Sugar, One Great Horse
Sugar was a palomino mare quarter horse that originally came from the “Sooner” state of Oklahoma. She was originally owned by my cousin on my mother’s side. His name was Kenneth the oldest of three boys whose father was my mother’s brother. Kenneth was getting married at the time and naturally needed some quick cash. My family just happened to be in the right place at the right time and so I ended up with a very beautiful and high spirited cowpony. Yes, she did like sugar.
Sugar had been well trained to cut and rope cattle on the open range in Oklahoma before coming to Iowa. Why did they allow such a fine horse to come to Iowa? Well you see, she had one bad habit that apparently no one was ever able to break her of. She would toss her head a great deal and to the point that if she had been working hard would throw phlegm up and over onto the rider which could be rather disgusting at times. It seemed to me that all of her other habits were very good indeed.
That Christmas I received a brand new single rig saddle. It was from the Sears Roebuck catalog with a basket weave design by J.C. Higgins. It rests on a saw horse in my den today as a memory of some of the best days gone by. I also have the large card board box it came in. It is in my hanger. Other tack items included a studded martingale, colorful wool saddle blanket, studded bridle with brown and white leather braided reins attached with metal beads to the bridle. I usually carried a white thirty foot three-strand nylon braided lasso with wire centers in the three braids. I always wanted saddle bags and recently purchased official Calvary saddle bags from Cabela’s. They are presently displayed on the living room divider to the stair case.
You could catch Sugar in the cow yard, jump on bare back with nothing on her head to guide her and you were ready to go get the cows sometimes a half mile away. Sugar knew exactly what had to be done and she did it quickly and thoroughly. No bossy strayed from the herd.
When you rode her in full dress with the saddle and all the tack she would be ready to run when you reached for the saddle horn. All you had to do was grip the horn firmly and her forward momentum would pull you rapidly forward and up into the saddle. No stirrups were necessary. This was a very efficient, rapid, and showy way to get aboard.
My own personal attire included the usual western hat, slim red neckerchief, colorful shirt, belt, buckle, Levis, brand name boots, and spurs that hang on the saddle horn today.
On one occasion we were practicing our roping while my dad was milking. There was a two-bottom pull type plow in the yard with two levers that made great targets to lasso. I no sooner draped my loop over one of those levers and Sugar immediately went into reverse. But before I could get her moving forward again the damage had been done. The lever on the plow was now bent at nearly a right angle and there was no way I was going to be able to bend it back, or was there. I walked Sugar around to the opposite side and this time with a loose dally around the saddle horn pulled the lever back to an up right position. Luckily for me the lever functioned properly. However, it did have a curious looking “S” twist to it. I often wondered if my dad ever knew what had happened. Nothing was ever said about the incident and I learned not to fasten my lariat fast to the saddle horn ever again.
Sugar and I really enjoyed our local Lamont Saddle Club trail rides that were an annual event. Her high spirit and competitive nature came through in fine style as she continually worked at being the lead horse in the trail procession. There was no holding her back. Sugar never had horseshoes. She seemed to be active enough to keep her hooves worn down and only needed an occasional trimming. Sugar was an intelligent horse and could open a wire gate loop with her nose if you did not do a through job of securing it.
My brother and I used our cowponies to herd the fine Holstein milking cows on the 187 highway to graze on the quality grass in the ditch. Again, Sugar was in her element keeping the cows from being hit by the occasional on coming traffic.
I especially enjoyed riding her to town to see the movies at the Local Theatre. It was a three mile trip one way and she could easily run at a rate of thirty miles per hour along side a neighbors automobile. I do have one regret. I never timed her in the quarter mile. I think the results would have been impressive. I would tie her up at my grandmother's garage / barn while I attended the movie. It always felt so good riding home at night in the moonlight with the cool evening breeze in your face. It was a special treat to hear her hoofs clattering loudly across the plank “Mad Dog” bridge east of town on the way home. You did have to rein her in or she would probably have run all the way home.
