Written by Melanie Eberhardt
My family has lived in Ohio for many generations. During the height of the Homestead Act, my great, great grandparents moved to Nebraska. It was on these beautiful plains that my great, grandfather, Harlan Smith, was born in 1886. It was the era of the horse. Horses were an integral part of everyday life. Travel on the primitive roads was accomplished on foot, horseback or horse drawn wagons. Horses were key to farming, pulling plows and carrying harvests. Life was simpler but harder and a good horse made ones day a bit easier.
Harlan was raised in a sod house on the prairie. The house was made of thick mud walls and covered with grass for a rooftop. The floor was dirt and there was a fireplace for warmth and cooking. The family had a few simple pieces of furniture and little else. The house had only a blanket for a door. In the winter, Harlan’s parents kept the wolves out of the house by flapping the blanket door. The wolves would see the fire burning inside and would turn and run away.
The family did not thrive on the prairie. After a few years they returned to Ohio and their extended family. They traveled over 900 miles in a Conestoga wagon pulled by a team of horses. The journey took nearly three months.
While Harlan lived during an exciting time of great change followed by a wave of modern benefits, particularly automobiles. He always appreciated horses and had a keen eye for a good horse. I learned of Harlan’s favorite horse story from his great, grandson, my uncle Ed. This tale is over 100 years old but the humor still has legs. Please enjoy my great, grandfather Harlan Smith’s favorite horse tale.
Aman was standing next to a fence with a nice looking horse for sale, cheap, for $100. A farmer comes up and says “well that’s a pretty cheap price for that horse.” the man says “yea, well he don’t look too good.”
The farmer says “well he looks pretty good to me, you say you only want $100?” The man says “Yea, just $100 cause he don’t look too good”. The farmer says “well I’ll give you $100 for that horse, he looks good to me”. The farmer hands the man $100 and climbs up on the horse.
Happy with the deal he’s made, the man starts riding down the road. He goes about a mile then…
…BOOM! The horse runs right into a tree.
The farmer leads the horse back to the man and says “hey, what’s up with this horse? he just walked right into a tree?” The man says “what do you expect? I told you he don’t look too good – he’s blind!”
I have a faint memories of seeing Harlan at family reunions when I was six or seven years old. I can’t say I knew him, but I certainly feel a connection to him through our common love and appreciate for horses – and humor!
Harlan Smith (1886 – 1973)