Posted on July 19, 2023

Mom's Garlic - Gebo's

“Jim! Did you mow down my garlic again?”

Mom’s accusation rang across the garden. Dad could even hear it above the rattle of the Cub Cadet tractor-mower. That tractor had been used to plow the new kitchen garden, drill planting holes for the fruit trees, pull stumps, and drag panels to build a chicken coop. Right now, Dad was mowing the verge that bordered the garden. Despite the sputter and clank of the tractor, he could hear Mom.

He pulled up to the house, killed the engine, and took off his hat. Wiping sweat from his forehead, he said, “No, I didn’t mow your damned garlic. That’s malicious accusery!”

“You did too, just to make me mad!”

“I mowed it down one time by accident! Great gawd-amighty woman! Didn’t you move it to the fence line?”

The problem was, it kept disappearing from the fence line, and Mom was convinced it was Dad’s fault. Sis and I looked at each other – it was time to clear out for a while.

We grabbed the bridles and a couple of carrots and headed for the horse pasture.

The horses roamed free and barefoot on thirty-three acres of pasture. The barbed wire fence sagged in places, and one of those places was right by the garden, beside Mom’s garlic. That’s where my sisters and I would climb over. We walked across the grassy median in the garden that Dad had left for that purpose. Sure enough, Mom’s garlic and the grass around it were shaved off at the ground. Sis and I usually communicated in glances, and this glance confirmed our shared thought – Dad had done it again!

When we climbed over the fence, the mundane world of garlic, lawn mowers, and questionable motives fell away. We whistled up the horses. They galloped up all wild-like, manes and tails flying, hooves pounding fiercely on the packed dirt. Whites around their eyes and noses in the air, they reveled in their audience, snorting and tossing their heads. Dad said they had “rollers in their nose” when they snorted like that. There is nothing – nothing – like being a ten-year-old girl and commanding a scene like that with a mere whistle. I may not be able to make Mom and Dad communicate better, or even make sense of the seemingly endless arguments at home, but I could control thousands of pounds of horses. We played a little bit of tag with the horses before they settled down for their carrots.

Dad’s brother in East Texas raised horses. When we moved out to the country, Uncle Hal was the go-to guy for our newest acquisition. They had the same sire – an impressive appaloosa stallion. Princess’s dam was ½ thoroughbred and ½ quarter horse while Waco’s dam was ½ Welsh and ½ Shetland. Obviously, Uncle Hal’s breeding “program” was rather haphazard.

As half-brother/sister, they had grown up wild together in the pasture. This was my first observation of animal bonding. Those two horses were inseparable. When we went to get Princess, we thought she and Waco were going to hurt themselves trying to get back together. They didn’t just neigh, they screamed for each other.

 Luckily for three little girls, the “powers that be” decided we needed both horses.

These two horses were what you call “green broke.” It means that you could put a halter on them, and that’s as civilized as it got. They had never been ridden. Of course, we had never ridden horses, so we were perfect for each other. We all gleefully learned bad habits together. I had to check out a book from the library and study how to make a horse back-up. And in Western movies, when you see a cowboy gallop up to the saloon and throw his reins over a rail? Nonsense. You didn’t leave these horses tied up. Princess would untie a slipknot and take off. Waco would casually break his bridle, and start grazing in the orchard.

Waco was older and wiser than Princess, so Dad hired a cowboy to try to “break” him. Waco broke the cowboy, putting him in the hospital. Three days later, Mom saw my three-year-old sister pushing Waco to the corral fence. She climbed up on his back, gave him a good kick, and he foxtrotted around the pasture. He was her horse from then on. He wouldn’t fox-trot for anyone else, and when she turned 12, he stopped doing it for her.

Princess was my project. I taught her to walk at a click of my tongue. Two clicks meant trot, and three clicks meant run. Once, when Dad was riding her, he sucked on something in his teeth. She threw herself into a dead run, nearly leaving him behind.

These are the semi-wild horses that played tag with us in the pasture before they settled down for their carrots. Once the bribe was consumed, we slid the hackamore on Princess. Then it was Waco’s turn for the bit. As I pushed the bit between his teeth, the smell nearly made me throw up. Sis and I exchanged glances again. The mystery was solved.

We led the guilty parties up to the house and called Mom out. One whiff told her the same story Sis and I had learned – Waco had eaten the garlic. ALL of it. Apparently, the fence sagged in that place for a very good reason – even better than from three girls climbing over it. Princess was clueless about the whole thing, but Waco rolled his eyes at Mom as if to say, “Yeah, what of it?”

Several emotions rolled across Mom’s face. Anger at Waco was the first one, quickly followed by chagrin because she would have to apologize to Dad. The overriding one, though, was humor. She started laughing; Sis and I started laughing. Then, she called Dad over.

“What’s wrong with Waco’s breath?” she asked Dad.

Puzzled, he leaned toward Waco’s muzzle and quickly recoiled. We watched realization dawn, and he cracked a smile.

“I told you it was malicious accusery!”


By: Donna Fisher

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