Sugar and I enjoyed the annual Saddle Club horse shows in the natural amphitheater in an arena east of towns with crowds of 2,000. They would even let school out on the weekend of the horseshow. Sugar was good in three events. Our favorite was the musical chair race as she was very quick on her feet and could stop just as fast. I fondly remember cantering around the nail kegs to the music of “On Top of Old Smoky.” When the music stopped, you had to find a nail key to sit upon. Of course, there were never enough and someone was eliminated. It could get pretty exciting racing someone around the circle to the last available keg. When you got down to the final three, six kegs were set up with three in a line at either end of the arena. The race started sitting on the keg at the near end racing around the keg at the far end of the arena, and then back to the first keg. First, Second, and Third place were determined by the seating order on the original kegs.
The second was the clover leaf race in which you followed a course around three barrels in the pattern of a clover leaf and at the completion found yourself at the far end of the arena with a fast sprint back to your starting point. Sugar could turn so sharply around a barrel that you could look down from the saddle and scarcely see the barrel as you spun around it. You made a right-hand turn around the first barrel and left-hand turns around the next two. Of course, if the barrel tipped over you were eliminated from the race. A stop watch was used and the best times determined the winners. Sugar was just naturally suited to these two events. Today, I think it is called the Barrel Race.
The third event was the men’s western pleasure class that was rather tame compared to the other two events. In this event, you were asked to walk, trot, and canter your mounts; stop, line up, and have your horses standing in the stretch position facing the crowd in a neat row across the arena, and when the judges came by for a close up look you were asked to have your horse back up. The judges also judged the rider and how well he handled his horse. This included how you sat in the saddle and held the reins. There was not much more to it than that.
One winter we had so much snow we were snowed in for several days. The county snow plow could not get through and we lived on the Buchanan / Delaware county line and therefore were usually plowed out last. A truck was needed to help push the plow through the extra huge drifts and to pull in out backwards if it got stuck in the snow bank. The groceries were getting a mite low. So my dad, Fred Bowden, decided to take Sugar to town to pick up the necessary items. It was an arduous journey for both man and horse. My dad had to lead Sugar much of the way as the drifts on the road were entirely too deep for Sugar with the weight of a rider. None the less the mission was accomplished.
After I had left home, my brother, enjoyed hitching Sugar to a buggy and traveling to all sorts of places. Sugar could hold a steady and fast pace while he and a guest rode rapidly in comfort on the buggy.
Sugar lived to a ripe old age for a horse. My brother, was kind enough to look after her in her old age, and he did his best to see that she had a good life in West Union. Later, she was kept at a relative’s farm near Winthrop. I went to see her there one last time. I did ride her a bit. It was a hard thing to do as her steps were not sure and the spirit was willing, but the once great horse was no more. I never went back to see her again. Sugar died in her thirties on that farm and was buried there. That was a fitting end to “One Great Horse” with so much pride.
Sugar Served Us Well In Many Areas;
Helping bring in the cows for milking.
Herding the cows on the road to the Backbone State Park.
Participating in trail rides through Backbone State Park.
Participating in the Saddle Club annual horse shows.
Musical Chair Race.
Clover Leaf Race.
Men’s Western Pleasure Event.
Providing transportation to the movies in town.
Providing transportation to town for necessaries after the huge snow storm.
Providing transportation with the buggy.
Served as an example of what spirit, ability, and determination can accomplish.
Being a truly great friend and companion for many years.
The Saddle Club Experience:
My Saddle Club membership cards are dated 1949-1953 (age 11-15 prior to the 1951 Chevrolet Bel-Air, Power Glide) with uncle, Tracy’s signature as the president and relative Billy as president in 1952. Membership ran at nearly 100 members. Attendance at the annual horse shows was close to 2,000. Riders competed for a purse of over $300.
