a pretty horse that he didn’t need.
The man selling the “garden” horse also told dad he was a “gaited” saddle horse.
As I said, it was a very pretty horse. The man told dad his name was “Flash.” We would learn later why he was called that.
We lived about a hundred yards from my grandmother’s house and every weekend a fair number of uncles, aunts and cousins would visit my grandmother and most of the time they stopped to visit us because we lived almost in her yard.
Everybody oohed and aahed at pop’s new horse. In retrospect, Flash must have liked the attention because if he saw somebody looking at him, he would strike a pose, looking noble and proud.
A few days later, pop decided to plow the garden with Flash. When he went into the pasture to get Flash, pop was pleased that he was so easy to catch. Flash stood as still as a statue while he was being harnessed. Then dad led him to the plow and backed him up to hitch him to the plow. This went so smoothly, it was eerie because the other horses were not easy to catch, they didn’t cooperate and didn’t like to be harnessed and hitched up to a plow.
After Flash was hitched, pop took the plow lines, slapped Flash on the rump with them and clucked for him to move. Flash didn’t move. Pop slapped him harder and said “git up.” Flash stood as still as a statue. Pop told Kenly, the black boy that helped him, to hit Flash with a coil of rope. Kenly whacked him pretty hard. Flash didn’t move. Pop went to get the whip from the shed. As soon as he was out of sight, Flash took off.
It was dark when dad brought him home. In the process, the plow had been demolished and all that was left was the tongue. Nobody ever found the rest of it. Dad put Flash put back in the pasture where he still looked pretty, which was apparently all he was capable of.
A week or so later, a friend of dad’s, who lived near Roanoke Rapids, stopped by. He was impressed with Flash and asked about him. The conversation went something like this:
“I bought him to plow the garden with.”
“Man, he is pretty! I need a good garden horse. Sell him to me.”
“I don’t know if I want to. I just got him.”
“You’ve got four now and you told me Silver Spot is a good garden horse.”
“She’s my best fox hunting horse.”
“Heck, it won’t hurt her to do that little bit of work. Sell him to me.”
“Okay, since it’s you. The man that sold him to me said he was a gaited saddle horse, too.”
Dad gave him a price that was $50.00 more than he had paid for Flash.
Pop’s friend gave dad the money and came back the next day on his 1936 Ford one and a half ton truck to get Flash.
He came again the next day.
“I thought you said that dang nag was a good garden plow horse.”
“Naw, I didn’t. I told you that’s what I bought him for.”
“He balked when I hitched him to the plow and when I picked up a tobacco stick, he ran away.”
“He did that when I tried to use him too. Tore up my plow. Took us the rest of the day to catch him.”
“You said he was a gaited saddle horse.”
“I never rode him.”
“Did that feller say he was four or five gaited?”
“Two, I guess.”
My pop broke out laughing, “Yeah, two. Balking and running away.”
Pop’s friend gave my dad a pained look at that little bit of humor.
A week or two later I was with my dad when he went to see if his friend was still mad about the horse. We didn’t see Flash anywhere in the pasture.
“Where’s Flash?” pop asked when his friend came out on the porch.
“Yeah, a feller from Scotland Neck stopped to look at him and told me he was looking for a horse to plow his garden with. I said that’s what I bought him for. I got $50.00 more than I paid you for him.”
“Has he come back?”
“I got $50.00 more from you, too,” pop confessed.
“Maybe one of us ought to buy him back,” pop’s friend suggested.
“At this rate, he’ll be worth a thousand by the end of the year.”