Little Bay Mare on the Family Farm

Missourian recalls his first horse, a bay mare, purchased at a farm sale

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Sometime in the late spring after the winter of the big ice, which was 1936 and '37, Dad came home to our family farm from a farm sale with this little bay mare. He said I could have her if I wanted her. What better offer could a l0-year-old boy ever get? Boy! A horse of my very own.

The owner's wife's name was Bessie, so the mare became Bess. Somewhere along the line the word little was attached to her name and she became Little Bess.

She should have been a sorrel, but her mane and tail were black and her legs were dark, which made her a bay. She was not at all pretty but I thought her to be the most beautiful horse in all Missouri.

I broke her to ride. She was a very fast walker who would run her heart out for you. She weighed just over 900 pounds. I once rode her 11 miles in 45 minutes.

We built a cart from parts of an old buggy. Every boy in the neighborhood rode around with me but most of the girls were not interested. I wasn't interested in them either.

I rode Little Bess everywhere and couldn't stay off of her. She was my dream come true. Mom said it was hard to get me off to come eat.

When I started high school Dad thought I needed a better horse so he came up with a full-blooded Arabian that I called "Queen." She was the first horse I ever rode that would "neck rein" and the only horse I ever rode that had a gait called "single foot." It gave you a smooth ride that covered ground in a hurry.

We lived east of town, and a girl who lived west of town needed a horse to ride to school. We sold Little Bess to her. This was during World War II, when you couldn't get gasoline, but all we needed was oats.

Every school day for the next two years Little Bess and Queen stood side by side in a stall just three blocks from the schoolhouse.

That was when I first became interested in girls. I still wonder if I wasn't more interested in the way the girl cared for Little Bess than I was in her.

I finished high school and the girl dropped out after two years. I kept Queen until she died of old age, but whatever became of Little Bess or the girl is more than I know.

H. Dean Yearns
Queen City, Missouri


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.