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Fire Side Stories by Faith Pyle



One hundred years ago, give or take a few minutes, there was a little girl born in Susanville California. It was November 4th, 1898. Her mother, Pearl named her Anna, and her father, Harry named her Ollie. Their last name was Stuart so she was Anna Ollie Stuart.  She was my Mother.  She told me this story when I was little and I told it to my children. For now you can have your mom and dad tell it to you.

She lived in California sometimes, and in Nevada sometimes, in towns named Susanville, Quincy,  Washoe Valley (Long Valley), Sparks, Reno, Fallon, Tahoe City, Truckee,  Hobert Mills,  Loyalton, Portola, Purdy, and even down in some Nevada towns that are now just ghost towns. Like a town named Mina, close to Walker lake right in the heart of Nevada near Tonapah.

Harry, her father had a twenty-mule team and wagons and he had some big workhorses too. He took contracts doing hauling of mine ore or lumber and other stuff. He never stayed to many years in one place. I can't even remember all the stories she told when she was my grown-up mother about Nevada. 

I remember this story because little girls dream of having a horse. I did. My sisters did. I bet you do. Anna did. She dreamed of having a little horse all her own even though she did like the big plough horses too. 

When she was about eight years old the Stuart family were living in Fallon Nevada. Harry had some brothers, Ben and Arthur Stuart and so these three owned a steam operated combine, pulled by the mules or horses, and they contracted to harvest alfalfa for all the hundreds of acres that were planted in that big dessert valley in Nevada The combine was a machine that baled the alfalfa into big feed bales.

One day Anna saw all the wild mustangs come down a little valley and sniff the air for water. When they found it in a little creek all lined with cotton wood trees and willows she and her brother Roy, who was ten years old, watched them from a distance. Then they ran home to their ranch and told their father Harry about the mustangs at the creek in the draw outside of town. Harry knew a lot about horses and so did his brothers. They went off to work and were gone till suppertime. When they came home a little late they just laughed and said they had been out on some business.

Harry told the children Roy and Anna he had a surprise for them out in the barnyard. The whole family went out and there, tied snugly to a tree was a black mustang horse. He was rolling his eyes and snorting and snuffing because he was scared. Harry and his brothers all walked up not looking at him at all. They walked sideways and softly.  Then they and began rubbing the horse with feed sacks, and cooing and making clicking with their tongues. Pretty soon the little black mustang was very quiet and breathing easy. Harry put some sugar in his hand and holding his hand wide open he let the horse sniff it, the eat it . Next Arthur fed him an apple the same way, easy and very quiet. Soon they all backed away and went to the house to talk so they wouldn't spook the new mustang again that evening. 

The children were excited, Harry asks what they wanted to name him. Anna said she always knew she would name her horse Cricket, so they did.  When Harry brought Cricket home he was not a baby, he was just a young horse about four years old. So as  they were gentling him and training him to live with people they took him to a horse doctor, a veterinarian, and had him turned into a gelding. They also had his feet, his hooves, all repaired and shoes put on him. Then when he came home from the veterinarians ranch he was ready to work every day with Harry, or one of the brothers and also Roy was a big boy and could help very much. Soon both children learned to ride. It was Anna's job to keep him clean and curried, brushed, and all shiny which is hard to do with a mustang. They have very unmanageable hair according to Anna's stories. She also cleaned and shined his bridle, reins and saddle. 

Every day when they could take the time; one of the brothers worked with Cricket. Mostly Harry did because he liked to sing little Scotland verses to his  horses and now he taught them to Cricket. No one ever knew the words, he said, but it really sounded nice and if you ask him what it meant he said it was horse songs and you can't translate the word 

After the men had walked about 100 miles around the corral with Cricket in a bridle and then reins, and then saddled with the reins over the saddle horn, Cricket became very gentle. They could call Cricket with their clicks and he would come to get a sugar lump or an apple and they could easily put his bridle on and saddle him the lead him around with the children in the saddle. Soon he was so gentled that the children could call him and put his rig on and they could whisper in his ear and he would do just what they wanted him to do. Sometimes Anna didn't even put the saddle on. She put a blanket over his back and walked him to the stump of a tree, then she mounted him and road bare back holding his long black mane in her hands and just clicking and saying gee, and haw, like her father did. And if Cricket got joyful and began dancing and going to fast she could really say "WHOA.

Soon Anna and Roy were riding him to school every morning because it was a long walk from the ranch into the school. When she got there she would d give him a treat and then pat his rump and say "Go Home Cricket." When she came out of school there would be her little mustang waiting for her with his reins up around the horn, Pearl or Harry would send him for her. Mostly Roy walked home with his friends, as he was a pretty big boy.

After school was out for the summer Anna would ride just for fun all around the ranch. Sometimes Pearl would send her on errands on Cricket.

One summer when she was ten or eleven years old she went outside to get Cricket and her Uncle Arthur said, "Look I have a new toy. I bought a camera. " Now in the year of 1908 or so it was a very new thing to have your own camera if you were not in the business of taking photographs so it was exciting. He took Anna and Crickets picture. I am sending a copy of that old old picture to you. It is here with the story Anna told me when she was big, and I was little.

 Now I am your Great-Grams and I am telling this to you. It makes me think of a string of Great-Grams telling stories all down through time to their grandchildren. And great grandchildren too. It is so wonderful, like a string of beads.

 Written down by FAITH PYLE as she remembers her motherís stories about growing up in Nevada from 1898 to the time she was grownup

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