Participants Came From: Anamosa, Arlington, Aurora, Brandon, Cedar Falls, Cresco, Delhi, Dewar, Dundee, Dubuque, Dunkerton, Dyersville, Edgewood, Elkader, Evansville, Garnavillo, Greene, Hawkeye, Janesville, Lamont, Luana, Manchester, Maynard, Oelwein, Petersburg, Rowley, Ryan, Solon, Strawberry Point, Sumner, Waterloo, Waverly, Winthrop, and West Union for a total of 34 communities,
Excerpts From Random Newspaper Clippings:
Aurora Saddle Horse and Pony Show, August 14, 1949, Lee, (age 11), First Place, with “King”
“The Lamont Leader,” September 22, 1949, Pony Class, Lee, (age 11) Third Place, with “King”
Lamont Horse Show, Pony Class, Lee, Third Place, with “King”
Manchester Horse Show, Children Shetland Pony Class, Lee, Second Place, with “King”
June 29, 1952, Clover Leaf Race, Dale Dopp, First; Lee, (age 14) Fourth Prize, $1.00.
Lamont Horse Show, Labor Day, September 1, 1952, Junior Musical Chair Race, Lee, (age 14) First Place, $5.00, with “Sugar”
“The Lamont Leader,” September 11, 1953, Lamont Horse Show, Calf Scramble, Lee, (age 15) Second Place with self and calf
“The Lamont Leader,” Date not known, Lamont Saddle Club, Gay, Pony Class, Fourth Place, with “King”
Horsemanship Children under ten years, Gay, Fourth Place, with “King”
Lamont Horse Show, 50 young riders, Junior Horsemanship Contest, with “Sugar” Lee, Final Eight Photo, with “Sugar”
Winners in Lamont Junior Horse Show, Date not known, June 22, with 55 horses and ponies, Lee, “Sugar”
A Few of the Local Riders, Competitors, and Friends:
Harlan Adams (classmate), Marsha Allen (one year ahead), Fonda Bell, Dewar; Gay (brother), Lee, Franklin Brockmeyer, Don Clark, Merle Davidson (one year ahead), Dale Dopp (cousin and classmate), Delwyn Dopp (cousin), Kenneth Dopp (cousin), Neva Donaldson (aunt), Tracy Donaldson, (uncle) Dennis Estling, Dick Estling, James Estling, Jess Estling, Les Estling, Ray Estling, Ruth Estling, Mary Hamblin, Manchester; Larry Hines (classmate), Luella Hines, Ray Hines, Connie Pech, Rowley; Charles Popham, (neighbor) Colette Roudabush, Hugh Simpson, Bill Smith, Martin Smith, and Terry Smith, (31)
Additional Notes: Per Gay, Sunday, August 20, 2006.
Celebrating Mother’s (Delma) 90th birthday at Monte’s in Cedar Falls, Iowa
Notice in the photos that Sugar always seems to have one ear cocked forward and one ear backward so as she will not miss out on anything. LCB
Neighbors clocked Sugar at 38 mph with a car.
She was a Type “A” personality.
Sugar was born in 1948 in Oklahoma, ten years younger than Lee.
Sugar was three years old when purchased from, first cousin, Kenneth in 1951. Lee was 12-13 years old.
Sugar was 31 when she died in the hard winter of 1979. Lee was 41 years old.
She died on the Chuck and Lois farm north of Winthrop.
She lived on this farm for several years.
Fran spilled the beans on Easter at Lee’s in Lamont.
Lee asked, “How’s Sugar?’
Fran said, “She’s dead!”
Gay said, “Oh, My God!” He had not found a way to tell of it.
Weeks had passed since Sugar’s death.
It was “stone cold” quiet.
Then, Lee and Grandpa (Fred) started crying, and others joined in.
So much for the Easter dinner.
Blind with poor teeth, Sugar followed the cows around.
The cows she once guided were now guiding her.
Got barbed wire in hock, infected, Don, first cousin, The Winthrop Vet, operated. Don had to put her out.
There was lots of deep snow in the winter of 1979.
Sugar died on the west side of the Buffalo Golf course.
Headed into the wind, across the fence to the north, and died in the snow.
Gay received the phone call by Chuck, “Lost and presumed dead.”
Later Sugar was found dead, “confirmed.”
Chuck used the back hoe and buried Sugar by the Buffalo Creek in the pasture.