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Book Excerpt: Pete and Ole (A Horse Story)
Pete and Ole From the book: "Cream of the Crop (More True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm)" by LeAnn R. Ralph (trade paperback; October 2005; 190 pages; $13.95; FREE! shipping) -- http://ruralroute2.com "Highly recommended reading" -- The Midwest Book Review "(Cream of the Crop) was extraordinary from the first story to the last. I laughed, cried and sighed at the way you bring the emotions of people and animals to the page." (R.
-- Clintonville, Wisconsin) Dad finished pouring a cup of coffee and gathered a handful of oatmeal cookies from the rows spread out on the cutting board to cool. After Mom baked bread or cake, or when Loretta baked cookies or pies or bars, they pulled the cutting board out from its slot beneath the kitchen counter and used it as a place to set the pans they had taken out of the oven. And then the cutting board stayed pulled out until the baking had cooled. My mother also used the cutting board to slice bread, of course, which anybody could see by the dozens of thin lines scored into its surface from the sharp knife edges.
I helped myself to two cookies and sat by the table next to Dad. "It's no wonder I have to bake cookies every time I turn around,"Loretta grumbled. She frowned and tried to look fierce and grumpy, but it didn't work. It never did. With her dark curly hair and smiling blue eyes, she was too pretty to look fierce and grumpy. Dad shrugged and picked up another cookie. "Can't help myself. These cookies are awwww-ful good.” Loretta often baked cookies on Sunday afternoons, and she was in the middle of making a triple batch of oatmeal. She would take some of the cookies with her when she left for her apartment later today.
"What's that book about?"Dad asked, pointing at the book I had laid on the table before getting my cookies. I finished chewing a bite of cookie. "There's this girl who goes out West to visit her cousins for the summer,"I explained. "They give her a horse to ride, and it has a brand. She thinks the brand is weird because she's never seen one before." "Pete had a brand you know,"Dad said, dipping a cookie into his cup of coffee. "Pete had brand?"I said. "Sure did,"Dad replied. Pete and Ole, the last team of workhorses my father owned, had been gone from our farm for quite a few years by the time I was born. I didn't think Pete was such an unusual name for a horse, but Ole was a Norwegian name, and I could not figure out why the horse would have a Norwegian name.
Mom was Norwegian. Dad was not. But my father had been the one who worked with the horses and fed them and took care of them, and it seemed unlikely to me that my mother would name the team. One time I had asked Mom how ‘Ole' was spelled. Since it rhymed with ‘holy' I thought it was probably ‘O-l-y.' But Mom said no, that Ole was spelled ‘O-l-e.' "What did Pete's brand look like?"I asked. I loved to watch Westerns on television. I knew that brands were markings burned into the hide of a horse or a cow with a hot iron so the ranch owners would know which animal belonged where if they got mixed up on the open range, and that when it came time to do the branding, every ranch hand had to pitch in and help -- sort of like haying time on our farm where sometimes even my big sister became a tractor driver. I was hoping the brand would be something interesting like a Circle Bar D, or a Double B, or a Triple R.
The brands in the Westerns on television were like the name of the ranch. If the ranch was Circle Bar D Ranch, then the brand was a circle with a ‘D' in the middle and a line over the ‘D.' "Pete's brand was nothing special,"Dad replied. "Only a little squiggly mark on his hip." "But Pete and Ole weren't really workhorses, were they?"I asked as I nibbled the edge off another oatmeal cookie. I knew all about the workhorse breeds from reading the H volume of our World Book Encyclopedia set. There were Clydesdales and Belgians and Percherons and Shires. "Nope,"Dad said. "Pete and Ole were just ordinary horses.