The Horse that Wouldn’t be Fenced

Tales of Vashon


Johnny Adams was not one of those 10-year-olds that was full of the gimme-gimme’s.  He was a typical Vashon boy who generally worked for what he got, picking strawberries for the Matsumotos, or mowing lawns down at Cove.  There was the wizened old Norwegian lady on the west side of the Church camp who had Johnny cut her grass every two weeks whether it was needed  or not.  He didn’t like walking by the Baptist Assembly because he was Catholic.

One day, an older man stopped him on the road.  Johnny was hot and naked to the waist; the man grabbed the Saint Christopher medal that Johnny wore on a chain around his neck and said:”You are going to go to hell for wearing this.”  Johnny was scared.  Maybe the man was the preacher.

The one thing Johnny wanted was a horse.  His Dad wasn’t responsive at first, but they made a deal and Johnny’s part was to build the electric fence before the horse, so to speak.   They already had a barn with a hay loft and plenty of pasture because the neighbors to the North had some land they weren’t using.

It looked easy to Johnny.  If he could set 5 posts a day he would have the electric fence in no time.  He had his Dad’s post-hole-digger.  All he had to do was to spread the handles and ram the two spades into the earth, close the handles together and take the dirt out of the hole.  His Dad had told him how he wanted the holes 24 inches deep and the hole around the post filled with rocks, dirt and water; in that order, and each layer had to be tamped down with an iron bar, brutal work for anybody, let alone a 10-year-old.  Most of the cedar posts had been used, so Johnny had to cut off the rotten bottoms to make a fence that had its ups and downs as all the posts weren’t the same length and Johnny was getting tired of the work and making mistakes.  He cheated on the depth of the holes, he couldn’t find enough rocks, or it was too far to the pump house for the water.

One day, the fence was ready for wire and the 12 volt electric charger that was going to charge the wire and keep the horse in.

Kiddy was the name that Johnny gave to the old pack horse that his Dad had found near Silver Lake.  She was nice and fat, though bound to get fatter; because she learned how to get ahold of the rope that swung the door to the hay loft up and she would have her fill while whittling away at her Winter’s feed supply.

The old packer that sold his Dad the horse had warned him of her ability to get through any old kind of fence.  He also told how gentle and sure-footed she was, an absolute must on steep and rocky mountain trails.  Dad took her anyway.

They put Kiddy in the fence which was open to the barn so she could get out of the weather.  Click-click, click- click went the old fence charger and about that time Big Mike, the Labrador, saw his chance to baptize the new fence and lifted his leg to pee on some wet grass that was touching the hot wire.  He yiped and ran off, not to be seen for hours.  He was connected in the act of marking his territory.

Kiddy only broke out of the fence when nobody was watching.  If it rained and wet grass lay against the wire, grounding the charger, then Kiddy only had to get her head under the wire and was headed north to Mr. Frost’s garden, her favorite place.  Johnny became scared when Old Mr. Frost called and told Johnny’s dad that he was going to shoot the horse if she got into his garden again.  Kiddy was very headstrong and largely ignored Johnny’s lecture about breaking out.  She had no respect for electricity, and stuck her head under the wire, lifting it just enough so she could get out.

There were lots of horses on Vashon in the 1950’s and Johnny rode Kiddy to a stable at Colvos to be re-shod with his dogs running alongside.  Big Mike and old Boots loved the shoeing because they loved chewing on the trimmings from the horses hooves, which Johnny called “dog’s chewing gum.”

Johnny belonged to the Shoe Busters, a kid’s square dance club as well as the riding club called the Trail Riders with about 30 members.  But Kiddy was getting so fat that while Johnny rode bareback, his legs stuck out to the sides; and she was prone to running away with Johnny, when she had a mind to.  One day on the way to Trail Riders, Kiddy decided to take off with Johnny’s legs flailing to the sides.  “Whoa, whoa,” Johnny yelled as he held back on the reins, but Kiddy was headed for the barn at Joslyn’s and the hill was steep.  Afraid that he was going to be thrown over her head and trampled, Johnny bailed off to the side, never to ride Kiddy again.